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It Isn’t So Easy To Be a Mother Any More

April 8th, 2005

Write what you know, all the writing teachers say. So what do I choose to write about? That’s right, a mother of nine children. Do I have nine children, you ask? Do I have ANY children? The answer is no.

However: Here is an experience to which all can relate. Once upon a time, while in a grocery store, I saw a woman being terrorized by her small child. “Johnny,” she kept pleading, “don’t do that. Don’t touch that. Be quiet.” And did little Johnny pay attention to his mother? You know the answer to that. My thought on observing this pitiful scene was this – my mother would have jerked my arm out of its socket if I had behaved like that in public. I know how to mother better than that poor woman, I thought, and I don’t even have any children.

But how, you ask, could you come to such a conclusion, Donis? It used to be that people learned to parent by observing their own parents and grandparents and practicing on their many younger siblings, nieces and nephews. By the time a person grew up, s/he was already a skilled child caregiver. It’s not so easy for young parents any more. People don’t grow up in big family groups like they did in Alafair’s day. As for me, I have much younger siblings and observed expert parenting first hand. I was also an elementary school teacher for a while, which enlightened me, as well. (Interestingly, when I became a supervisor of adults, I found that the same techniques I learned for getting 12-year-olds to behave worked just as well on grown-ups.)

It’s true, though, that it’s easier for me to romaticize parenting, having never had to do it. Somebody asked C.S. Lewis how he could write so well for children, not having any himself. “I was a child, once,” he replied. All Ican say about myself is that I’ve seen some pretty skilled mothering in my day.

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