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My Mom Conflicts

September 16, 2013

Written by Marykate O’Malley, mother of three wonderful children, Gladwyne PA


My children are in the back yard right now playing a game that involves jump ropes (tied to trees), lawn furniture and every item from the shed spread about the yard. Every item. I am overhearing things about the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. I make a mental note that they are both high and look to see my son with the jump rope about his waist, on the lawn chair, next to the tree, looking like he could be on scaffolding, or wearing a harness dangling precariously from the side of a steep mountain. And in this game, I believe he is.

And here is the endless internal dialogue that circles without conclusion or decision: the tug of war between the understanding Mom who knows that imaginative games and forts are a part of childhood and important for development. And the Mom who doesn’t want to spend the afternoon in the Emergency Room at Bryn Mawr Hospital. The Mom who loves when her children become engrossed in their play and the Mom with the underlying OCD who internally resembles Edvard Munch’s the Scream when she comes across stuffed animal families about the living room, living in lean to’s and shanties with all the household bedding generously supplied.

I support climbing trees and rock walls and letting children be children but my limit involves the potential for broken bones. And so I check out games for understanding and to set boundaries (quality Control Mom). And hold off as long as I can on the forts if the game spans a few days. And then I reach my breaking point and demand that the co-habitating friends be put back in baskets and chests out of sight and certainly out of the dining room.


My son can even scale historic Christ Church in Philadelphia

By nature, I prefer order and cleanliness. Children are not orderly and certainly not clean. By nature, I love play and imagination. Children are playful and imaginative. You see my conflicts. Setting limits with QC is rather easy. The mess – I don’t think I will ever settle this one. Until the time has passed and I will look back and think, why did I care so much about the mess? Why didn’t I accept the messy fun that accompanies childhood?

And as I reflect on all of this there is a silver lining to my need for order. While discussing if Santa was real my oldest said, “Mom of course he is real! You know how every year at Christmas there are boot prints in the ashes by the fireplace? You could NEVER have a mess like that in the house!” I took away two things 1. My children have an awareness of the OCD 2. This recognition is so strong it explains the mother of all magic. The man himself. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.


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  1. Heidi Farmer

      on September 16, 2013 9:27 pm

    This is so, so, so me too! I love the imagination, not so much the material objects involved. That’s why that song, “You’re Going to Miss This” plays through my head on a daily basis.
    But sometimes evil mom starts with the high-pitch bellowing about toys getting thrown away. Jeesh, I dislike that lady!


  2. Anne Schenendorf

      on September 18, 2013 7:44 pm

    I’m dying laughing!!!! I can definitely relate to that gray line where creativity meets am I out of my mind for letting them do this. 😉 I was witness to this contraption and I was utterly impressed. 😉


  3. Marykate

      on September 20, 2013 7:33 am

    Heidi – so true. It hard to let go the need for order! I read once that cleaning while children are playing is like shoveling in the snow. After I read that when they were babies I decided to leave the toys all over the house until they were tucked away in bed. It helped me feel a lot more sane! That has grown into allowing the forts to linger and then they come down. Phew!
    Anne – love your description – you never really know where some of these games lead – quality control baby!


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