Happy (Let’s Not Judge) Mother’s Day!

Hi Readers! Happy Mother’s Day to moms of all stripes! If you want to read my sentiments about our parenting-as-a-spectator sport, they are here. Now go enjoy some burnt-but-lovingly-made toast! – L

35 Responses

  1. Are there really whole articles on sand toys??? I’m pretty sure I just buy the package that has the most toys for the least amount of money… I mean sand toys are an annual investment aren’t they?

  2. What a great and positive article!

  3. That is pretty cool. Thank you for sharing. I have to say I did not have the first clue as to who you were when I first stumbled onto your blog and started commenting. I have learned more since then. Like you have a reality tv show and you have the title world’s worst mom. I like that it is cool. The world hates the truth and hates freedom even more. Keep up the great work.

  4. Since when were sand toys rocket science? When I was a kid, it was pretty much just plastic pails and shovels–maybe castle-shaped molds, if you were lucky. Even that wasn’t strictly necessary, because an old serving spoon without holes makes a perfectly good sand shovel, and an empty plastic ice-cream bucket makes just as good a tower for a sandcastle as a bucket specifically made and marketed for that purpose–it’s more about sand-to-water ratio than anything else. If I ever have kids, I fully plan on free-ranging, and Lenore, I’m really glad you started this movement to make it okay to do that. My parents were relatively overprotective, but even they didn’t do ridiculous things like banning us from playing in the yard alone, or insisting on following us into bathroom stalls at the mall, or cutting up our food beyond about kindergarten age, at the very oldest. They also allowed us to use paring knives, cheese graters, vegetable peelers, hammers and nails (saws required supervision), needles and thread, and of course, real scissors……and, I have a very clear memory of my mom teaching me how to use the Whirlybird at the park, knowing full well that a mistake on that thing could result in me smacking my head pretty hard on the metal pole in the middle.

  5. You know, I think this whole issue contributes to a lot of “post-partum” depression. Heck, depression in general for moms. I’ve always had depression and I’m finally getting treated for it but one of the triggers that keeps popping up is parenting: the fear of doing something “wrong”, the fear of someone pointing out what I’m doing “wrong”, being blamed for something “bad” my kids did. My husband doesn’t get it.

    But after years on parenting boards (like Circle of Moms, although I was never a member there) it becomes ingrained in moms to look for these things in themselves.

    I can’t even describe the conflict in my head. Free-range parenting is probably the easiest of them because I firmly believe in letting my kids have their independence and freedom. But yesterday I got my first hand-slap from a stranger over it. I was sitting in the house with my almost 2yo when someone knocked on my door. I’m not very social so I really don’t know many of the neighbors (the kids do, though). She said she lived down the street and was worried because she saw my “tiny” (her word) littlest daughter walking off towards the park on her own. She was really upset, wringing her hands and fidgeting.

    The fact that I seemed unconcerned seemed to upset her more because she kept pressing about how she was ALONE and she then found my son playing across the street from her house and sent him after her. Because she’s so “tiny”. She’s 6 and fully has my permission to walk to and from the park alone but she can’t stay yet unless her siblings or some other friends are there. She regularly goes with her 2 friends who are 6 and 8. Just the 3 of them.

    So my 10yo son and his friends walked her home and they were all very confused by a neighbor telling them what to do and what was wrong with going to the park. Sigh. I won’t stop letting them do that but now I’ll be worried neighbors are judging me.

    And then on the other hand is the self-imposed feelings of failure because my oldest (almost 12) is failing 4 classes in 6th grade and doomed to repeat the year. Not because she doesn’t understand but because she refuses to do the work, runs off when I ground her and is out of control. My husband doesn’t understand why I don’t just let her fail to learn her lesson. But he’s not the one people will tsk-tsk and ask, “why didn’t you do XYZ?” He won’t get people outright blaming him for her failing.

    And, then again, I probably won’t have anyone either but that worry is in my head. All the time. And it makes me depressed. All of it.

    I’ve said before that the worst thing a new first time mom can do is become involved in online message boards on parenting. It will screw them up for life (I started when my oldest was 4 months and it’s been downhill since then).

  6. Mother’s Day. Bah humbug. I wish it were Parents’ Day. Actually, I wish it were just part of the culture, to honour and support those who are raising kids.

