It was a lame excuse. We have friends who would have happily taken them, but the decision to stay home instead of letting them out to careen headfirst into fifty other kids wobbling on wheels was final. My pronouncement resulted in several venomous kid-sized rants about my “totally mean” parenting style and attempts to make me feel like a horrible witch of a mother who never lets her children do ANYTHING. Sigh. I’ve got enough experience at this job to not let this sort of thing faze me too deeply, yet I’m also sensitive enough to second-guess my decision. Am I a horrible witch of a mother?
I know that the memory of this particular judgment will go down in the steel traps of my children’s minds as one of the worst transgressions I ever made, right up there with the sin I committed against my daughter last year, when I came to school at a pre-appointed time to help in her classroom, then left without helping after reading a note on the classroom door which proclaimed: “Testing! Shhhhh!” Her excitement over having her mom in class that day quickly turned to profound confusion and sadness when she realized that I would not be coming. I might not ever live that one down.
My children remember everything I tell them except for the things that are slightly important, like brushing teeth or putting on clean underwear. They remember everything that is special to them, and because they see each personal experience as especially important, every single event is a potential drama that unfolds before my eyes each day.
It’s the never-ending weight of Mother Guilt that gets me. I always felt that my job was to bravely navigate the crushing waves of life with my children, there to help them when they fall and to teach them the ways of the world and how best to find their own way.
Never did I think that I would be the obstacle that keeps them from growing, the roadblock that keeps them from making their own paths. I could be a considerable variable in the stunting of their growth if I don’t examine my own motivations for refusing them life experiences.
Staying home from the roller skating party notwithstanding, the kids and I had a fun night together at home. Likewise, my daughter never died of shame or disappointment the one day I failed to show up in her class. It’s not that bad; I’m only human, and never received any formal instructions on parenting. The kids know this because I tell them, I apologize, and I explain my point of view as much as I can. I hope that my communication will help them see me as a person who tries, who errs, and who should be forgiven. It’s yet another life lesson for all of us to absorb. But inside me, Mother Guilt still lingers, and goes away just long enough to allow me to recover before striking again.