In surviving motherhood, I need to believe I’m right about most things. Getting bogged down with self-doubt is far too time-consuming. Over the years, I have felt somewhat confident in my methodology. My kids are pretty good (so far). They are decent students (so far). They haven’t committed any felonies (yet).
My mission statement has always included steering my kids away from “the bad kid.”
Yes, I can be a haughty wench sometimes.
“Bad kids” are the ones who swear in kindergarten. The ones who push. The ones who can’t control themselves.
A while back, my oldest son, Dan, had an out-of-state hockey tournament. From the beginning of the season, one particular boy made it his life’s purpose to antagonize Dan. For the most part, Dan kept his cool.
I quickly assigned “bad kid” status to the boy.
As is true in all tournament weekends, the boys spent a lot of time gathering up teammates and congregating in different rooms. Dan assembled such a group and knocked on the door of “the bad kid.”
They all hung out together until the wee hours of the morning, eating, joking and re-living hockey highlights and lowlights. I didn’t give the evening another thought until I ran into “the bad kid’s” mom.
She thanked me. Her son had certain issues that inhibited his making friends and feeling part of something. “You don’t understand, Marianne. NOBODY has ever knocked on our door until last night.”
I choked back a sob.
This young man was not a bad kid, but I had certainly been a bad mom in trying to assign standards to him that were medically and physically beyond his control.
While it is important to my sanity to feel like I’m not messing up mothering, I appreciated this clear knock on my own door. As I move ahead, I know I have to work harder on not labeling. I need to embrace the unique qualities of all children who cross my path. I need to be less judgey.
It won’t always be easy, but I want my family to be the type of people who will knock on someone’s door. It can truly mean the world to the person waiting inside.
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.