  7. Thanks, Lenore!
    Did you notice the awesome irony of the “related articles” linked at the bottom of your piece?!?!

  8. great article! thanks for writing it.

    i say this lovingly, because i think you’re great, lenore, but i hope some of your readers/ commenters read it. i love the free-range thing, but i worry when reading the comment threads that it gives some people a whole new angle from which to judge parenting. i’ve definitely seen some anti-“helicopter” comments that are just as judge-y as the awful anti free-range ones. please keep that in mind, free-rangers! just be nice. because we’re all trying so hard, we really are, and you often don’t really know what’s going on in another family. signed, mom of a special needs kid who totally gets the anti-helicoptering stink-eye some days and the why-is-your-kid-so-nuts-you-must-not-discipline one on others.

  9. Off-topic, but wasn’t there a list somewhere of things people worry about and whether or not they are actually dangerous or not? I know it is in your book, but I thought I came across it hear, too…

  10. […] Hi Readers! Happy Mothers Day to moms of all stripes! If you want to read my sentiments about our parenting-as-a-spectator sport, they are here. Now go enjoy some burnt-but-lovingly-made toast! L Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  11. “Mother’s Day. Bah humbug. I wish it were Parents’ Day. Actually, I wish it were just part of the culture, to honour and support those who are raising kids.”

    It is. That’s why we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (which IMO is far better than having just Parents’ Day, because that way we get TWO holidays AND we honor the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers.). If you mean you wish we did it consistently every day, well, sure, but humans just don’t do stuff like that consistently. So special holidays are good reminders and opportunities.

  12. “(which IMO is far better than having just Parents’ Day, because that way we get TWO holidays AND we honor the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers.)”

    Except for the millions of kids in the US alone who are growing up without a mother, father or both.

  13. […] Hi Readers! Happy Mothers Day to moms of all stripes! If you want to read my sentiments about our parenting-as-a-spectator sport, they are here. Now go enjoy some burnt-but-lovingly-made toast! L Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  14. @mollie and Donna, making mothers and fathers day into some generic, non-specific holiday is just a bit too PC for me. If kids have an absent parent or parents, it’s not as if they did not know until mothers or fathers day came around!

  15. Jen Connelly: big hug for you.

  16. No but making them focus on the lack one day a year isn’t exactly pleasant. My daughter, who doesn’t have a father in her life (and doesn’t care at this point), still has to make a Father’s Day gift at daycare/summer camp every year. Her options are to make the damn thing or spend a week being the focus of attention for not making one. She gets to watch a weeks worth of TV, radio commercials and advertisements about how great fathers are. So, while most of the year she just happily exists without a father, one week of the year she has to reflect on what she is missing.

    Even as an adult with a deceased father, I’m not thrilled with the day. Of course I know my father is dead every day but it’s not a daily focus for me. The day makes me more sad than anything else. My coworker, whose mother died a few years ago, feels the same about mother’s day and has been glum all day today.

    I guess I just don’t see a point in a “holiday” that makes so many people feel bad and left out. I don’t need appreciation for being a mother at the expense of others.

  17. My Sister and her family invited me to go down to the beach with them. It took a while to find one off the beaches with access that wasn’t ankle deep in sea weed. But we found the right one. There were about 5 families in a row with us at one end. The other side of us was all adults no little kids.

    The kids naturally played together. I think we looked ill equipped to the others because we didn’t have a grill (Most of them traveled 10 – 30 minutes we had an 1.5 hour drive so keeping raw meat safe temp even in a cooler is an issue, also some beaches don’t allow grills and we were doing the go down to the area find a relatively clean beach route.) They kept offering us food. The kids kept walking up with cookies. We offered fruit and chips. The roaming boundaries set themselves with us being one end. Any of the kids started to go to deep (strong currents in the area depending on the tides) and the nearest adult reigned them in. Someone got sand or salt in their eyes – nearest adult washed out the eyes. Toys were exchanged. The water guns I got for my niece and nephew were a big hit. So were drift wood twigs.

    THe kicker – the adults were speaking at least 3 different languages and none had ever met before – but the kids understood the rules and warnings as needed regardless of the language spoken

  18. I totally agree! We are way to judgey of other parents. Someone posted a great post on a different blog “Rage Against the Minivan” asking the press to stop making new “mommy wars” and having mom’s attack eachother. She went on to say that there are so many orphans and children in foster care that need parents……and not just “perfect” parents. Why aren’t we more upset about that, then breastfeeding or whether people let their kids go to the park with friends. As the mother of seven (five bio, one adopted and one foster) I think it is time to stop judging eachother!

