When Sveva was two years old, I met a woman at a course, she was also a mother. Initially she approached me because - she said - she appreciated my contributions during the course, my ideas on education and parenting, my feelings. We started to hang out but, suddenly, everything I said and that initially made her closer to me, became the pretext to criticize me openly.
She insisted on telling me that my daughter was too attached to me, she did not know what sharing meant, she did not know how to play PROPERLY, it was not right that a two yearold pretended to play by her rules when we met and herr eight yearold was there (two year-old VS eight year-old… are you kidding me), that my daughter wouldn’t fit in a preschool, that she was anarchic and it wasn’t good that we hadn’t a routine for eating and sleeping.
She even attacked me during a meeting with a pedagogue, in front of other people - mostly unknown - , enumerating everything that I did and that was not good, basically asking the educator to stand by her side and let me note that I was in fact a bad mother.
Her daughter, who was six years older than mine, was always always playing tricks to my little one like inviting her to play in her room and then, when the little one arrived at the door, slam the door making her cry or kick her while she was walking to make her fall. Of course such great mother never saw anything…
Four years later I would like to show her what a great child my daughter is, always smiling, greeting people, saying “hello” to strangers just to make them feel valued. How she cares for younger kids when she’s at the playgroung, how she always kiss goodbye to her friends and try to make them see reason when they’re arguing. I would like her to hear her teacher saying, of my daughter: “she is always generous, you can not help but love her, she never argues with anyone and is always so kind to us and to her classmates, especially with the little ones. and I’m not bragging, I’m really not. She’s a child, she will throw a fit over nothing and be as impossibile as one can be. But she’s not the monster my “friend” thought she was.
I broke our friendship; she was getting too pushy and I felt bullied, that day during the meeting I gave her a bitter response but that did not leave me satisfied, so much so that, after many years, I still think about how I felt. It’s not really hard feelings, though I often happen to notice a positive behavior in my daughter and I thing: “In your face, b…”.
The reason why I can not forget is that she really gave me a hard time, I couldn’t avoid her as we needed to meet for work, she involved me in eternal phone calls, she would pop over uninvited start criticizing me, at some point she even started judging the quantity of pasta which I ate or asking me about my sex life!
I became her designated victim and found myself in the midst of a depression, with this know-it-all judging and dispraising me every time we met. She alway had something - negative, of course - to say about my daughter, who in my opinion and according to everyone else who knew her was a sweetie and was behaving just as a two year-old is expected to.
She was bullying me as a mother, bullying disguised as “honesty”, that’s what she said: I’m being honest, I tell you because I love you (thank goodness, what if she didn’t like me?)
So, if you tend to give unsolicited advice, think twice. If in front of you there’s a mother who sleeps with her daughter and you disapprove her choice, ask yourself if this has some impact on your life, and if the answer is - as I imagine - a resounding no, leave her be. It’s HER choice, not yours. If you think your friend is spoiling her child because she always hold her/him in her arms, hold the comments for you, she doesn’t need your opinion, or your point of view on the matter. She is happy, so is her child: be happy for them.
If you believe that breastmilk turns into water after six months or that it’s not nourishing enough, ask yourself how can you be so sure and try to verify if it’s true before vomiting it in the face of a mom who’s struggling with a growth spurt and has already a thousand doubts.
If you feel that a two year-old who doesn’t share her toys will turn into a monster when she grows up, think before you say it: you’ll find out that it’s absolutely healthy and physiological for a toddler not to share.
And to you, yes, you who are struggling with the pushy mother-in-law, with the know-it-all friend who knows how to do it because she has always done so, with the friend who criticizes you because you let yourself go, with the neighbor whose children slept through the night in their bedroom from day one, with the acquaintance who suggests you put some chili on the breast to wean your child… to you I will give just one (unsolicited but vital) advice: don’t let ANYONE to undermine your confidence or make you feel mediocre or bad mothers.
Those who love you will support you, and if they really feel that there is something wrong, they will tell you in the most delicate way, respectfully and without making you suffer.
Who loves you defend your right to be the mothers and fathers YOU have chosen to be.
Children growup, in time you will sleep better at night, at some point your child will be ready to wean completely, the terrible twos will be left behind … but having been bullied remains, it doesn’t matter if you were bullied at school of by another person as an adult.
Say NO to any kind of bullying, for our children but also for us, for the children that we have been and we’ll always be.