Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Mean Mom(tm)

(Warning: The following post contains OPINIONS. If you suffer from intolerance, hyper-sensitivity, inflexibility, or strong opinions of your own, the following post may be TOXIC. Always consult your common sense before reading.)

I have a Mean Mom.
I've been aware of this for a long time, to one degree or another. For instance, kids my age recoil in horror when they hear our household rules. They look appalled. But I started wondering: what's the difference? Obviously there is one. How do you define the difference between a mean mom and a loving, but, well, Mean Mom? And what about moms that don't have the spine to be any kind of mean? Are there other Mean Moms out there? (The answer is yes. I get excited every time I find a new one. Their kids understand.) If so, how are you supposed to tell?
And so this is what I came up with.
1)The Mean Mom is consistent. This is important. The Mean Mom says what she means and means what she says and she means it for everybody. She might have a different curfew for different ages of children, but all of them better be in bed after lights out. Or Else.
2)The Mean Mom believes in consequences. She won't punish you for the fun of it. But if she asks or expects you to do something (she might not ask you to do your chores every time they need to be done, for instance), and you forget or don't do it, she will not say “Oh, honey, didn't I ask you to (insert here)? Well, it would have been nice to (blah waffle waver blah blah)...” You will never get away with anything when the Mean Mom is on top of things. And the Mean Mom is always on top of things, and definitely on top of you. No one trusts teenagers these days. It's just terrible.
3)The Mean Mom is not your driver. Believe it or not, this parent does not exist to bow down before the whim of the child. She has a life. She will drive her children places, but SHE IS NOT YOUR DRIVER. You better believe it.
4)The Mean Mom is respected. You've seen parents who, when they ask their kid to do something, are ignored. Or if they are obeyed, it's only after multiple repetitions of the order, when the kid senses that mom's about to blow. And even then, the kid will groan and moan and roll their eyes and do the absolute minimum they think they can get away with. Not because they're bad kids, but because this is what they've grown up with. Because their parents have basically said, through words and actions: You don't need to respect/obey me. The Mean Mom is a different animal. If the Mean Mom has to ask you three times, you are in trouble. (Or two times, or five times, or whatever. In my house, it's three.) So the kids may not do something right away, but they will make darn sure they get it done before they're asked again. Not out of fear. Just because, like the other kid, this is what they've grown up with. And the interesting thing? I think kids with Mean Moms treat their parents with more respect, consideration, and love. Because honestly- it's hard to like someone who throws themselves under your feet. All that makes you want to do is to walk on them some more.
5)The Mean Mom leaves a mark. You've met kids who do something the first time they're asked? Who volunteer to do things? Who, when they come over, are the ones to volunteer to set the table for you? Who take you at your word? Odds are, there's a Mean Mom behind the scenes. What the Teacher always tells me when she leaves me someplace is “Be good and have fun and be good and have fun and be good.” She's joking, but she also means it.
6)The Mean Mom is reasonable. This is the most dangerous weapon in the Mean Mom's armory. Don't underestimate it. The Mean Mom lays down the law; but she also says why and wherefore. You are always welcome to disagree with the Mean Mom- respectfully. There have been times when I've even managed to talk her around to my own side. The Mean Mom is open to negotiation. Except, of course, for when she isn't. But when she isn't, she'll tell you she isn't, and she'll even tell you why.
7)The Mean Mom is not arbitrary. See above. She won't flip a coin to settle a sibling dispute. She won't waste time trying to figure out what's 'fair' when she wasn't there and one of the kids has a verbal age advantage over the other. My own mom doesn't try to be fair at all: life isn't fair and she doesn't feel like pretending otherwise. She'll say it's your dispute, you dispute it. And- again, these are our rules, not universal ones- if you do actually fight, you'll get kicked out of the house and whatever it was you were fighting over will not-so-magically go away. Kids are smart. After the first time, people never fight at my house.
