Monday, February 13, 2012

How to be a Real (Un-Entitled) Mother Superior

The Tiger Mom is so 2011.

New year, new Superior Mom meme.

Welcome, readers and trend-watchers, to the latest mishigoss, the Bebe Mom, aka Pamela Druckerman, author of the recently published instant bestseller Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parentingwhich casts a reproving eye at indulgent, no boundaries, graceless American parenting and finds a more commendable model in the way it is done in the birthplace of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. 

(Actually, there is something else far more compelling that relates to Strauss-Kahn and Druckerman that I am ALSO writing about, so stay tuned...but first read on....)

Whether the Chinese or the French have nailed the secret to successful mothering is obviously up for a good, long is the question of which nationality will vie for the title of Mother Superior next.

One thing is for certain: as of yesterday, the Upper West Side of Manhattan was not even in the running, based on a random sampling of the mommies shepherding their kiddies to and from afternoon swimming at the JCC in Manhattan. For them, I would have to invent an entirely new competition with several, closely related categories: Most Self-Involved Mother; Most Obnoxious Mother; Most Inconsiderate Mother; Mother Most Oblivious to the Elderly Woman Waiting for a Shower; Mother Most Rapidly Texting While Her Kid Slams a Locker Door In Someone's Face; Mother Most Likely to Trammel Over the Needs of Everyone Who is Not Her Own Kid.

These clever categories were inspired by the crop of moms I encountered circa 1:15 p.m. in several areas of the women's locker room -- in the shower section, in the blow-drying section and the section set off by a curtain and festooned with two legible signs that proclaim the area for Adults Only, no kids under the age of 14 allowed.

Last week, I wrote about Subway Blindness Syndrome but this ailment has obviously spread aboveground for as recently as yesterday afternoon, old ladies waiting in towels for showers became amazingly invisible to the young women who were hellbent on showering their kiddies and getting on with their own busy, busy days. You could tell just how busy these women were by the amount of texts they sent during the time they were ignoring the old women -- and most everyone else -- around them.

It evidently never occurred to any of these mothers to let one of the elderly women ahead of their own kid. As I stood in my towel, I can report that the wait for an available shower was at least ten minutes long. Ten chilly, humiliating minutes for a senior citizen to stand in a towel while little kids scampered around her and mothers were utterly blind to basic principles of respect.

Which brings me to the Adults-Only section of the locker room.

In this area, as I previously stated, signs proclaiming the area off-limits to kids are mounted on opposite sides of the room which is set off by a curtain, to further underscore the idea that this area was for people who sought some privacy

Which is why I was more than a little surprised to walk into the area and find an entire bench monopolized by a thirtyish mother and her young charges, changing into their clothes after an afternoon swim. Surrounding the bench were mounds of their soggy towels. Surrounding the soggy towels were their open bags, clothes spilling out. 

In short, to access my locker, I had to push a used towel with my foot and step over a bag.

To gain a couple of inches of bench space, I was forced to ask the mother to move her stuff over.

So, when she said to me, "Two more people are coming," instead of "Sure," or "No problem," or -- horrors! -- "Sorry," I felt moved to direct her gaze to one of the wall signs that designated the area for adults only. "Not to be nasty, BUT...." I said.

Still, nothing registered in this woman's countenance except for some kind of miffed annoyance. She moved not an inch. Her little kids, though, stopped getting dressed and became watchful, evidently feeling the tension. Poor things, it wasn't their fault their mother was a failure at the rudiments of social etiquette. 

Certain I wanted to avoid an all-out confrontation, I took a giant step around the mother, her brood and their mess and skipped off to fetch the Ruler of the Locker Room, a sassy, super-competant salt 'n pepper-haired JCC staffer who is regarded as a cross between an oracle, a goddess, a beloved grandmother and a celebrity for her sometimes caustic yet invariably wise, no-nonsense approach to, well, everything. 

Fortunately, she was seated at the welcome desk.

As I explained the scenario, she rose from her seat. "They still there?" she asked me, heading for the locker room, but not before retrieving a moving coat rack from the clutches of a three-year-old boy whose mother or nanny was texting madly (again the texting!!!) on a nearby bench. As she entered the locker room, she turned to give me a look.

It said, "We're in this together, kid."

It meant, "Someone's gotta enforce the rules."

It allowed me to let go, if only for a moment, of my on-going irritation at the unbearable entitlement I encounter daily -- in the locker room of an Upper West Side community center, in stores, in restaurants, on public transportation and private events alike --  that is exhibited by parents who behave as if they and their off-spring were the absolute epicenter of a universe presided over by the God of Extreme and Utter Selfishness, Moral Myopia and Rude Disregard of Others, Especially Old Ladies Shivering in Towels.

No comments: