Save our kids from ourselves

A friend of mine threw a baby shower for another friend of mine recently. I volunteered to help with the prelimenaries--food prep, cleaning, etc. I went over to my friend's house, and was doing my duty when her husband walked in and tossed her some new dish towels. I was holding an old dish towel, and asked what was wrong with the one I had. It was perfectly fine, really. No holes, no stains, and it even had a pretty pattern. Ok, the color wasn't fantastic, but it's a dish rag, who cares? My friend explained that while she was getting ready for the shower, her husband had told her that those dish towels looked "ghetto", and that they needed new ones. So he literally went out and bought new dish towels that day that were white with a brown pattern. Yes, they looked nicer than the ones they had, but the ones they had were not bad. I certainly would not have described them as "ghetto". But, her husband was adament, so new ones they had. Sometime later, she explained the real reason her husband didn't like the dishtowels. Turns out, his mother wasn't much of a cook or a housekeeper. Her son's reaction is to overreact to anything that he feels isn't really nice in the kitchen, even when the things they have are perfectly passable. I said to my friend, "Wow, I'm never showing my dishrags to your husband ever again!" My dish rags, sadly, probably could be considered "ghetto", what with the stains, the holes, and the faded color patterns from being bleached too often. But my friend said that the concern doesn't carry over to other people's houses. He doesn't give a crap what my dish towels look like because they are not in his house, and he doesn't have to associate ownership with them. And that's good, because if a man judges me by the condition of my dish towels, we are all in serious trouble. But the point is that this person, who actually is a fairly nice, normal guy, has picked up some idiosyncratic habits because of the habits of his mother. He is in direct revolt of something she did, or a part of who she was. It's harmless, I guess, needing nice dish towels, but it is sort of an interesting obsession, don't you think? And of course, the whole episode got me thinking about what my own son will do in direct rebellion to how he grew up. Will he hate peanut butter and jelly because he eats it practically every day for lunch now? Will he demand to have his children have organized toys because his current play room is affectionately nicknamed "The Pit of Despair"? Will he obsess about always having clean socks because that is the one item of clothing his mother seems to have a hard time providing for him? And those are just material, temporal things. Are there more sinister, deeply hidden emotional issues that he will have to share with his therapist because I spanked him for climbing on the counter? It's scary, really, to think how we are shaping our children. I'd like to think that we are just sort of gatekeepers, that our job is to provide a base, a solid foundation for our children so they can climb to new heights without ever having to worry about what is underneath them. But then I meet somebody who can't handle having slightly faded green dishtowels and blames that on his mother, and suddenly my role in this whole parenting gig takes on a whole new meaning. And we work so hard to protect them from all of the evils and hurts of the world, but who's there protecting them from us? I suppose I have my own revolts, my own rebellion against my upbringing. They're not big rebellions, but they are there. I suppose everybody has them. I guess I just thought (or hoped) that when my son grows up, he will clearly think I am the most perfect mother ever. I mean, is that really too much to ask? On the off chance that he doesn't grow up and think I'm perfect, I guess I should at least make sure he has some nice dish towels.


Anonymous Susan M said...

I think if our parents are extreme in some way, we'll either turn out with the same extreme tendencies, or we'll go to the other extreme.

My mom's mother was a neurotic clean freak. She had plastic covers on her couches. My mother grew up in a house where she was afraid to touch anything. So she went to the other extreme--her house has always been, well, let's put it this way--very lived-in. I lived in a house with stuff piled everywhere growing up. Everywhere.

Me, I tend towards the same extreme as my mom. My house is very lived-in! But I'm not as bad as my mom. I figure if we can improve in some way on our parents then we're doing good.

My kids are worse than I am about keeping things tidy, though. I WISH they'd get neurotic about keeping things clean!

2/20/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Idahospud said...

My husband and I joke that instead of college funds, our kids will need therapy funds.

2/20/2006 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Whew- These days I just find myself hoping I am not doing any overt damage, I can't even bear to think about all the subtle and emotional hang ups I might be inadvertantly passing along.

I may not be making the same mistakes my mother made, but the truth is, I am making my own. I thought I could be the best parent (ha ha ha) before #1 came along... ah, the best laid plans, eh? I have an ongoing list in my head titled "Things I Said I was Never Going to Do as a Parent"- of course, most of them I do.

