I was reading The Anchoress on Friday, and came across a part where she said she had been begged to “fisk this woman”, the woman in question being one Helen Kirwan-Taylor.
Ms. Kirwan-Taylor, or “Ms. ME-ME-ME” as I am inclined to think of her, wrote a column which basically amounts to suburban dreck – a mild complaint about how she finds her two sons too boring to merit her time and attention, if she can find a way to slough them off on someone else. Ms. ME-ME-ME goes so far as to claim that her column “argues provocatively that modern women must not be enslaved by their children.” Granted, there are some children who are so whiny and selfish that if their parents are not careful to lay down the law, they might indeed find themselves controlled by their children, but as the reader makes his way through the column, we find that Ms. ME-ME-ME is the one who finds selfishness the ideal way of life. Indeed, I could almost agree that Ms. ME-ME-ME should not be allowed contact with her sons, as her sort of personality seems the poisonous sort which could damage their future outlook and sense of responsibility. It was difficult to take the column seriously, but because such people exist, it needs a look from the broader perspective.
Ms. ME-ME-ME starts her litany of self-pity by explaining how she lied to get out of attending parties with her sons. Ms. ME-ME-ME reports that she sent off the nanny with the boys, who then “almost always returned complaining that my son had been singled out for pitiful stares by the other mothers.” Ms. ME-ME-ME protests that she loves her children “as much as any other mother”, but that lie is proven out by the sentence immediately before it, where Ms. ME-ME-ME admits she found shopping and personal gratification much higher on her list of priorities than spending time with her sons, even at signal life events.
Ms. ME-ME-ME also had little interest in sharing experiences and insights with the other mothers in her neighborhood, deriding such discussions as “mind-numbing”. Since Ms. ME-ME-ME confesses that she found “the thought of spending time” with her own children “more stressful than any journalistic assignment”, it appears that she could have done with paying attention to how the competent and loving mothers managed to get things done. Instead of ‘mind-numbing’, comprehending her duties and opportunities as a mother seems to have been rather at an intellectual level beyond the comprehension of MS. ME-ME-ME.
Ms. ME-ME-ME asks the reader: “Kids are supposed to be fulfilling, life-changing, life-enhancing fun: why was my attitude towards them so different?” She won’t like the answer – it’s because Ms. ME-ME-ME is a self-obsessed narcissist, with no room for anyone whose priority is not to satisfy her every whim.
Sniffs Ms. ME-ME-ME: “To admit that you, a mother of the new millennium, don't find your offspring thoroughly fascinating and enjoyable at all times is a state of affairs very few women are prepared to admit. We feel ashamed, and unfit to be mothers.” That, madam, is because you are very much unfit to claim the title of ‘Mother’ as it is properly meant, and your arrogance - claiming that all women must be like you to some degree because you are unwilling to admit the sheer selfishness in choosing to have children which you then treat with less attention than your furniture, and the callous character which you are exhibiting towards their growth, education, and experience is abhorrent on its face.
She does not sit with them while they do homework, or share trips to a cricket match, or even holidays when families – real ones, anyway – look forward to spending time together and sharing what they have learned.
“Am I a lazy, superficial person?” asks Ms. ME-ME-ME. Absolutely, you are, and worse you know it but are trying, even now, to make excuses instead of trying to be a better Mother.
“I can't remember most of the teachers' names” admits Ms. ME-ME-ME. How long, I wonder, before you start forgetting your sons’ names? You’re certainly on the road to that place.
Ms. ME-ME-ME, I have to warn you that when you are a dried-up, miserable old prune who – at long last – finally realizes that a business career is little more than spending time and energy making money for someone and working hard to only transient accomplishments, and that nothing in this world matters more than the people you love and who love you, you will finally come to realize what you threw away, but it will be too late. Every mother and father – the real ones – put their heart and soul into raising their children with the absolute best of their devotion and care. Yes, it’s boring sometimes and annoying at times, and it means going without many of the luxuries and personal entertainments. Yes it means you have to work through tantrums and diapers and teaching the child to behave and it means doing better than going through the motions to help them learn responsibility. And it never ends, even if you do a perfect job, which no parent manages. But the secret is, a real Mom or Dad gets back just as much as they put in. My own little girl is the smartest in her class, in large part because I work with her every day on her math, reading, and behavior. She is loved by pretty much everybody, because my wife works hard to keep her hair just so, and her clothes neat and clean, and together we teach her how a princess behaves, as much by example as we are able. You may think that such a child will be a narcissist, but you could not be more wrong. Imitation parents like you make children narcissists, because children learn from their parents and often become like them. So in a surprisingly short while, you may expect your sons to give you all the space and time you want, because following your lead they will be obsessed with their own pleasures and wants, and you will never see them. Even when it becomes the dearest hope you hold. I am old enough to have seen it many times, and you are lying to yourself to pretend that ignoring your children will ever lead to a good end, or that the parents who spend so much time and attention helping their children grow up loved and responsible are not the ones who win the most in the end. You are a cold, selfish monster, Ms. Kirwan-Taylor, and all your lies and excuses cannot change that fact.
The broader perspective I mentioned, is the uncomfortable question: Just how many other parents are like Ms. ME-ME-ME? I have long observed that while many parents are genuinely committed to doing the very best for their children, others are clearly only interested in their children in ways which suit their mood. Not to say abuse, but a clear disinterest in paying attention to their child's interests unless it happens to match their own. It seems very strange to me, that people could have children and not see the treasure God has granted them, but there it is. The truly scary part about Ms. ME-ME-ME, is that she really does speak for a segment of the parent population.
God save the children.