on parenthood, judgment, and ultimatums

November 23, 2010

so much of parenting is under a microscope: vaccinate, don't vaccinate; circumcise, don't circumcise; juice, no juice; breast milk vs formula; bucket seats vs slings, cosleeping, high fructose corn syrup, spanking, and on and on and on and on.  the bright side is that awesome information is being shared, parents are doing research, getting informed!  but the dark side is the judgment {mostly from other parents} for each and every choice we make.

each of us comes to a unique solution for our family and we feel strongly about those choices– and so we should!  i hope that every one of us feels passionately about the choices we've made.  if nothing else it shows that we love our kids enough to care, to really really care about the decisions we're making for them.  the crossover to the dark side happens when we take those strong stances and push them onto other people's families.  what works for me may not work for you.

there's a fine line between education, facts, and just being an asshole.  sometimes i feel like i'm walking that tightrope, some days more successfully than others.  i'm not perfect by any means, i have pretty strong opinions about parenting and since this is a parenting blog, well, those opinions get discussed pretty often.  but they're just that– opinions.  regardless of our decisions i always like hearing yours and i strive to make this place welcoming to all kinds of people.  of course i sort of cater to the crunchy kind, but that's just where i feel comfortable. 

learning to look at other parents without judgment is one of the most profound things that being a mother has taught me.  over the past fourteen months i've met all kinds of parents doing all kinds of things, some different from me and some the same.  i've had the opportunity to see them in action, see their families, and see that no matter how much i may disagree with their choices for the most part we're all acting out of the same love for our children.  it may be gently misguided love, in my eyes, but that's really none of my business, is it?  if i choose to give my toddler a happy meal with fries and a coke that's ok.  and if i choose not to– that's ok too.  we each need to be able to find that right path for ourselves.

i'm not an innocent party in the judgment game.  i still think OH MY GOD!!! in my head when i see a mom giving her infant a bottle of mountain dew in his car seat (true story), or a dad slap his daughter in the grocery store (true story), a little girl with "sweet" or "sassy" written across the butt of her pants (lord hold me), or a mom with her cart full of junk food dragging her kids around the grocery store (daily).  i still think it in my head, but i'm learning to accept that other people don't have to do things the same way i do.

you've heard this one, maybe?  a couple sees an older child being pushed in a stroller through the mall.  they make comments to themselves, and to the mother, about, "don't you think he's a little old for that?"  well it turns out the child is disabled.  he doesn't walk well for long distances.  when we judge each other's choices based on appearances we never really know the full story about how those choices were made– or if they're best for those specific children.  there is a huge range of circumstances for every decision that no one but the parent can really know, nor should they need to.

here's what i want to get out there:  it's ok for every one of us to make different choices.  not only is it ok, it's probably beneficial.  there's no one right way to parent.  we're all making the tough choices that seem best for us.  so even when your choices are different than mine we can still understand one another.  we don't have to agree, but that doesn't make either of us a bad parent.  we can educate about our own opinions with a common understanding that there's no one true path.

i urge you to think about that as you go out into the world, both real and online.  there are lots of paths to the same end goal; no way is the "right" way.  rather than deflate another parent's confidence with catty commentary about their choices let's work together and treat each other with care and concern.
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