Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Mayonnaise Mafia

We know about stay-at-home moms (SAHMs), but did you know there is a diabolical subset of this group? It's true: within this demographic lurks a group of moms who consider themselves to be the true, unadulterated, 100% REAL moms. Lesser moms like me, who deem to let their kids run wild and adopt a laid-back "let-them-learn-by-breaking-an-arm" philosophy are sneered at as posers. These ladies live by the motto: "Motherhood - With a Vengeance!"

I have a name for them: I call these super-SAHMs “The Mayonnaise Mafia.“ They are driven to parenting their sacred offspring with the same determination that got them their MBAs. They strive to be the bestest, most wonderful, always-there-for-their-kids-1,000%-effort-24/7-Moms-EVER!

These “Tsu-Mommies” put their kids on sports teams almost as soon as they can walk; they're given violin lessons at three; their early enrollment in the very best pre-schools are fretted over like PAP smear results. They're there for every event, frantically cheering their kids on. But there's a thin line between “You can DO it!” and “You’d BETTER!” They don't realize that all they're doing is putting their kids on a hamster wheel: all motion and no progress.

Woe to us "let-kids-be-kids" hacks! The Mayonnaise Mafia looks down upon those who don't enroll our offspring in every class, or have the NERVE to merely drop them off at sporting events! Even though I had good reason for doing so, like taking another kid to an appointment, I found myself outside their social circle. I became a "mama non grata" when I didn't join them in their shrieky whirlwind of sideline support. I was shunned like an Amish woman with an iPhone. No more quilting bees for me!

I should add I have three boisterous boys, which means I already had two strikes against me in Mayonnaise Mafia World Series. The third strike came at a playdate with the Queen of Momzillas, a woman I'll call Patti. Patti had only girls, which, as every mom knows, is an entirely different PLANET. She was flabbergasted by behavior she found “unacceptable behavior." It seems my boys were not interested in tea parties and role-playing that began with, “I’ll be the mommy, you be the baby.” Being boys, they were more keen on climbing, exploring, digging - you know, kid stuff. Patti was SCANDALIZED that I refused to force the boys conform to their regime - er, I mean, game. I was annoyed that anyone would interfere with a child’s right to play simply because it is not the "right way,“ according to an adult. It's PLAY, for goodness' sake, not a Power Point presentation. So I wasn’t surprised when she informed me in no uncertain terms that our kids could not play together until they learned to “re-SPECT BOUN-dar-ies.” (Patti believed that enunciating ideas loudly would make them clearer, and I believed that she needed to be smacked into next Tuesday.)

What I didn’t expect was the far-reaching circle of cold shoulders I would receive from her friends in the Mayonnaise Mafia. You don’t cross REAL moms without paying for it. For being such a “bad example,” my laid-back home became “No-Moms’ Land.” I remember watching two These uber-Moms from Hell and their awful offspring crossing the street to avoid my tainted house. Another mom decried my kids’ “intrusion” on a Mayonnaise-managed front yard football toss by asking me, “What makes you think they're welcome?” How silly of me!

“Time for tennis lessons, Thomas!” cried the Mayo-Mafiosa to her kindergartener when it looked like he might actually want to play in the mud with my wild boys. She finally had to drag him by the hand with a censorious “Come away!”, as if our laxity might be infectious.

Unfortunately, the grit that got you top grades in grad school may not work with children; a lot of these robo-kids wind up crazy-busy in the pursuit of excellence, with classes and sports every day after school and throughout the weekend. What gets lost in all this is the business of “just-being-kids,” which requires nothing more than experiencing it. It can’t be taught, and, unfortunately, it has an extremely short shelf life.

And you wind up with moms too busy to notice that their kids have become petty, competitive, mean little jerks.

“Do we HAVE to let them play with us?” moaned precious little MacKenzie, as if we weren’t there. The heartless Mom-ster said nothing. It was our last visit, with no tears were shed on either side.

But don’t try telling the Mayonnaise Mafia that they are producing a generation of vipers! You will wind up at the bottom of the lake, wearing cement-lined Ugg boots (none of these moms has time to take their kids to feed the ducks, so your body will never be found).

To be fair, I will cop to an enormous degree of laissez-faire in my own approach to parenthood; unless it’s truly dangerous, I figure it’s best to let kids find things out for themselves. I can even sympathize with my friend, Kay, who is so laid-back that she is almost comatose. Upon being informed that her son, Kevin, had climbed onto the roof of her two-story home, Kay glanced up, shading her eyes.

“Not all of them make it,” she shrugged, “Why do you think I had four?”

It wasn’t until a fellow mellow SAHM like me moved across the street (replacing Patti! Hooray!) that I re-joined the World of the Living SAHMs. Maggie and I instantly bonded over our overuse of the expression, “What-EV-er” (some words are worth enunciating). My kids quickly learned that hers was a “come-on-over” house, and when one of them (we never found out which one) broke a vase, Mags simply waved it off and uttered four of the most beautiful words I had ever heard:

“Eh, these things happen,” she shrugged.

I almost cried.

If you are a laid-back mom who has been cold-shouldered by the Mayonnaise Mafia, take heart. Our kids may be the ones with scraped knees and smudged faces, but you might actually catch them giving each other comfort and encouragement when things got tough.I've witnessed it with my own kids, and I knew that I must have done something right. Because somehow they had learned something that can't be taught in a whirlwind of activities: compassion.

Yeah, that’s right, Mayonnaise Mafia: compassion. Something your kids will never have.

Suck on that, you bitches.