Grumpy: surly or ill-tempered; discontentedly or sullenly irritable; grouchy.
“grumpy.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 15 Oct. 2015. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grumpy>.
I am not a grumpy mom.
I think I am pretty laidback and fun, most of the time. So you can imagine my surprise to discover I suffer from that scourge of our times: resting grumpy mom face.
“Can you smile more when you come to school? My friends thought you were a little scary.”
Oops. Frightening kindergarteners goes in the “bad mom” column. And to think I deliberately did not wear my skull t-shirt just to avoid this very predicament.
Like the better known “resting b*tch face”, resting grumpy mom face results when your ordinary calm expression conveys your emotional state inaccurately.
Specifically, you look vaguely mad at the children around you when you are just sitting around thinking about the yummy soup you will have for lunch, or other pleasant diversions. When you are not making a deliberately expressive face that connotes a well-known positive emotion, for example “delight”, people (particularly children) think you are in a bad mood. Teachers can get slightly defensive before I speak up and they realize I am not preparing to read them the riot act for some imagined scholastic issue.
When confronted with Resting Grumpy Mom Face, kids get nervous and try to avoid the nasty lady.
The roots of this phenomenon in my life are a mystery to me. Children did not have this reaction to my face when I was younger. I used to teach acting to young people, and no student was ever put off by my expression. Of course, I was usually performing, so my face was rarely at rest. Also, I was being paid to give them my undivided attention.
Now I am an older mom, maybe gravity and years of making exaggerated facial expressions has settled the lines of my face into an undesirable pattern.
“Grumpy old person” is a real stereotype, and while I am not pension-ready, I can see my golden years on the horizon. Could this be a terrible stroke of ageism, where small children see my slightly wizened features as the cliché wicked witch? And if so, does this mean I don’t need to bother with finding myself a costume this Halloween?
I think my introversion may play a part as well.
I do spend many happy hours frolicking in my own head (it’s really a great place, I would invite you all over, but I hate large groups of people) and it takes more focus than I care to admit to pay attention to the world around me. Often I will be wandering around my own little mind palace debating the merits of paper and plastic shopping bags or writing limericks about Canadian politicians rather than reacting to the gaggle of children surrounding me on the playground. If you aren’t explicitly interested in other people, you can come off as stuck-up or aloof to adults. To children, this can read as grumpy or mean.
In the hunt for culprits, let’s not forget our dear friends exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Thankfully, my kiddos have aged out of the slumber crisis years, but like just about every mom I know I routinely cut down on my own sleep hours simply to keep my to-do list steady at a manageable three pages. The resulting dark circles under my eyes do lend a certain dramatic angst, and can bear a surprising resemblance to that darling of the Internet, the ubiquitous Grumpy Cat. Pass the concealer, my dears.
My own children know me, and know that when I am actually grumpy, there is no ambiguity in my expression. Also, I tend to make disconcerting little growly noises. They don’t see my normal face as being sullen. But to tell the truth, I do smile more often, and more easily when I am in their company.
Maybe I just don’t like other people’s kids.
No. I like all your children, darlings that they are. I simply have a mug that only my own children can love. Upon reflection, I’m fine with that. I just need to remember to pretend I am Mary Poppins next time I volunteer at school. I’m sure that won’t be exhausting at all.