I was "inspired" to write these posts by two different articles and one date. The date was the fifteenth anniversary of someone who caused a great deal of damage to my family. The effects are still felt all of these years later. It was a parent. The articles were on how parents need to be more vigilant in one way or another. Essentially they blamed parents for not watching over their children in the way someone else feels they should.
As a mother of six, four grown and two still at home (who are almost ready to go out on their own), having watched one daughter raise her son to college-age, I have pretty strong opinions on parenthood. But they may not be what you'd think.
Truthfully, I think we need to stop judging other parents. [The glitch, of course, is when we think a child might be in danger. I don't think there is an easy answer to this. If our system worked better and those who responded could be trusted, then calling "authorities" might be the best advice. Sadly, those in power are the problem at times. I'd say, do what you feel is best when the situation arises.]
It is so easy to look from the outside and tell another parent how to do it. I admit I have done my share of that in my head. One advantage of the many years I have been parenting is that I can see the outcomes of some of those parental techniques that I was so sure were wrong. Every single one of those children have turned out beautifully.
Any parenting technique that you see today that you think is so terrible-- I guarantee you that somewhere there is a functioning adult who says that technique is what made them the person they are today: Spanking vs. not spanking, religion vs. no religion (or a different religion), being strict vs. giving the child lots of freedom, public vs private vs home schooling, and so on.
We are so quick to credit or blame the parent for how a child turns out. But, we forget that the child has a great deal to do with it. I am not going to say that parents have no influence. They do. My co-parent who had such a deep impact on our family is proof.
However, math explains it best:
1+1+f+s+t+p+g+x +y does not equal a certain definite sum. The answer is unknown until all those letters are added in. And a great many of those letters are not within your control as a parent.An advantage of multiple children is to see how unique each child is from birth. One cries constantly, another is quiet. One walks "early", another is "late." One is full of laughter and energy, and another seems to be quiet and pondering deep questions from an early age. They are born with different identities, and those differences remain as you parent them.
So parenting techniques really should fit each child. And as long as we want individuals in the world, not robots, we must allow for parents to use their own sense of right to bring up their children and allow ourselves to vary our techniques with each child, if we feel it suits the child better.
It isn't easy to be non- judgmental, and perhaps some societal rules to guide parents are a good thing. But the more that society lends a hand to parents, instead of a slap across the face, I think the better. The more we find ways to be supportive of our fellow parents instead of criticizing, I think the better.
Are there parenting techniques that I abhor? Absolutely. But some of them may not be what you'd expect. One I particularly dislike is watching a parent walk or sit in a restaurant with their young child looking up at them expectantly while the parent plays with their phone, ignoring the child. Are we going to make a law about that?
Unless we want the government to tell us how to raise our children, I think we need to be cautious in how many rules and regulations we make. If we spent more time providing help to struggling parents, finding solutions to problems, and supporting parenthood, I think we might be more effective as a society in raising good people (however we might define that.) And the more we examine the ramifications of society on children, rather than continually blame struggling parents, I think the better. Because as the old adage goes, when society is pointing the finger at parents it has three other fingers pointing at itself.
If it helps-- after forty years straight of parenting I think I know less about how to do it well than I ever did. Each child is different and each year society makes it more "interesting" with a new challenge, a new danger. My advice: love them and act out of that love instead of fear, and trust your gut. But most of all, love them in the best way you know how at this moment.
Last, but not least, to all of you parents there in the trenches:
Good for you! Good for you for trying so hard, for doing so much, for making an effort. For all of your supposed failures, if you are still there, still loving your children, still trying to support them to the best of your ability, GOOD FOR YOU! Cut yourself some slack when you think you didn't do it "right," and realize that as a parent, you are like your child. You are learning and you are doing the best you can with what you have. That you are there with your child through all of the trials and hardships is huge.
And please, take care good care of yourself. You, too, need care and love.