I’ve gotten a lot of interesting conversation out of this parenting thing so I’m going to run with it.
When I write about this very touchy subject, I’m aware I have a tendency to be quite flippant. As a mother myself, why would I do that?
I do believe that the most important thing we will ever do for each other is care for and support each other. However I also believe this concept is abused. Many communities of parents (it’s simply more common among mothers) support each other almost blindly, to the detriment of their children. If a parents were physically abusing a child, we wouldn’t just step back and say we need to support the parents, would we? Undoubtedly, the parents need support. The only reason they would behave in that way is extreme pain. But in the process of caring about the parents, we might also try to show them a better way of handling things, a way beneficial to them and their children.
Hang with me for a second. Unless we are prepared to sell ourselves as already perfect parents (certainly I’m not) then it follows that we can afford to improve. Is anyone really satisfied with being just “good enough” for their kids? This does not imply stress or worry. In fact, a lot of parents worry that they aren’t doing enough. I think all parents do. Yet how often do we actually look for and identify something we can improve upon? We all have available such a strong community of fellow parents ready to crucify anyone who might hint that we are doing something wrong that we never actually consider that we are.
It is my hope and belief that a few children along the road, I will be a significantly better mother than I am right now. So it follows that right now, with Zoe, I am making mistakes that I am not even aware of.
Whoa! It’s okay. That’s the whole point of life. Our children will make mistakes. We will make mistakes. In fact, how can we even teach our children that making mistakes is okay if we aren’t willing to admit to our mistakes in raising them? Not that we should share every gritty detail with them, but let’s get comfortable with being wrong.
I’ve learned from a great deal of experience that parents do not– or more accurately, cannot– hear these things directed at them. It’s too frightening. Because of that, I would never say things directed at a particular person unless they specifically asked for my opinion. And even then, even if they could hear it delivered gently and tenderly and they could see my calm and loving body language, chances are they’d still take it as criticism.
Why? Because that’s the only reason 99% of the people in the world would point out the mistakes of someone else.
Get this: it’s not criticism. At least not when I say it. Because Zoe is so mild and tender she is a very frequent target for getting pushed around and having her toys snatched from her. It bothers me none. In fact it allows me a great opportunity to teach how to ask for help, how to find me when she’s scared or stressed, or when she feels like it, to just let other kids be kids.
I say these things because I care enough to say the things that no one else is going to tell you again ever. Seriously, for every time a mother says, “Oh I just don’t think I’m a good enough mother,” when was the last time you heard someone respond with anything BUT, “Oh no, you’re a great mother!”
Hm. Really? Are we all? Could we all be in the top 10% of mothers? How about the bell curve and all that?
So again, why do I say these things flippantly?
Well, if I didn’t it would be so depressing that we’d all just never get out of bed. That and motherhood in particualr enjoys a kind of hallowed reverence where no one dares make light of charge. Yes, it is a great and fantastic sacrifice, the diapers and the crying and the breaastfeeding and the 4 AM wake up calls and could we all just lighten up a bit? I get it. I’ve done all of that. And if you read any of yet blog posts from that time, you know it was no walk in the park for me either. It really is remarkable that we’re willing to do so much. I think we can all agree that our kids are worth it. So can we stop wallowing in all of the great and magnamious things we’ve done?
The biggest argument I ever get is that there is no one correct way to raise your kids. To a certain extent, sure. And that’s also a very convenient argument that allows us to always be right while circumventing the unbelievable explanation that we are perfect. Sure, there’s no one superior course of action in any given circumstance. Yes, all children are different and we must adapt to their particular needs.
It’s popular to assert that everyone’s experience is different and so we cannot possibly pass judgement on another. Negative judgements are uniformly unproductive, to be sure. But are our lives really that different? We all experience pain. We all experience excitement. Every parent experiences the thrill of their child’s first steps and the frustration of wanting to throw the baby out the window after they’ve been crying for the third hour straight. We need not have lived someone else’s life in order to understand them. If we do insist upon being misunderstood, we alienate ourselves from the rest of the world and ensure that we will stay alone.
This line of reasoning could be used with anything. If you tell someone that an addiction might be harming their life: “You don’t know me.” Yeah, maybe not, but it’s been pretty well-documented that what you’re doing is harmful to you and the people around you. Rational thought does not come to a grinding halt just because we’re afraid of being judged.
There are principles that govern life and happiness. Gratitude, responsibility and feeling loved all lead to be happy. So it follows that there are principles governing how we can teach these principles to our children. We can be consistent in teaching lessons. We can eliminate our anger so that they can better feel loved.
If there is a wrong way to raise kids (physical abuse) why couldn’t there be a right way? And if that possibility existed, wouldn’t it at least be worth investigating? And investigating with real intent?
Again if you want to read it from the experts: The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer & Real Love in Parenting, both available on Amazon