Why Minnesota Mothers Are Doing Pretty Good

by Edie Larson

From time to time, we offer free editorial space to common folk with something to say. Today’s topic for discussion concerns the issue of parenting, a subject that has been in the news lately.

Nobody wonders how Minnesota parents raise such stereotypically stereotypical kids. They never wonder what these parents do to produce so many nice children or what it’s like inside a nice family. Well, I can tell them anyway, because I’ve done it. If it’s not too much trouble and you have a minute, here are some things my daughters, Jenny and Cristi, were never allowed to do:

• Skip doing their homework
• Put their elbows on the table while eating supper
• Miss church (except for the day after prom, during deer hunting season, and on Super Bowl Sunday)
• Go to school in April without a jacket
• Get into a van with a strange man
• Use swear words in the house
• Forget to call grandma on her birthday

I’m using the term “Minnesota mother” loosely. I know some Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowan and Minneapolis parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Minnesota heritage, almost always born out of state, or Catholic, who are not Minnesota mothers, by choice or otherwise.

All the same, even when other parents think they’re being nice, they usually don’t come close to being Minnesota mothers. For example, my Chicago friends who consider themselves nice only apologize to guests about how badly prepared the mashed potatoes are. At most, they’ll include the carrots. For a Minnesota mother, apologizing for the potatoes is the easy part. It’s asking forgiveness for everything from the poor selection of cheese and crackers, to the dry turkey, to the weakness of the pie due to the poor selection of apples at Byerly’s that’s tough. (To say nothing of how the coffee could be better.)

Despite our squeamishness about comparing ourselves to others in public, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Minnesotans and others when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 non-Minnesota mothers and 48 Minnesota mothers, almost 89% of the non-Minnesota mothers said that “if a person mispronounces your name you should immediately correct them.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Minnesota mothers felt the same way.

Minnesota parents can get away with things that other parents can’t. Once when I was young — maybe more than once — when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily went to the basement to look for something for over two hours without coming back upstairs. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But neither I, nor anyone else ever spoke of it ever again.

Minnesota mothers can say to their daughters, “Oh, you’re going to wear that dress?” By contrast, other parents have to directly address the issue, talking in terms of “sluttiness.”

If a Minnesota child gets a B, well, good for them! Room for improvement.

Other parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. Minnesota parents would surely do this too if we knew anything about the passions or feelings of our children.

Here’s a story in favor of niceness, Minnesota-style: Aunt Lena is about 84, still using the restroom and driving by herself. She was a real firebrand. After she lost Ole, her husband of 61 years, we were over at her house for meatloaf. It had been just a month and we were worried about how she was coping, alone in an old farmhouse far from anyone else.

In the middle of ice cream, Lena became very quiet and looked as though she was going to cry. I immediately mentioned how we were supposed to get some snow by Friday, but that I wasn’t sure if it was going to be three or five inches. Lena clicked on the local news, and, wouldn’t you know it, we caught the end-of-program forecast. It was five inches. And we got to talking about if it would be wet and heavy or the good light stuff we’ve been getting lately which is really easy to sweep and not much of a hardship at all, in fact, it makes it nice to get out there and get some exercise, especially if the wind isn’t blowing.

Even my husband Carl gave me credit for that one. Without nice, Lena would have had to face her crushing grief in front of us. Thanks to the Minnesota style, Lena was able to avoid an embarrassing expression of her emotions.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that Minnesota parents don’t care about their children. Just the opposite. They would sacrifice anything for their children, even if it was out of their way and they weren’t already sacrificing something anyway. That’s just who we are.

But if you don’t agree with the Minnesota mother’s approach, well, I’ll look into that. Maybe you’re right.

Edie Larson just does not know how to feel about the Packers being in the Super Bowl this year.