Listen up, Mom.
Here’s how to raise kids the right way:
Love them with all your heart, but not too much or you’ll ignore their faults and they’ll turn into brats.
Respect them, but not too much or they’ll walk all over you.
Nurture them, but from a healthy distance, or you’ll become a helicopter mom and you’ll still be wiping their asses when they’re 16.
Care for them, but don’t be overbearing or they’ll become weak adults.
Give them chores, but not too many and not the wrong ones and not too early and not too late.
Keep them safe, but don’t watch them every minute or they’ll be helpless and useless.
Celebrate their triumphs, but sparingly or they’ll become narcissistic.
Make time for yourself, but not too much time or you’ll disregard your kids’ needs.
Have enthusiasm as a parent, but not too much or you’ll be empty and your life will be meaningless when they grow up.
Give them independence, but not too much or they’ll get hurt and someone will let the police know you’re neglecting them.
Get them help, but don’t put labels on them.
Ignore labels and let them develop as you did, but willingly take the blame for every consequence of their future actions.
Feed them well, but not too well or you’ll spoil them and spend too much money on groceries, and people will find you insufferable.
Indulge them, but not too much or you’re part of our country’s health epidemic and people will think you’re trash.
Let them do things on their own, but know that when they get hurt it will most certainly be your fault.
Medicate them when they need it, but not too often or you’re giving us all superbugs and screwing up your kid’s brain chemistry.
Keep an eye on potential threats, but don’t be too vigilant or you’ll be projecting your own fears on them and giving them a host of anxieties.
Encourage them to succeed, but don’t push them too hard or they’ll break under the pressure and that, too, will be your fault.
Let them express themselves, but set boundaries or you’ll have aimless kids living in your basement in 15 years.
Teach them to love their bodies, but not too freely or they’ll become young parents and it will reflect poorly on your parenting skills.
Make rules, but don’t be too uptight or they’ll become naive young adults and people will take advantage of them.
Be responsible for your mental health, but not if it takes too much time away from supporting your children.
Follow safety regulations, but not too rigidly or you’ll humiliate your children.
Let them experiment, but understand that you’re a bad parent if they try drugs and alcohol and cigarettes.
Have a sense of humor, but don’t cross any lines or in any way disrespect your kids.
Earn your keep, but not at the expense of your children.
Discipline them, but not too forcefully or you’re warping their notions of authority and they’ll seek out unhealthy relationships and that will be your fault.
Avoid corporal punishment, but know that some people wish you would just hit them once or twice.
Calm down, but don’t take time for yourself or you’re abandoning your family and your responsibilities.
Have a drink or smoke a joint, but not too frequently and never in front of the kids or you’re setting a horrible example.
Volunteer at school, but don’t bother your child’s teacher with too many emails or you’re one of those parents.
Dress your kids tastefully, but don’t be a prude about it.
Stand up for your kids, but cut the cord already.
Do your research, but don’t obsess.
Share what’s hard, but don’t share too much or you’ll bring everyone down with your whining.
Celebrate what’s wonderful, but not too often, because no one likes it when you brag.
Take pictures, but not too many and don’t share them or you’re putting your kids in grave danger.
Don’t demonize strangers, but know that if your child is harmed by one they’ll ask, where was the mother?
Be honest, but don’t overshare, no one cares what you really think.
Share your story with other mothers, but don’t skimp on the awful things or we’ll all know you’re a fake.
Think back to the first voice you ever heard. Not the one that told you not to gain so much pregnancy weight, not to tell your friends and family too early, not to use a surrogate, not to expect special treatment, not to try again, not to share your pregnancy news with too much enthusiasm, not to take too much time off work, not to name your unborn child, not to plan your birth, not to adopt from overseas, not to try that expensive fertility treatment, not to grieve for lost hopes, not to become a parent at all. No, not that one.
The other one. The voice that assured you that out of the whole universe, and all that ever has been, and all that ever will be, you were meant to be your child’s mother. Only you. No one else. Out of all the infinite possibilities and connections, your life and your child’s life became connected.
That voice, so sure of herself, so content, so fierce with love and fear and hope and unspeakable devotion — she is the only truth-teller. Live by the sound of that voice.
That voice will guide your palm to your child’s feverish forehead, will encourage you to grasp your child’s small hand while you can, will gently remind you when you’ve misstepped, will calm you when you’re angrier than you’ve ever imagined you could be because your child isn’t listening, won’t listen, won’t obey you. And that voice will lead you when you let go, little by little, in painful, brilliant, joyful increments.
No one loves your child the way you do. Listen to the truth in your heart, Mom: