Suus (34) hears them whispering in the schoolyard. Or when she enters a children’s party. Because no matter how good she has it for her fellow parents, they don’t seem to appreciate her advice.
Suus: “It takes a village to raise a child. So I’m happy if someone intervenes when my toddler (5) threatens to throw himself off the climbing frame, or my toddler (1) turns purple out of my field of vision because of a piece of apple stuck in his throat. My mother-in-law once snatched Tristan, my eldest, off the counter while I was cooking a few feet away. Everything under control, you would say, but he almost killed a bucket of dishwasher cubes at that moment. Her resolute action saved us a nasty trip to the emergency room.
With that thought in mind, I do not hesitate to help others. It makes sense to me at a birthday party not only to accompany my own child with the food, but also to give someone else a spoon when he threatens to attack the applesauce with his hands. If a child is my guest and dives into the cookie jar without being asked, I explain that that is not proper. My house, my rules, and these seem to me of the generally accepted kind. Just like speaking with two words, and using appropriate language. At least when I’m next to it. And otherwise without warning I hand the green soap to rinse his mouth.
The mother mafia
Of course I notice that many mothers do not always appreciate my outspoken opinion. They call me the mother mafia. While I usually just like to follow the rules. For example, Tristan’s school has a clear anti-sweets policy: treats must be healthy and no sweets are allowed at school. Packed drinks are also discouraged. Logical, I think, sugar is the first addiction that children have to deal with in their lives.
“Since then I hear them whisper, in the schoolyard: ‘Oh there you have Suus, does your child have a good banana in his lunchbox?’”
Yet there is one boy who has wine gums in his lunch box every day and always treats himself to crisps. The teacher turns a blind eye to it, because forbidding a child to have treats on his birthday is barbaric. So in the following week there will invariably be an e-mail from school: ‘We would like to emphasize once again that we consider the importance of healthy food to be of paramount importance.’ And I talked about that in the class app. It’s always the same parents. Since then I hear them whisper in the schoolyard: ‘Oh, there’s Suus, does your child have a good banana in his lunch box?’ That hurts, but I stand behind what I sent.
It sounds like I think I know everything better, but nothing could be further from the truth. We all just mess around, and together we see and know more than on our own. But then we better give each other a helping hand, right?
I will not deny that I am close to my children. My own childhood was cold and distant, my parents were of the ‘don’t whine, it makes you hard’ line. So they let me go to school without gloves through the freezing cold, so I found out that next time I shouldn’t forget them. Didn’t make your own sandwich? That turned into a day of starvation. And I decided to make a lunch but only put sugar on my bread; fine. No one cared about my vitamins.
Basically they were right: children need to learn to become independent. Only I prefer to help mine with that, instead of throwing them straight into the deep end and letting them flounder. So my son always has his mittens with him in the winter, because I put them in his jacket pockets. And if he refuses to put on his raincoat while it’s raining cats and dogs, I admonish him until he listens. His school bread is only healthy, because I make sure it’s ready for him when we leave – always on foot so as not to contribute to rows of cars in the street.
I don’t want an email from the teacher that my kids are swearing or being rude, so I’ve been hammering in the rules of conduct since they were one year old. They will never blame me for not raising them. The more luggage I give them, the more it will help them later. But why should I only weed my own garden? If there is another child next to it, I will gladly give him that luggage.
Small effort, everyone happy
My parents and in-laws think I’m too strict. ‘Joh Suus, let her be a nice child’, my mother-in-law sometimes says. So do I, but if you want to stomp in the puddles you should put on rain boots, and don’t catch a cold in your new sneakers. So I hold them tight when we are not prepared for such a situation.
Tristan has a classmate who goes to the gym every week in his shirt and underpants and barefoot, his parents structurally forget his gym bag. The last time I helped change clothes I brought an extra set. Small effort, everyone happy. At least, that’s what I assumed.
“If the neighbor’s garbage can is on fire, wouldn’t you also put it out if you were standing next to it?”
But that afternoon I had a furious mother on the phone. What I got involved in. Well, nothing, it wasn’t a personal action. If the neighbor’s garbage can is on fire, don’t you also put it out if you’re standing next to it? For example, I have already suggested to Tristan several times to invite the classmate who is full-time at the shelter to spend an afternoon with us. Does he even have a resistance? Not because I condemn full-time working parents, but because I think I can do something fun that way, and maybe even help.
‘My child is having a great time at the out-of-school care,’ said a mother angrily when I once raised this in a group in the schoolyard. “Perhaps better than your child sitting alone with his mother.” To which I replied that I did not have a child to be cared for by others. Can’t tell you, I know. But I like it. And I wasn’t the one who started judging.
Read also – “I cramped at the thought of being with my child 24/7. Let me work’ >
Still: if we all had a little more eye for each other, there would be much less judgment in my opinion. Is a friend of my children not wearing a coat while playing outside? I’ll give him one from my closet anyway. Maybe those parents had no idea how cold it would get when they let him play with me. Conversely, I hope they do the same. And the fact that children of others under my supervision have to eat with a knife and fork – yes, fries and chicken nuggets too – really doesn’t harm them, even if their parents still feed them Rapley style at eight, with soft-boiled vegetables straight from their hands.
“I respect the education of others, but stand by my own”
My children also learn that they have to abide by the rules that apply there. So they can jump on the couch there; it’s not my sagging furniture. Fortunately, my children know that this is not the way it should be. Does that make me the mother mafia? I do not think so. I respect the upbringing of others, but stand by my own.
I do condemn the fact that other parents also apply their own upbringing at school and on visits. Your house, your rules, but beyond that there is such a thing as social adaptability in my view. I’m not waiting for your child’s chocolate spread fingers on my walls, because you think it’s important that Jantje develops freely – even when he’s a guest somewhere. Who is the real mafioso here?
My friend Herman shares my opinion and, if possible, insists even more on ‘how it should be done’. It’s strange that you don’t hear anyone whisper about that. Have you ever heard a man speak judgmentally about the upbringing of a friend or neighbor? There is no father mafia. Yet Herman is the one who takes corrective action when playing outside is not fair or the neighborhood children kick a ball against a car. He is known as ‘that strict father’, but as long as I never see anyone else intervene, I don’t care what they say.