I promised my wife I would write this blog. It is for her and mothers like her, who give all they have to their children only to be told by a cacophony of voices that they should do better. May their critics be silenced, their children bless them, and their husbands defend them. If we don’t, no one will.
There are some Christian radio talk shows I stopped listening to long ago. They are the ones dedicated to a number of topics, but their bread-and-butter topic is parental advice. Week by week, they roll out a star-studded cast of guests who share clinical, experiential, and anecdotal expertise on what parents should and should not do. Mothers are frequently the target audience. I do not doubt that what they do is helpful to some degree. But I believe their efforts sometimes only create unrealistic expectations and place unbearable loads on the backs of the very ones they aim to help. Nothing is more irritating or unrealistic than to hear the ultra-soft-spoken mother who has the Sinai-like tablets of motherhood that she wants to “share” with others (‘smash’ or ‘smother’ is more accurate).
In true law-sounding fashion, they are full of “thou shall not” statements. The law-thumping critics of mothers may not explicitly express them in the same way I do here, but this is more or less their message. This is a small sampling of things I’ve heard pushed on moms over the years. God forgive us, but here they are:
1. Mom, thou shall never raise your voice to your child. Show me a mother who never raises her voice to her child, and I’ll show you a child who doesn’t really care what mom says—no matter how sugary-sweet her voice may be!
2. Mom, thou shall never allow your child to watch more than 1 hour of television daily. If your TV is on for more than 1 hour in a 24-hour period, I hate to break it to you, but your child is watching—hearing—sensing more than 1 hour per day. And for those of you who have created a fence around this commandment, such as “we don’t have a television,” I’m counting iPads, iPhones, tablets, computers, etc. Some of the biggest law-thumping critics of mothers are those moms who don’t dare watch television but instead spend a ridiculous amount of time on the internet looking for sewing instructions on how to knit a cover for their child’s iPod. I have nothing against sewing, but you get my point.
3. Mom, thou shall never allow your child to eat anything except organic food. Really? I hate to burst your organic bubble, but unless your family’s excrement fertilizes your growing food in your backyard, here’s a dirty little secret—it’s not organic. If you want to whip up a batch of organic French Fries, feel free. But please don’t criticize the mom who orders a large fry at Wendy’s and calls it a snack for her kids (besides, they use ‘sea salt’ at Wendy’s now).
4. Mom, thou shall never send your young child to bed without a story. Here’s a non-fiction and true-to-life story for your youngsters. It’s entitled “Mom is exhausted. Good night.” I hear it’s a bestseller.
5. Mom, thou shall never allow your children to leave the house without proper clothing and hygienic practices. So little Timmy has on a flannel shirt with his sweatpants and sandals. Does he have a job interview I don’t know about, or are you really auditioning for others through your child? I think they call that child labor, and it’s been illegal since FDR’s reforms in the late 1930s.
6. Mom, thou shall dedicate one interrupted hour of time to each child each day. Nobody does this. I’m not even going to address it. It’s like looking for Bigfoot. Everyone says it exists, but there’s no real evidence.
7. Mom, thou shall only allow your children to listen to Christian music. The Crisler house has spent many nights after dinner lip-syncing the likes of Willie Nelson, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Mumford & Sons, and others that I’ll not mention to avoid answering emails from overly zealous pietistic parents. Does mom monitor it? Absolutely. Do our children have a thirst and hunger for inappropriate music? Nope. Because we’ve shown them firsthand what is what when it comes to music. Besides, singing “Come back, Lord Jesus and pick up John Wayne on the Way” by Willie Nelson is a blast. And a great opportunity to talk about biblical eschatology.
8. Mom, thou shall be an expert in the following areas: all curriculum from kindergarten to college preparatory classes; pre-teen and teenage relationships (and beyond); minor plumbing issues (and some major ones); cooking of all kinds; small carpentry projects (and some major ones); painting; sewing; decorating; taxes; insurance; etc., etc., etc., and etc. Is anyone on the planet who can do or know all these things? This person, this mother, does not exist.
9. Mom, thou shall receive no credit when things go well with your children but all the blame when things go wrong. Why is the child “special” or “remarkable” when doing well? Yet, when the child does poorly at anything, people point the finger at the mom. Teachers should give gold stars to moms. In fact, moms should get a small stipend from school districts for all their home teaching.
10. Mom, thou shall always ensure your child behaves appropriately in public. I’m talking to you, a judgmental cashier, and other patrons of stores who cast an evil eye at the mom whose child throws a temper tantrum at a time that is inconvenient for you. Please refrain from wagging your head or winning the prize for “most obvious statement” of the year by telling the mom, “He’s upset.” That’s like saying the “Sun is bright.” Moms don’t need that kind of judgment from you. How about something like “It will be okay,” or “Hang in there,” or, wait for it, “Can I help?”
These are just some of the commands that people lay down for moms. The law-thumping motherly experts come in all shapes, ages, and genders. Just between me and you moms, ignore every single one of them. Entrust yourself to the gracious Judge. To the mom who has entrusted herself and her children to the crucified and risen Jesus, your judgment as a mom is a “well-done” good and faithful servant. Your defense as a mom is not your expertise or pretentious adherence to a set of rules placed on you by others. Your defense is found in the gospel. Rest in it like that baby once rested in your arms. I love my mom and the mother of my children.
A native of Lubbock, TX, Channing Crisler holds a BS in History from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX. He received his Master of Divinity in Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX, and his Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.