Silencing the Critics

An article in the most recent issue of Parents magazine caught my attention.  And, no, it’s not because of its title: “The Naked Truth.”  Actually, it was more for its subtitle: “Now that I’m a mom, I’ve got nothing to hide.” 

Through the years, a number of articles in Parents have “caught my attention,” but none has inspired me to write.  Truth be told, Parents, as a publication, doesn’t lean particularly close to controversy.  At its best it’s informative; mostly it’s pleasant, easy reading.

“The Naked Truth” by Rebekah Hunter Scott delineates the miraculous disappearance of one’s ego when one becomes a parent.  And as a parent whose own ego left the building sometime in August 2004, I find reflections on this topic enjoyable if not affirming. 

Scott writes that her days of “crippling modesty” are over now that she has children.  Any mother who has ever held a squirmy, hungry, tired toddler and has had said toddler pull her shirt all but off in the middle of Dunkin’ Donuts knows of what she speaks.

But there is a passage in her essay that gives me pause–serious pause. 

Scott writes about her young son, “Having a mini critic as my shadow has toughened me up a bit, thickened my skin. Let’s face it, kids are brutally honest. Especially mine. Rollie constantly points out my imperfections. Your bottom is big, Momma. (Time to go jogging.) Why are your feet so cracky? (Must loofah.) Your breath smells yucky. (Anyone have a Tic Tac?) If someone had even hinted at such things pre-kid, I would have been so mortified I would have balled up armadillo-style and rolled into a hole for months. But that’s the beauty of having kids: I am no longer capable of embarrassment.”

While kids do “toughen us up,” are “brutally honest,” and help us to be “no longer capable of embarrassment,” I can’t help but think of a son who “constantly points out [his mother’s] imperfections” and where that leads. 

As the mother of three sons–and three future men–I am rather adamant that unless they have something positive to say about someone’s personal appearance, then they are to say nothing.  And that starts with their mother and father.  

Of course, as young children, they have been unwittingly and occasionally deliberately critical of or curious about another person’s body, face, clothing, or hair.  When that happens, they are reminded of how such comments are unnecessary at best and incredibly hurtful at worst. 

As a woman, too, I find it more than a little disconcerting that a male–“mini” though he is termed–can tell his mother her “bottom is big” and that this sends her flying out the door to go jogging.   We would not tolerate this from adult males.  Why should it be tolerated–or treated lightheartedly–when the criticism comes from a child?

Naturally, this article is meant to be humorous, to entertain, and may not even be meant to be taken literally.  That aside, I think I’ll keep doing what I”m doing. 

When my oldest son lapses into criticism of another person’s appearance, I simply look at him; and his reply to my stare tells me he gets it:  “I know, I know, I’m not supposed to say anything negative, right?”

Quite right.



4 thoughts on “Silencing the Critics

  1. Hear, hear! I totally agree with you. I had similar thoughts about that article.

    And again, I agree with your parenting style. In our house its called the “Thumper” rule ( from Bambi ) ( which neither of my children have ever seen, but thats another story….) meaning ‘if you can’t say anything nice,…..’

    Great post! thanks, T

  2. Hmmmmm, instinctively children blurt observations.
    Why do parents make that a reflection on them versus the beginning of observational skills, attention to details, and providing information to others that could be very helpful when asked about a stranger or incident?
    When the need for details occurs, we hardly expect “dah” for an answer.
    We can’t expect art appreciation, painting analyses, or mystery solving details to burgeon out of air if we don’t encourage perception.
    Does the fat person have to be told again s/he is fat? No.
    “And your point is?”
    “Nice observation, is it necessary to share now?”
    “The flaw you discover could be yours in a little time, would you like it highlighted?”
    “Humor is more sophisticated. Read Twain and learn how he felt about humor.”
    Family time is a good time to air observations, so hang on to it until then.

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