I did a lot of handwringing after I read this recent Parenting magazine article. As I read the nine statements, I realized I have said each one. My head filled with visions of me as the Latina version of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. Then I began talking to myself inside my head: “Ay Dios mio” and “pobrecita” as I pictured my little M’s sad face. I even bemoaned my lack of parenting ability out loud to my student teacher, the dreaded “I’m a terrible mother ” not because I was fishing for compliments, but as a “por mi culpa, por mi gran culpa” act of contrition. It was sackcloth and ashes for about ten minutes. Then I shook it off and brought myself back to reality. My mama didn’t raise no handwringer.
When I was an assistant principal, I became well-acquainted with a parenting type that I dubbed the Handwringer. Usually the Handwringer is nervous and anxious, especially about hurting her/his child’s feelings. Rather than set boundaries, guidelines, and consequences, the Handwringer frets. She/he is like Chicken Little in that they are always running about, unsure of themselves, convinced the sky is falling right on the precious head of their child. They make excuses, not decisions. They complain, cry, and sigh. They drive assistant principals, probation officers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and public defenders crazy. My mom was no handwringer.
I’ve spent years analyzing, discussing, and writing about my mother’s parenting. When all is said and done(and believe me, when I say “all”), Mom did all right. She raised two UC Berkeley graduates. She modeled lifelong learning by earning her associate of arts degrees years after my brother and I graduated college. She reflected on her past and reinvented herself both professionally and personally. She taught us to believe in Jesus, the American Dream, the power of family, and ourselves. She told us the truth and it sometimes hurt. Today, I told one of my classes the streets don’t play. Neither did my Mom. Perhaps that’s why the streets never got me. So I will be a softer, but not weaker, version of my mother for my M.