2/20/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

A long, long time ago Ellen DeGeneres did this bit about going to see a therapist. She'd been seeking the person for awhile, and she gained incredible insight. She said, "I found out what my problem was. The problem was that I come from (dramatic pause) a family!"

We're all nutty in our own way. As long as people continue to live in families, I've got job security. The fact that we are mindful about how we're messing up our babies probably is some insurance that we're not doing too bad a job.

2/20/2006 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger Lei said...

You might want to cut back on the pbj... my husband swears he once LOVED bananas, but his mother fed them too him too often. He cannot even be around them! Not even kidding - if I peel one in his presence, he starts to gag.

2/20/2006 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

My husband is like his mother more and more every day. While I was working at Wal-Mart, he delighted in taking over the kitchen.

Now I want it back. And boy, is it hard for him.

Our whole marriage he has been in my space. I think I just might have to shoot him in the back after all.

2/21/2006 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger Bonjo said...

As far as doing things the opposite, I am the youngest of 4, we are spaced out over 10 years. I now have four of my own, spaced out over 4.5 years (disclaimer: that includes a set of twins). I want my kids to know each other.

On the other hand, my wife and mother say I'm becoming more like my dad every day. They both say this with a hint of disdain.

2/21/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa M. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/21/2006 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa M. said...

I use the handicapped stall in every public restroom I use, simply because I was forbidden to, as a child. My Mom told me it was the "wrong" thing to do.

I also was going to be a *perfect parent* Um, ya.

Now, I just hope my kids survive.

I think though, in all seriousness that what ever negative idiosyncracies we leave our children with, there are a million positive ones.

2/21/2006 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger a spectator said...

My grandfather was seriously cheap (some from necessity, some not) and it is interesting to me to see how his kids have reacted: I would say about half have followed him into the "economy" world and about half went opposite to "luxery." Another generation out, and the kids of the cheap parents seem mostly tight with their own money, but not with their parents' money.

No real harm there.

2/21/2006 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

My sister and I still talk about how "messed up" we are, coming from the family we do, but it doesn't matter, really. Cain came from Adam and Eve. Some things you do as a parent are conscious choices, and others are going to be ingrained and surface at the most unlikely of times. My hubby and I drove through Wendy's one day - I got a big chicken salad - and I put it on the dashboard while I looked for something in my purse. Hubby, totally oblivious, pulled quickly out of a driveway and my salad plopped all over me, the seat, and the floor. I burst into hysterical tears and started eating the chicken off my socks. I wasn't wearing anything important and hubby said, shocked and trying to fix things, "We can get you another salad..." To this day I can't figure out what the big outburst was about, but I think it had to do with growing up in a big family without a lot of money to spend on luxuries. I think my parents must have bought me an ice cream cone, which I then dropped, and then they couldn't or wouldn't buy me another one, and that was traumatic. That's the nearest thing I can figure. As for my kids - may heaven bless them - they'll need it.

2/21/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

P.S. I'm really a rational person who would never, normally, eat chicken from a Wendy's salad that fell onto her socks. It occurs to me I have sounded a little pscyhotic in that last post. Sorry! Just ask my 5 therapists how functional I am now (twitch, twitch)!

2/21/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I would so totally eat chicken off my socks, too. I would cry because getting another salad would mean getting in the drive through lane--again!

We've all been there. Really.

2/21/2006 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

I wanted to add this last night, but couldn't remember the author. When I saw Nat's chicken salad comment, it jogged my memory.
Here goes: "The past is never dead. It is not even past."
William Faulkner

2/21/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tri Mama said...

My MIL gave me great advice when I had my first baby. She said children come perfect and all we have to do as mothers is to not mess them up.

2/24/2006 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Lisa, I love that you use the handicapped stall. It is just the sort of thing I would do. I wonder what my kids do in getting over what I did to them. I wonder what funny messages they got that I was completely unaware of.

I'm going to ask Jessie while we're on the cruise. I'm pretty sure she will say, "you were always telling us to be quiet." The kids will laugh about sleeping with me and me yelling at them to hold still. And I still do it, I can't sleep with my grandkids.

Well, Rhiannon, the baby, she's kind of cuddly. And I am getting older.

2/24/2006 07:14:00 AM  

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