This week The Chad traveled yet again for work. A trade show in Tampa, really rough gig; shaking hands and kissing babies to the various vendors and clients. While this week is really no different from any other time he travels I personally am feeling rather “under the weather” to say the least, call it a funk. So in true fashion of a funk, my loving children have decided this is the week to test every boundary, push every limit, skirt every envelope. At the end of the day I just don’t have anything left. I hit the bed at 8:30 every evening and praise the Lord for that moment. Quiet. In that quiet I contemplate what am I doing wrong in raising my children, I judge myself in my solitude. Am I not stern enough? Hard to believe, I am a ball buster….or maybe I’m not with my kids. Maybe I am not nice enough? Should I raise my voice? I am not a screamer or one to yell, but maybe I could raise my tone another octave, that should do it right? Am I really being a good parent?
Struggling on where I am going wrong, I dismantle my parenting, myself and judge my ability. Even though I have small winning moments where I think I am doing things right when my children pray before dinner, thanking God for the nourishment of the food, thanking Him for their siblings, parents, grandparents, great grandparents; they show the most amazing kindness and love for strangers, exuding a strength in their quest for equality, standing up for what is right. All to be toppled upon by the simple act of defiance and disrespect towards me, I judge myself harshly in that moment. Am I really doing parenthood right?
Looking at professional fields, they seem to provide some form of training and formal education. Becoming a doctor is an arduous task with over eight years of schooling, then residency, all before landing at a local health facility. Annual training, certifications, re-certifications, more conferences, more training; I am always amazed at level of education and continuing education provided to professional fields. We often judge the accomplishment of a practicing physician based on their training and accolades, awards scattered throughout the office. One professional field I believe is always the most neglected is the parent. Scoff all you want, however I feel that this career path, because this is a lifelong career, provides the least amount of resources yet is judged and evaluated the most harshly. I stumbled across an article this week about how inhumane parents are to let a child cry themselves to sleep and learn to self soothe. When I hear inhumane I often think of the ill treatment of pets and not the ill treatment of children, to which I would correlate the word abuse as opposed to inhumane. I suppose someone was trying not to upset their readership. Why do we have such intense training and rigorous standards for the paid career paths but we lack proper training and education for the job of parenting, the basis for the future of humanity. We judge and criticize the ability to parent as if there is some grand handbook and training we are provided before, during and after birth.
At best, my first round of training came from a deaf nurse who groped my breasts shortly after I birthed my oldest son to show me how to properly feed my child and that if I didn’t breast feed I was a failure. Spectacular. Bar one had been set in my quest for perfect parenthood. Along came many other milestones, coaching from others who were clearly far more superior in their parenting, strangers in parking lots, Costco’s and even friends who had yet to rear children. All of which afforded me nothing, but more feelings of failure and made me question my ability as a parent, was I really going about this all wrong?
Where did the criterion for perfect parenting come about? Basic common sense tells me that we want the best for our children. Treat them with love, respect, no malice; we want to comfort them and ensure their safety, encourage their growth and development mentally, emotionally, physically. Somehow we don’t provide any basic training to parents on their emotional involvement of parenthood. At 25 when I became a first time mother I can look back now and think of how unprepared I was for the spirited toll to raising a child, a strong intelligent child, then add strong, intelligent twins later in life. The true meaning of double trouble. Our society has reared an ugly head in recent days that certain actions could be perceived as abuse, even called out for such actions when no harm or malice was displayed to the child.
Take for instance the new phenomenon of children who are left to play outside by themselves without adult supervision. Apparently this is the newest form of child abuse, to let your older children roam their neighborhoods on bikes and on foot to explore and play with their friends. The application of imagination is completely devoid, we must hold our children hostage to our homes. The daft choice of letting a child under the age of six (more specifically age two) roaming neighborhoods and parks unattended, this is unacceptable and a result of poor education, poor choices, and an invitational extreme where other parents (or people) take a singular event and are applying house arrest to all children. Even children who understand right and wrong and who have been afforded such freedoms to be about their neighborhood are at risk of confinement. Myself, I have let my children run like a gang of hellions. Each armed with their bicycle, helmet, and knowledge of our neighborhood and its inhabitants, their imagination the fuel for such adventure.
Call me reckless but I see a great joy and freedom for my children to be about their community, that the neighbors know my children, we have an understood respect for one another that in the event one of our children is injured or in need we would call to come to their aid. Not call the authorities. Humanity.
So why do we judge parenthood and create such unobtainable standards when we have no apparent bar for metrics? If we do have a temperature why is it that when I Google “parenting classes” and “education on becoming a parent” each result yielded advocacy, abuse prevention and my personal favorite consultation, not a single result offered simple classes on dealing with emotional tolls, psychological tolls, coping skills or even basic diaper changing. As a parent I judge myself with the utmost harshness, the last I need is some other parent with similar, or less than adequate coping skills determining my quality as a parent.
I berate myself on how poor of a job I must be doing as I compare myself to some imaginary standard. I tear myself down that I am not doing enough. I don’t volunteer enough in class. I don’t provide sushi in their box lunches on Fridays. I do not always read to my children. I do not always save my children, aid and abet them in a time where they need to learn for themselves how to complete a task and understand the value of singular or team effort. I guess I am not doing this mothering thing right. I must be a horrible mother for subjecting my twins to the walk in cooler at Costco when they were infants, in order to purchase organic milk, because I should have left them with the strange woman who accosted me before entering. I must be a horrible mother for loving my children unconditionally, no matter what choices they make and guiding them with love as they struggle emotionally. I must be a horrible mother by limiting screens in their lives and forcing them to play outside. I must be a horrible mother for wanting more for my children. I must be a horrible mother for waking early each morning to make my children’s lunches because I choose not to subject them to the poor food standards of public schools. I must be a horrible mother for enforcing rules and issuing personal restraint to not yell, scream, or inflict physical or emotional harm.
God help me that I am broken. God help others that they are broken too. By no means am I perfect, while I strive for improvement everyday, raising my children a different way than my parents, raising the imaginary bar. Parents, even people who are not parents, should be reminded that we are doing the best we can with the tools in which we have been provided. Some have become parents way before their intended time and were not even prepared for adult life let alone the responsibility of a child as they were still a child themselves. Others are dealing with truly unique situations, because parenting is not a one-size fits all standard. We tend to blanket or umbrella the imaginary parenting standard across anyone who has taken on the role as parent, blinded by the individuality that may exist and applying our standards or the imaginary standards to everyone.
Sometimes I wonder if we should apply the career of physician to parenting. Practicing medicine; practicing parenthood. Doctors do not always have the answer nor are they the utmost authority. As technology and information progresses they conduct themselves in an improved manner. Maybe parents should be the same way. As information is shared and provided in a manner that is loving and helpful we can continue to practice to be better, ending previous cycles of bad operations, seeking enlightenment and not entitlement. Instead of prancing around in a demonstrative manner of our accomplishments. Being a parent is not easy. Issuing myself mental lashings to be feared by the most nefarious villains. How different parenting would be if we banded together as a community. Lifting each other and speaking life into one another and supporting each other as opposed to applying our personal judgment of the other. Unbeknownst to their battle, their struggle, their situation. Being a good parent is not something we learned before we had children, I am finding being a good parent is something I work at each day, with no manual, no formal education, no training. So the next time you think to judge a parent, consider what tools, education, training you received or maybe the ones they did not receive. Maybe offer that parent a moment of assistance or a friendly smile, pay forward practicing humanity instead of practicing judgment.