You think you’re bad?

by julie on October 23, 2011

I avoid blogging about blogging because it’s almost always terribly boring, both to read and to write. But after a visit from the sheriff on Friday and a post from Megan Jordan about bloggers who revel in their self-proclaimed badness, I’ve got something to say.

First off, Her Bad Mother — Catherine Connors — is a dear friend of mine and has been since our early blogging days. I think her blog name is both funny and an insightful commentary on the judgments leveled at mothers — by society, by the media, by other mothers, by our own mothers.

But as Megan pointed out, this concept of badness as a label assigned to us by others has been co-opted as a sort of self-awarded punk rock motherhood merit badge. Look how bad I am! Are you bad too? Whoo, grab a glass of wine and let’s have a playdate!

(That’s the other motif Megan highlighted — the fixation on alcohol as remedy for the ills of motherhood. Also entirely played out.)

Normally I wouldn’t have even commented because I have nothing to contribute to the discussion (do I really care if mothers still think it’s original and clever to laughingly declare themselves unfit?), except that on Friday, a handful of other mothers and a county sheriff did think I was a bad mother.

My six year old daughter went out running in the neighborhood, approximately a mile up the main street, past her elementary school and turned around at the pool — just as she told me she was doing to do, just as she’s done before.

I realize that it may sound odd that a six year old “went out running,” but CJ does (and so does my nine year old). They swim, bike, and run for training the way Kyle and I do.

She arrived home accompanied by a woman I’d never met before, who informed me that CJ was out by herself, by the pool.

“Yes, I know,” I replied.

She told me that she was worried because CJ was so little and all alone. “So I called 911.”

I raised my eyebrows at her.

“I know at least three other people did too. I saw people stopping and watching her and then calling.”

I thanked her for her concern.

I asked CJ what had happened. She said this woman kept driving next to her the whole way home, asking if she was okay and if I knew where she was. CJ told her yes, she was fine and yes, I knew where she was, and did she know that it wasn’t safe for her to talk on the phone while she was driving?

God, I love my girl.

I told her that she’d done nothing wrong, but that the police would probably pay us a visit. Sure enough, ten minutes later a county sheriff rang our doorbell.

I looked at him tiredly. What else was there to say, except that other mothers and I differed on whether or not my child ought to have been where she was?

He told me that we may live in suburbia, but people prey on these streets too. He told me I didn’t really know where CJ was, only where she told me she would be. He told me that anything can happen.

I bit back hard. I wanted to tell him that I knew what could happen. That I know people who’ve lost their children. That my own child was the target of BB gun-wielding boys in our neighborhood four years ago (and not a single concerned mother called 911 then). That I myself walked the same distance to and from piano lessons and Brownies in a neighborhood without sidewalks and with dogs prowling loose. That anything can still happen, no matter how old we are.

You think it’s cool and funny and hip to moan about how you can’t survive another minute without a glass of wine? Wake up one morning and realize that drinking is killing you.

You think it’s cool and funny and hip to proclaim what a lousy mother you are? Defend yourself to a sheriff who actually does think you’re pretty lousy (or at least naive and stupid).


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