  19. […] Hi Readers! Happy Mothers Day to moms of all stripes! If you want to read my sentiments about our parenting-as-a-spectator sport, they are here. Now go enjoy some burnt-but-lovingly-made toast! L Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  20. Donna, quite a few single mothers I know try to have some sort of male role model in their child’s life to help fill in for a “father” figure. As it was said earlier, mothers and fathers make unique contributions in a child’s life. Perhaps your daughter has a grandfather or an uncle that provides a great “fatherly” role model. If there is someone like this you can discuss this person with your daughter and she can celebrate the contribution they make in her life on father’s day so she won’t feel so left out. 🙂

  21. Betsy. We do that. She has great male role models. Hate to tell ya; she still feels left out on Father’s Day. Having a father-figure is not the same as having a father and Father’s Day reminds her of that. In fact, it is the only day that she really expresses anything about missing a father. At this point, it is just a person called “daddy” – the same as a kid without a dog wants a dog because everyone else has one – with no real understanding of what that means. As she ages, I suspect it will be more. We don’t dwell on it but it comes up every Father’s Day.

    I guess I don’t really get the point of Mother’s or Father’s Day. I feel honored to be a mom everyday. Burnt toast is sweet but isn’t necessary to my life. I didn’t have kids to be appreciated for having kids. Why make others who don’t have moms feel bad?

  22. “I guess I don’t really get the point of Mother’s or Father’s Day. I feel honored to be a mom everyday.”

    I guess I feel that way in terms of my own satisfaction of my life experience, I also imagine that the whole culture could be more pro-parent and less focused on working life, materialism, etc.

  23. My kid also doesn’t have a dad, but I don’t think it’s wrong for her to be exposed to Father’s Day. In my opinion, it’s not a bad thing that sometimes we do focus on that particular fact of our lives, process it, and get past it. Of course I would prefer that the schools, etc. would keep in mind that not everyone has a traditional family and be a bit sensitive when they talk about these “holidays.” But ultimately, it’s up to the parents to help their kids think through these and other areas of “difference” from the “norm.” It’s not like we can keep the kids complacent or ignorant by avoiding the issue.

  24. As a general rule, I am very big on “now I parent my kids is my own business” & I try not to judge. I’ve actually had people judge me for preferring velcro shoes to shoelaced shoes, and stare at me when I scold my child if they’re crying over something that’s of their own making vs comforting them. When I tell them how I let them play outside alone (they’re 3 & 5 and I’ve actually done so since they were 1½ and 3½, although not for as long as I do so now), I get slack-jawed responses. I think such judging is wrong.

    There is one exception to this “don’t judge” position, however–attachment parenting, especially practices such as co-sleeping and as it’s epitomized on the recent cover of Time magazine. I’m sorry, but if you are PROUD of breastfeeding a 3 year old, you’re just in the wrong, I’m sorry, but you are.

    Understand–I DO NOT scold any such people personally or directly in general, but the practices–oh yes, I most certainly do.

    I absolutely support Lenore Skenazy & free range parenting but I also support the principles of John Rosemond (whom I would take over Dr. Sears anyday) and one of his main principles is to NOT do for a child what they are capable of doing for themselves. He means that in terms of things like expecting them to do their own homework without your help or doing it for them, cleaning their own room, learning to tie their own shoes (although I’m all for velcro myself), making them sleep in their own room rather than with the parents, potty training by age 2 rather than it being out when the child is ready, and also in terms of not breastfeeding a child who is fully capable of digesting normal food on his own with only minimal assistance (chopping up large sizes into smaller bite sizes, for instance).

    Again, I do NOT (in general anyway) scold the PERSON, but those practices–I have to admit, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it violates “let’s support each other rather than engaging in ‘mommy wars,’ ” but there are some things I just can’t support.

    Even so, the idea is that we should be uplifting each other rather than bashing & being ugly, and that is something I may have to remember at times myself with some of these things. I think even with things you disagree with, TONE is key. I can admit it myself–if someone disagrees with how I parent, it’s okay so long as they’re not nasty about it, but the minute I detect nastiness and a holier-than-thou tone, you’re a lost cause with me.


  25. LOL, a granny caught me the other day. I was absent-mindedly hanging up my kids’ jackets and backpacks while trying to figure out the logistics of Muffins for Moms, and the granny was telling her granddaughter, “you’re a big girl, you hang it up” while giving me a sideways look. LOL. I could have told her I’d been making my kids hang up their own stuff since they started preschool at 2.5, but I have to admit that lately, I often take the easy / quick route since there are so many moving parts with 2 kids in KG. Shame on me! Must get back to my mean old self! (The funny thing is, that kid was Little Miss Biter, who the previous day was under the table screaming and kicking the whole time I was there. If she could hang up her stuff, by golly, my kids are the ultimate slackers! Or I am!)

  26. […] Hi Readers! Happy Mothers Day to moms of all stripes! If you want to read my sentiments about our parenting-as-a-spectator sport, they are here. Now go enjoy some burnt-but-lovingly-made toast! L Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  27. I certainly don’t ignore the father issue. My kid faces it every day for perfectly valid reasons and occasions and does so superbly. I don’t sugar-coat it. I don’t deny it. I don’t even really try to make her feel better about it. It is what it is. However, a made-up commercial holiday doesn’t really seem worth the heartache it causes some. And I say this as a mother who would be perfectly happy ditching mother’s day as nice as the bowl of cereal and rainbow picture was. My kid will make me a bowl of cereal and draw me a picture just about any day I ask and many days I don’t.

    And not just kids. There are many adults for whom these days are difficult. Some who have lost their own parents. Some who have lost their children. Some who can’t see their children due to custody issues. Those in prison who can’t see their mothers or their children. Some who are struggling with infertility and aren’t parents no matter how much they want to be. Some whose children are far away.

    Other holidays – which can also be very hard on these groups of people – at least have some other purpose and ways of celebrating. I still not sure what the purpose of these days are other than to sell stuff and dine out. Does brunch one day a year really make up for lack of appreciation on 364 other days? And if you are appreciated naturally other times, why do you need a special, forced day of appreciation (I feel the same about forced romanticism on Valentine’s Day — wild flowers on a random Wednesday in April are more meaningful than an expensive bouquet of roses given because you “have” to on February 14)?

  28. I’m one of those adults who tends to spend a lot of Mothers’ Day missing my own mom, but I don’t think that means I should take it away from everyone else. It’s like that song about the trees – if you cut off everything that’s unequal, you’re not left with much that’s good.

  29. I fully admit up front to moms who make snark remarks on other moms- “You win!”. This usually stops the I Can’t Believe She… (fill in the bland) conversations I hate to engage in. Parenting is not a competitive sport.

    Last time I checked, they don’t give out Mom of The Year Awards. I have an ongoing joke with my sisters (who I turn to for parenting advise now that Mom has passed away). When we make a mistake, we always remark that we will be taken out of the running for the Mom of the Year award. I make lots of mistakes. But I think the fact that I admit my mistakes and *try* to learn from them helps my kids see me as regular human being, like themselves, who is imperfect. The imperfections, the mistakes, and the “this didn’t go at all as we planned it” are the memories that they remember now. I can’t promise them a perfect childhood, but by God it will be fun!

    Yesterday we started the day off on a nature walk in the woods where i grew up as a child. My sisters and their kids were with us and it was a perfect day (and we had Mimosas for the Mommys!). My sister’s 6yo daughter was running far up ahead and we heard a thump and saw her face down in the mud. She looked at us for a reaction, which we all were in complete shock, but then my son started yelling “Safe! Safe!” and doing his best baseball umpire impersonation. She started laughing, got up and went over to the creek to clean up. But first we took pictures of her covered in mud, head to toe. These are the memories I will take with me, not the illusion of “winning” some sort of imaginary parenting competition.

  30. Well I honestly don’t remember the exact origin of Mother’s Day, but I don’t think the greeting card companies invented this one.

    You can’t please everyone. And political correctness doesn’t solve problems.

    I actually don’t think it’s a problem that my kids don’t have a dad. So maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me that they are “reminded” of it periodically. I point out that there are many kids who, unlike them, don’t have a sister. They probably get more from each other than many girls get from their dads. (And if there is ever a celebration of sisters, I won’t protest it just because some people don’t have one.)

  31. Great article on mom bashing! I feel exactly the same way; our moms didn’t breastfeed cause it wasn’t done. Just because one mom goes the distance (say almost 4 years?) and another gives up once out of the hospital, who are we to judge? It’s the love, the small spaces of time carved out of each day, that counts in the long run. My daughter is expecting her first baby and is turned off by the emphasis on “the birth.” She works in the medical field and her goal is to deliver a healthy baby by whatever means works. Setting up unrealistic expectations about “natural” childbirth does so many a disservice – it’s the whole “Are you mom enough?” mindset. Please…parenting is NOT a competition.

  32. “Except for the millions of kids in the US alone who are growing up without a mother, father or both.”

