Thursday, July 19, 2012

Model Moms

No, this post is not about Heidi Klum or Gisele Bundchen or even Kate Moss. I'm talking about a different kind of modeling. I'm talking about modeling the best behavior for our daughters. 

It is something we are advised to do from the time they are tiny — but oh-so-watchful — tykes. At that point, we were showing as well as telling our young ones to fasten seatbelts, look both ways at an intersection, eat vegetables. "Do as we say and as we do," we demonstrated. And, in all honesty, it was pretty cut and dry back then. "Cross at the green. Not in between." Get it? Got it. Good.

Now, there's a whole lot of grey area. And, as my daughter and her friends negotiate the treacherous waters of teenhood, I see moms modeling some very poor behavior. I'm not talking about drugs or alcohol (although there's plenty of that). I'm talking about how people treat each other.

The stakes are higher and too many mothers (in my tidy little town at least) seem to be pulled into situations that would be better left to the younger generation. Yes of course, I want my daughter to be popular. But, I'm not going to undo all of the insight, maturity and compassion I've picked up since I was fourteen myself. Alas, some moms seem to regress pretty quickly right back to their own junior high days.

For example, at my daughter's recent middle school graduation, I overheard a disturbing conversation. Two mothers sat above me in the bleachers. They were both slim and tan, nicely pressed and dressed. Here's what they said. (The names have been changed to protect ... well, whomever.)

Mom 1: "So are you all set for Katelyn's graduation party this weekend?"

Mom 2: "Almost. But, can you believe it? The other night, she gets a call from Molly." 

Mom 1: "No!"

Mom 2: "Yes! So, she says ..." (Here, her voice gets a little higher, as though she's imitating the unfortunate Molly.) "Oh, you didn't invite me to your party. Is it okay if I come?"

Mom 1: (laughing) "No!"

Mom 2: (laughing) "Yes! Can you believe it?"

Mom 1: "What nerve! I hope she said 'No.'"

Mom 2: "Well, duh!"

Moms 1 and 2: (laughing in unison)

At this point, I think they realized that I was listening, so they continued their discussion more softly. Also, one of them had to text her husband. And,the processional was starting. Probably a good thing, because I was finding it very difficult to keep my mouth shut.

Now, obviously I don't have the backstory. Katelyn may be a perfectly lovely young lady. Molly may be a terrible little bee-yotch. But, let me tell you ...

That's not the impression I got.

Talk about a teachable moment. If Molly was willing to swallow her pride and ask to be included, good for her. If my daughter was having a party and someone felt left out, I would use the situation to help her practice empathy. Not only would we include Molly, but we would make sure that she had a great time and was included ever after. 

Instead, here were two (allegedly grownup) queen bees who were very satisfied, delighted even, that their daughters were also queen bees. What I heard were two prideful mothers who were relishing their daughters' popularity and making fun of someone less fortunate. Their laughter was tinged with cruelty, and the underlying message was "How could that loser think she could come to the party?"

Y'know, for Molly's sake (and Katelyn's too), I hope I'm wrong. 

But, I was there. I really think I'm right.

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