Have you heard? Raise your kids the Chinese way and they’ll be superior.
Also, raise your kids according to the Old Testament and they’ll be better, as well.
And also if you raise them in a commune. Or a Promise Keeper family. Or in the city. Or on a farm. Or according to the latest scientific study, the most long-lasting recommendations by professional organizations, or your grandmother. Or my dear friend Melinda, who inspired this blog post with her own recent missive to the blogosphere.
I know this is a small-space blog, but it also falls squarely into the realm of “Mommy Blog”–parents, mostly mothers, who share their stories, heartaches, tips and tricks with the internet world. The internet’s been invaluable for much of my adult life (yes, just adult; I’m that old) but never so much as when I became a mother in July 2009. Breastfeeding, pumping, sleeping, colic, diapering–all of it resulted in consultations with my worldwide friends on Facebook, all of our queries ended in reading someone’s blog. The blogs ran the gamut, and were mostly very helpful. Probably because I was actually seeking advice, as opposed to just sharing a story and then having advice heaped on me. I’ve tried very hard to pose all of our stories and recommendations as OUR stories and recommendations. The vast majority of parents are genuinely doing the best they can, and doing the best by their families, even if it’s not along scientific or religious or family-and-friend recommendations.
So if I’ve irritated you by implying that my way is the only way (and any other way will end in a crackhouse for your sweet baby, please accept my heartfelt apology here and now. I harbor plenty of my own petty judgments, don’t get me wrong, but I do try to keep them to myself when I’m hanging in Rocket City Digs. No one wants to go looking for help and have someone tell them that not only are they wrong (usually about something that has no right answer), but they’re also an irresponsible, horrible person. And that worst of the worst: a bad parent.
Of course, I visit message boards, that great internet gathering place of the anonymously judgmental. You can say things you’d never dare to say to a friend, and if you did say it to a friend, you’d lose most of them. Interpersonal relationships aren’t free of judgment, either, and sometimes it’s so subtle that I can spend days wondering, “Is he purposefully trying to piss me off, or am I being oversensitive?”
It could be all, or none. Melinda told me once she spent most of her daughter’s first year being offended by people, and most of them were first-time mothers. I am absolutely positive I would have been one of those people, had I had a child before her. I have vocal opinions, and with my closest friends, I share them freely, often without thinking about what they actually hear, and how their experiences formed their perceptions. Most of my friends don’t offend easily, but I hate the idea of hurting them even a little bit, so I’ve learned from them to tread lightly where I can. I, like most parents, want to share my stories, and want to hear other parents’ stories.
As with any communication, most of it’s based on context and how it’s said. A woman I know ascribes to a fairly classical brand of attachment parenting. As she puts it, it’s their choice, and it’s not right for everyone. But it works for them. Compare that to Maggie Gyllenhall’s character in “Away We Go,” who is a nightmare of judgmental parenting: she backs all their choices with a single, self-righteous justification: “I love my children.”
Bottom line, whether you’re a “crunchy” or a “silky,” a whole-wheat or white bread parent, you’ve made those choices because you love your children and want them to grow up to be healthy, happy, loved, well-adjusted, contributing members of society. The moment “I love my children” is uttered as a justification for your parenting choices, the immediate inference is “If you don’t do what I did, you don’t love your children.”
Some of you may be thinking: people are so oversensitive. They’re just feeling guilty because they don’t believe they made the right choice. Screw ’em if they can’t take it. I’m just being HONEST. To which I offer my usual response: I am comfortable with my parenting decisions. But I also have a right to feeling annoyed.
For anyone else–anyone who wants to avoid being annoyed, or avoid being annoying–I’ve compiled a list of warning signs. Feel free to add your own in the comments. Note: when I say “everyone,” I’m referring to, at base, everyone who would’ve read this far in a parenting blog.
1) The word “because” is volunteered, followed by a statement universally shared among parents.
“I breastfeed my daughter because I love bonding with her.”
“I didn’t let him cry it out because I believe parenting doesn’t end at dusk.”
“I don’t use a stroller because I love hugging him.”
Everyone loves bonding with their babies. Everyone believes parenting is a 24-hour job. Everyone loves hugging their kids. See above explanation.
2) A study or recommendation source is volunteered.
“I don’t allow her to watch TV because the AAP advises against it.”
“The WHO recommends breastfeeding until age two.”
“There’s a new study out that shows that one hour of yoga a day can help toddlers go to Yale.”
You make decisions based on many, many factors, one of which is probably professional recommendations meant for a very wide community (i.e., 40,000,000 Americans, or 6,000,000,000 humans). They’re good guidelines, but on a home-by-home basis, might not be the best choice for every family. You believe it’s the best choice for your family. That’s good enough.
3) Someone you don’t like is about to say something about parenting.
“We decided to give her sweet potato for dinner last night.”
“She seems to like striped socks.”
“He took his first steps!”
Everything said by someone you don’t like is, in general, annoying. If it’s about their parenting or child, it’s more annoying. Not much to be done about it except to avoid the person.
4) You’re reading or writing a blog about parenting.