It’s Christmas Eve, and everyone in my house has screamed at least once in the past 12 hours. Yes, including yours truly. I’m not going to sugarcoat how our Christmas is going: I’m currently teetering back and forth from “what a magical day, I love you guys so much” to “tell me that did not just happen on Christmas freaking Eve.” I’m really trying to keep my cool, though, and I keep thinking of one famous mom: the admirably gentle and oh-so-relatable Mrs. Parker in A Christmas Story.
This woman–the character–is everything I hope I am and aspire to be.
When I watched A Christmas Story as a kid, there were a few scenes that stuck with me–Flick getting his tongue stuck to the pole, the teacher writing A++++ across the room, and Ralphie finally beating the ever-loving snot out of Farkas. I think every kid who’s ever been taunted by a bully has that scene eternally ingrained in their minds. Yet all those times I watched the movie, I hardly noticed the sweet mom going with the flow and making everything okay. The mom who made it all happen. Mrs. Parker was like a background character to me.
Now that I have my own son, and my little family sits down and watches the movie together year after year, I am finally able to appreciate Mrs. Parker’s role in the family. She is, without a doubt, the glue that holds everything together. (You know, even if her husband accuses her of using up all the glue so he can’t fix his lamp.)
As someone who embraces the “gentle parenting” way of raising my son, I feel like Mrs. Parker and I could be best friends. Her patience with Randy, who reminds me of my son on the spectrum, is commendable. Randy won’t eat his food? Well, let’s just pretend to be little piggies. Oh, Randy’s hiding under the sink because Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie? Well, here’s a glass of milk.
I couldn’t control my laughter when she closed the cabinet door and left Randy there under the sink with his milk. Not because it was funny, but because it was too relatable. Mrs. Parker is such a “choose your battles” mom, and this was one battle that wasn’t worth it. Randy needed love and reassurance, and that’s what she offered him. When Ralphie had his big fight with Farkas, her response is just the same; calm and gentle. She sees the anguish in his face when she peels him off of Farkas, and she knows right then and there–no punishment is necessary. This is a mom who considers her children’s thoughts and emotions as she reacts. Even when she punishes Ralphie after the unfortunate F-bomb incident, she puts the bar of soap in her own mouth for a brief second, just to experience what it’s like. There are rules and boundaries in the Parker household, but not without reason. Mrs. Parker is the ideal authoritative parent.
But she’s not perfect.
Like every single real-life mom, there are moments when Ralphie & Randy’s mom has got nothing left to give. We observe how she spends most of her time ensuring that every facet of running of the household goes smoothly, from the child-rearing to the cooking to putting up with her stubborn husband’s antics. Ralphie says himself, “My mother had not had a hot meal for herself in 15 years.” When does this poor woman get some time to relax?! When Randy’s coat is so puffy he can’t put his arms down, she says out of frustration, “Well, put your arms down when you get to school.” She’s simply Not Having It. I like to imagine that once the kids are out the door, she settles into the couch with her Look magazine and puts on a Bing Crosby record. Maybe she drinks some wine. Lord, she deserves it.
Parenting is tough. Anyone who says they’ve got it all figured out is lying. We all want our kids to be happy, well-adjusted, and successful when they grow up, and it’s our job to make sure they have a proper upbringing. That’s a lot of pressure on our shoulders. It helps to look to moms in films and TV to remind us that what we’re dealing with is normal, and maybe we all have some Roseanne days to balance out our Carol Brady days. But after reflecting on A Christmas Story as an adult, I’m going to keep asking myself, “What would Mrs. Parker do?”