Hold Up. Am I Pulling a Joan Crawford?

I am so annoyed with the endless researching and insecurity behind ensuring I’m raising my child well. I’m fed up. And so I just…stopped.

Have you ever fully trusted yourself? Of course all you normal people do. You never doubt yourself and you fart glitter clouds of lavender and birdsong. But not me. I don’t fart that way. Because I have no effing clue what I’m doing. So the foreign concept of completely trusting myself in parenting is surprisingly… liberating. Euphoric even. It doesn’t take a village at my house any more, Hil. I’M the one calling the shots now! Suck it, experts.

And then enters your mother. Your sweet mama who gives you a sideways, confused look as you put your toddler daughter in time-out for shouting “NO!” and shaking her tiny little index finger at you in a frighteningly teenaged gesture. And you think…Oh. Crap. Am I really that off base? I am a huge advocate for respect, after all. And I thought it was pretty logical that respect should be the foundation for discipline. Super simple, right? GENIUS even. And I don’t need to read 7 parenting books verifying what I already know is awesome and tooooootally gonna work perfectly. For all time. Cue this audacious philosophy:

1. I RESPECT YOU AS A PERSON. I understand you have a voice and want to be taken seriously. I will try my hardest to remember you are a small person instead of just a child.
2. RESPECT ME AS YOUR PARENT. I am not your friend until you graduate. I am, however, completely in love with you and only want to help you grow into an amazing adult. So everything I do has a purpose in getting you there. Respect that purpose.
3. RESPECT OTHER ADULTS. Acknowledge them and say please, thank you, hello, goodbye. Because while I think you are a small person who deserves respect, you still have to earn that respect from them. Show it first, surprise the shit out of adults, and earn that respect.
4. RESPECT OTHER KIDS. Ask for permission; don’t take. Lead by example and inspire other children to respect each other.
5. RESPECT THE HOUSE RULES. The general idea is for a child to have complete freedom within the hardened boundaries of the “house rules” (i.e., No painting off the table, but you can get as messy on yourself or on the table as you want. Go have fun and create! Just not on my walls.).

I thought I was pretty hot stuff coming up with all of this. Turns out I’m just a hot mess. Yet again.

Let me give you some perspective. When my toddler gets frustrated and shouts “NO, MAMA! I NO LIKE IT!” with an 18-year-old hip shake and finger wag that I cringingly have no idea where she learned, that’s something I don’t tolerate, even at her age. Because if you do tolerate it, if you let it slide, if you let them disrespect you now and get away with it, what in the hell are they going to say to you 10 years from now? (p.s. Sorry to the parents of teenagers, I can only imagine how cocky I sound.)

I understand the whole “pick your battles” mindset and do this regularly. But disrespect is pretty much the battle I try really hard to pick every time. In this case, I tell her why it’s disrespectful and give her a warning to not do it again or it’s a time-out. She knows the stakes. And when she chooses to push that boundary, yes, it’s a 2-minute time-out that just so happens to be in my laundry room when we’re home. Because she is 2 and doesn’t really sit still yet. When time’s up, I hug and praise her for surviving it, reiterate why she had a time-out, and move on our merry way.

I truly thought that was a reasonable disciplinary action for a toddler who can’t sit someplace normal like in a corner or on a bottom stair yet. My mother, however, thought this was absolutely ABSURD for a 2 year old.

She coined this as…pulling a Joan Crawford.

Mommy Dearest

OBVIOUSLY, this is no wire-hanger moment. But I stopped to think, wait, am I really out of line here? Should I check myself and do a wild Phoebe-run over to the dusty parenting books? Is my daughter going to realize in therapy 30 years from now that I caused her aversion to folding laundry? Or windowless rooms?? Or COUNTDOWNS???

I’m thinking no. Nevertheless, I now have a mantra every time I try something daringly unresearched: WHAT WOULD JOAN CRAWFORD DO?

It keeps me in check.


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