By Kelley Cunningham
I was watching the Today show the other morning, and two mothers were discussing with Meredith Vieira whether or not it was okay to have a cocktail during a playgroup. I cannot believe this is actually a topic worthy of a debate on national television. One mom said, in effect, hell yeah, it’s okay. The other said it’s NEVER okay because we must keep in mind that we are always modeling for our children.
Once I picked my jaw up off the floor it was all I could do not to throw my coffee mug at the TV.
Last I heard, alcoholic beverages were still legal for adults. And if we’re not adults by now we never will be. I don’t remember being asked for my ID when I signed up for Lamaze. Could it be that enjoying one of the pleasures of adulthood in a responsible manner in the company of other adults can be a positive modeling opportunity? Isn’t it beyond obvious that there’s a big difference between one little drinkie-winkie and five?
Let’s talk about some variations on this theme. Hmmm…alcohol at a morning playgroup? Might be a tough way to start the day, given that you’re on call for the next ten hours. One glass of wine at a late afternoon playgroup? Sounds good to me. Four martinis, two blunts, some Valium and a stomach pump? That might be going too far.
Why do some women become “modeling” moms and some don’t? Maybe they were the ones who drank the grape Kool-Aid in the maternity ward, while the rest of us were chewing on Percosets like they were Pez.
This “modeling paradigm” mentality is enough to drive you right off the edge. Your child is WATCHING you, every second! One mistake, one thoughtless response, one “goddammit” mumbled under your breath when you drop the pot roast all over the kitchen floor, and you’ve ruined them for life.
I guess it’s okay, though, to have the kids notice you judging other mothers’ behavior. Modeling sanctimoniousness is just fine. As long as you don’t have an alcoholic beverage in your hand while you do it.
My own feeling is that it’s a bit egocentric to think we have such total control over our children and how they “turn out.” Any mother who is past the sippy cup stage knows that you can model perfection all you want, but Logan’s still gonna come home and want the Junior Revolutionary Molotov Cocktail Kit that the redheaded kid down the block has. Any mother worth her salty tongue knows that she can bite it all she wants, but little Jordan is going to let the “S” word slip one day because she heard Tiffany say it on the bus.
I can’t say, though, that I haven’t tried the modeling thing.
“Mom, where are you?”
“In here, modeling good behavior.”
I was sitting on the couch, legs folded in a ladylike position, reading The Wonder of Boys/Reviving Ophelia (one can’t model while watching TV), my Perrier resting on a coaster created by my youngest in Kinderenrichment class. In front of me was a tray of organic vegetables and dip purchased at a market that supports small, family farms. Schubert’s String Quintet in C played softly in the background.
“Um, Mom, are you okay?”
“Of course, darling!” I said, smiling broadly. “I am here showing you how we adults always act, even when no one is looking. By observing my flawless example you will know how you are to behave. You will know by the calm, wise aura I emanate that your needs will always be attended to, your entire existence is secure and worry-free, your uniqueness will be honored, and therefore, you will be empowered.”
“Whatever. Do we have any Pop-Tarts?”
“Precious, I think it’s time we had a family meeting to discuss the fact that Pop-Tarts are poison and will not help you reach your full potential. I think we also may want to consider finding a health food advocate in the community that could be a positive male mentor figure, since it does take a village, after all. I do, however, acknowledge your desire for Pop-Tarts and I am not dismissing your feelings.”
“By the way, where’s your brother, Amadeus? I don’t want him to miss out on any modeling happening around here. His personhood could use some celebrating.”
“Mom, you’re creeping me out. Why don’t you have a drink and relax?”
Need more Kelley? A hefty collection of her great essays, What's the Matter With Mommy?, is now available on Amazon.com.
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