8)The Mean Mom is organized. I don't mean that her home is always clean. Otherwise, by process of elimination, I wouldn't have a Mean Mom, and I totally do. But she has a system, and she sticks to it. Sometimes that system is as simple as “You will do what I say, without backtalk or whining, because I am your parent, I love you, I want what's best for you, and above all, because I said so.” Sometimes the system is complicated and involves color coded charts and pie graphs and minute by minute schedules. Well, maybe not the pie graphs.
9)The Mean Mom is flexible. No, really. She doesn't care how you do it. Just do it. And she doesn't care what you're interested in. Just be interested in something. Anything. Although again, this might be something that's more just home-schoolers. I'm interested in being an author. Writing is my passion, my life, my addiction, my every waking thought. And the Teacher's okay with that. Most of the time. She draws the line at letting me cut math.
10)The Mean Mom sticks by what she says. You will never, ever hear a Mean Mom be in the middle of telling someone not to do something, and then go, “Oh, well, I guess if you really want to...”. Admittedly, the Mean Mom is not perfect; no one is. She may change her mind from time to time. She may forget what she said. But she will never say that you're grounded from reading, and then let you spend the rest of the evening finishing a book that's due at the library tomorrow. If you're grounded, you're grounded for a good reason, and she'll say that if you wanted to finish the book you shouldn't have done x, and take it back to the library anyway. Unread. And if you complain, she'll say you can check it out again later. And if you really complain, she'll lengthen your sentence.
11)The Mean Mom does not tolerate tantrums. Or any other kind of misbehavior. If you're a screaming baby, she will not coddle you, or give in to you, or give whatever it is you want to you. She'll put you down for a nap until you're 'ready to be nice'. If you're a snotty teenager, she'll get in your face and tell you when you've just done (or are still doing) something inappropriate, whether to her or to someone else. She doesn't back down.
12)The Mean Mom does not reward bad behavior. That sounds a little strange. Who rewards bad behavior? Just about everybody. When you give someone something because they're nagging or whining at you, you're rewarding bad behavior. When you ignore someone saying a bad word or insulting someone, you're rewarding bad behavior. Bad behavior doesn't necessarily have to be bad; it can be behavior you just don't like. I don't like nick names. A friend tried to give one to me. I refused to look at her or answer or in any way, shape, or form respond when she called me by the nick name. (It was Minny Mouse and I'm six feet tall. Can you blame me?) Since we were in one of those trucks where the person in the back seat has to wait until the person in the front seat gets out before they can get out, this posed something of a problem for her when it was time to drop her off. She never called me Minny Mouse again.
13)The Mean Mom does not interfere. For instance, in the above story: the Teacher was sitting right next to me. At any time- and I know a lot of adults who would do this- she could have gotten tired of waiting and ordered me to get out so the friend could get out. She did not. It was my friend and my nick name and my problem: she let me solve it my own way.
I know a lot of Mean Moms. My aunt is a Mean Mom. Two of my friends from different families have Mean Moms, and I suspect a third girl I don't really know of having a Mean Mom. Almost all the Teacher's home-school mentors were Mean Moms. The Teacher's aunt was a Mean Mom, which is probably how the Teacher became a Mean Mom herself. You probably know a few Mean Moms yourself, either right now or someone you remember from the past.
Because here's the thing: you don't have to like them. Mean Moms aren't in the job to be liked. If they're your friend, that's great. If they aren't, it doesn't really matter to them. Mean Moms are the embodiment of tough love in the home. They're out to turn you into kind, loving, righteous people and responsible, interested (and hopefully interesting) citizens. If you don't enjoy the process, they really could not care less.
And so that's how you recognize a Mean Mom, whether second hand or when you have the opportunity to observe her in her own territory. They are parents on a mission, and if you value your skin, you won't get in the way.
Trust me on this one.
So... Now that it's been cleared up... Do you know a Mean Mom?

1 comment:

  1. You really have a good feel for what makes a Mean Mom. I can see you're shaping up to be a great one in the future yourself! I'm only a semi-mean mom; maybe I should reform. Even though you are the (supposed) victim in this circumstance, you make being a Mean Mom sound really appealing. (: