Dear Kind and Opinionated People Without Kids; I know you mean well and you’re just trying to help in your own way, maybe feel like you are contributing to molding the future generation in some way. I see your Facebook posts and hear your comments in restaurants and feel your glares in the grocery store. I get it…I’m screwing up my parenting job. No matter how hard I try, I’m messing something up. Maybe Johnny is having a meltdown because I won’t buy him the toy he wants and you are appalled that a child that age should know how to behave in a store. Or perhaps Teenage Janie has refused to look up from her iPod during our entire dinner, earbuds firmly pushed in her ears, tuning out the rest of our family and you disagree with this because in YOUR day kids…(fill in the blank). Thank you for your concern. On behalf of parents everywhere, mind your own *#$&@ business.
Oh, too harsh? So sorry. But I don’t care if you’re pregnant or you’re a godmother or an aunt and you babysit on a regular basis. You still don’t get it. And you WON’T get it until you hold your child in your arms. You can’t possibly understand it until you’ve had that moment where you realize, “Holy crap, I’m responsible for this person!” And that realization fills you with terror and joy at the same time. Because this kid is essentially a clean slate. And remember when you were posting all that crap on Facebook? The “I’ll never” or “parents should…”? Well here’s you’re chance tough guy. And when you figure out the magic formula, please let the rest of us in on it.
Cuz these kids don’t come with instruction manuals. Once you figure out how to do something right, you realize you’re screwing something else up. Or when one kid is content, the other thinks you’re the worst parent in the world. It’s one step forward, two steps back. And they certainly don’t exist in a vacuum. Oh sure, the first few months they’re entirely yours to mold. Like a vase on a potter’s wheel. All yours to make whatever size and shape and texture you want. You stare at it as you mold it with your fingers, the perfect image you’ve dreamt of. But what happens when you take that vase off the wheel and you put it on the table to dry? Someone else can go to admire it and knock it off the table. Or fill it with water and flowers before it’s ready. As soon as you let it out of your sight, it’s open to damage from the world around it because you can’t protect it all the time.
Same thing with kids. They have so many outside influences, like grandparents who don’t agree with your methods, school, TV and other kids. There’s the added challenge of the internet and exposure to things many of us never had to deal with when we were kids. It’s a wonder anyone gets through childhood as a normal decent human being any more.
But they do…many kids are normal, decent human beings. They’re not perfect, they make mistakes. Teenagers rebel and seven year olds don’t brush their teeth every night. You may not agree with the way I’m doing this whole parenting thing, but until you’ve been there yourself, don’t tell me how to do my job. It’s not just a matter of remembering to feed and water them and pat them on the head. It’s a person with feelings and wants and desires.
I’m sure you can imagine the logistics of the job…how it’s difficult to keep schedules and you feel like you’re running like a hamster on a wheel all the time. Even childless people get that. We are all stressed in today’s society with too much pressure from jobs and family. We all have crap days. You get that. But throw in a small person who can’t drive themselves to practice and another smaller person with an ear ache who is having trouble in math. And then add in your own stomach virus and a soccer uniform you forgot to wash. (And its owner is making snarky comments about you not keeping up with the laundry.) What takes priority?
What about the emotional factor of loving someone so much your heart nearly bursts and wanting to beat them with a wooden spoon at the same time? Yes, that’s real. Those moments you can’t imagine or plan for. Every day my kids push me to the breaking point, challenge me and my decisions and I need to stand firm and love them at the same time. Even though they’re pissing me off.
And don’t give me the, “well you choose to do this.” Yeah. I did. And I would not change it for the world. But nobody tells you about those seemingly insignificant details that become a majority of parenting. The wanting to give your children everything, but at the same time wanting to teach them the value of money, hard work and not wanting them to be spoiled brats. The wanting them to be happy but knowing you have to teach them about disappointments. The understanding that sometimes you have to punish them, and it truly hurting you more than it hurts them. The feeling of watching your child struggle with something and knowing you can’t help them, that they have to do it for themselves, they have to learn.The having to chose between doIng the right thing or the easy thing. The realization that from the ages of 12-17 your child is going to say some pretty hurtful things to break your heart and you are going to want to say them back, but all you can do is hold on and bite your tongue, praying you’ll see the real version of your baby on the other side of adolescence.
It’s bad enough other parents put their two cents in. Every child is different…what worked for your kid might send my kid over the edge. Yes, there are truly bad and lazy parents out there…more than you can imagine. But I assure you, I’m not one of them, simply for the reason I CARE. Yes, I make mistakes. Yes, I’m human. Yes, my kids might suffer from a poor choice I make. But I love them with all of my heart and while you may love your dog, your cat or your grandmother, you have no clue what it feels like to love another human being more than yourself. I can’t even put e feeling into words.
So go ahead and criticize. It’s a free country. But just remember, a childless person telling you how to raise your kid, is kind of like a blind man telling you what color to paint your kitchen.
A Really Great Mom who sometimes feels like a Really Crappy Mom and doesn’t need you making her feel worse