    So one of them, doesn’t apply to them. Not every holiday applies to every one. But for those whom it applies, then the separate identifies of mother and father get separate honor.

    And Mother or Father’s Day isn’t just for the kids, it’s for the mothers and fathers. I really don’t think that my husband shouldn’t get a special honor for being a father worthy of it, just because some people don’t have anyone to honor. How much sense does that make? It’s like not celebrating birthdays because other people die younger than you are.

  33. I like that article, in the sense that it celebrates mothers. I’m an advocate of the Free-Range re-movement, that Lenore has got rolling. I’ve been an advocate of Lenore since she wrote her article and posted the world to see. Imo, most times, most mothers are the silent hero of the family. They are often over looked (probably because it’s what is expected of them), but their deeds and contributions and sacrifices for their family is no less significant. Growing up, with aunt and uncles from immediate and extended families, as well as my own parents, I can recollect what all the mothers did for the whole family. First one to get up so that she can, cook breakfast and get us ready for school, pack our lunches, and sometimes iron dad’s shirt for work. Wash the the dishes and clean the kitchen, all before she herself had to get ready for work. And as soon as she got home, dinner would be made. She kept the finances in order, the referee in sibling rivalry, the person that alleviated the stress from dad’s shoulders. She was the model that I took to in growing up. A stubborn, yet strong willed, compassionate, and loving woman. Who always put the needs of her family before her own. Perhaps she never had the time, to be very hands on with us juggling everything. But I thank her for that. She allowed us to thrive as children. To experience life at a young age. Did she worry, of course. All mothers worry about their children. But she trusted us enough to learn for ourselves, and that she would always be there with band-aids, iodine, and a kiss should it come to that. This is what is inherently in all mothers. To love and protect.

    I’m a realist, who is optimistic and logical (I get that from my mother). I know not all mothers are the same. There are the mothers who become fearful, and paranoid for whatever reason, and DO affect how their children grow to behave, to become. It’s no secret, that children learn quickly at a young age, by what they see and hear. Most times, parents don’t even realize this. How often do we say “where did you learn to do that?”, or “how do you know that word?”. I’m not saying these mothers are “bad” mothers. They just haven’t fully grasped the consequences of their actions towards their children. People can and do change, it’s a matter of understanding, and wanting to. Then there are BAD mothers. Who neglect, abuse, injure, and even kill their children. Whether it’s from postpartum depression, extreme frustration, or just bent psychological issues (perhaps because that’s how they were treated by their own parents), they do exist. I know this article is to celebrate the women who gives birth to the world. But let’s not turn a blind eye to this. We’ve gotten to this point in how society is in less than 2 decades. I’m sure we can revert back to how used to be. We need to start thinking again for ourselves. Start using common sense again. Stop listening to what so called “experts” tell us how we should be. Mothers all over the world having been doing a pretty good job over the last last ten thousand years, before psychoanalysts, psychologists, self-help gurus, and know-it-alls came about. How? They used their instincts as mothers. Let’s remember, the main reason why these “experts” write books, go on talk shows, make videos, is to make money. I’m sure some do mean well, but it’s irresponsible to feed the paranoid mind to generate sales, or ratings. This is how our society has gotten to this point of “stranger danger”, and “all male strangers are potential predators”, “there is one around every corner”. “Don’t take your eyes off of your children, even for one second”. “They are children, and don’t know how to fend for themselves”.

    This is a celebration of mothers. Most mothers always mean well, and we have to love them for that. We have to respect them. But we should never forget, that they may be our mothers, but it is our children’s lives, that they will need to deal with, experience, hone, and make their own as they grow up. Mothers…and fathers, are really only their to guide, provide, and IF need be, protect until the children become more and more capable of doing it for themselves.

  34. Came across this poem, and thought of Mothers and Free-Range.

    On Children (by Kahlil Gibran)

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

  35. LRH, it sounds from your post like you have some misconceptions about attachment parenting. Something I realized, thanks to that recent and poorly researched Times article, is that many people conflate it with helicopter parenting. Attachment parenting and free-range parenting can be perfectly complementary.

    I think it’s pretty ridiculous to judge a parent for meeting their child’s needs as the parent (who knows the child best) understands them to be — whether that need is for fresh air & freedom from the parent, or for a comfort nursing at three.

    Rosemond made a lot of sense to me when I read him as a teenager, but as an adult, I realize that “one size fits all” parenting is a no-go when it comes to individual children.

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