Oh, internet parents, how much I adore you! And you know what else? How much you annoy me.
There I was, in the midst of my review of the world via social media and the links embedded within, minding my own business and enjoying the kitten videos and baby pics when I got slammed by a blog post about how to be at the park with my kids.
Of course, my kids don’t go to the park anymore. Most of them don’t even live at home anymore. In fact, I think if someone wrote a blog post on “how to be at the bar with your (young) adult children,” I’d be very grateful. Well, not really, when you see what I’m about to say, which is: Shut up about my parenting styles. Sure, tell me about yours, but stop telling me that I’m deficient because I’m not you.
Okay. Taking a quick breath now. Breathing in good vibes, breathing out judgy-ness.
Here’s something I learned in the trenches: I was a better mom because other women around me challenged my way of being a parent. Sometimes they did it with care and concern and sometimes they did it snarkily and to my face. Other times people just dropped out of my playgroup or my life. Many other times I simply watched at how other women were being with their children and if I admired it, I tried to emulate it.
But no one was ever able to shame me out of my bad or just plain odd behaviors. No snarky blog post about how this is better or that is better–even the ones I wrote–changed one bit of my method of interacting with my children.
And, sure, there were enough times that I challenged other people and their tight reins or lax grips by being who I was with my children in their presence.
If you are feeling judged by another parent’s behavior, maybe you ought to consider who is doing the judging in that relationship. Lighten up, Internet parent police.
Take a deep breath and ask yourself: What’s got my panties (or tighty-whities) in a knot? Chances are you aren’t as comfortable with your parenting expertise, after all, if you feel challenged by someone else’s behavior.
Yeah, I know. I’m doing it now, but I get to. I put in my years (and years), and my children no longer drink from a bottle (generally), wear diapers, or depend on me to remember things for them or run interference for them. They’ve grown into mature young women who are masters of their own lives (mostly) and who have carved out their own independent path either because of me or despite me (and sometimes both).
Yeah, I was pissed a lot then, too. And, yeah, you want commiseration rather than an old mom’s advice. I get that. But here’s what I want you to know that I didn’t: I learned so much more by having people with diverse approaches in my life than I ever would have had I stuck only to my slackermom friends (who I will forever love and adore for providing fun company that provided a soft place to fall into when the trenches were so brutal.
I learned from all the moms. I just didn’t know it how much I was picking up at the time.
So, internet parents, I’ve been writing about being a parent in this crazy world for two decades now. I’ve been snarky, judgy, mean and exasperated on occasion but the thing I feel most right now is just plain grateful that I wasn’t doing this parenting thing all by myself or with only my husband as co-parent and co-conspirator. Because things didn’t always go smoothly and my way turned out to not be all that reliable a lot of the time. Still, I was smart enough to take what worked for others and fold it into what worked for us.
I just spent a weekend with three talented, kind, smart, and funny young women. I would love to take credit for who they are, but I recognize that they are who they are on their own dime, but also on the backs of all the other mothers, the church friends, the close and distant family members, the teachers (oh, the teachers!) who all modeled for them what it is to be a functioning adult in the world.
It was a lot more fun to be judgy (which I guess I’m being right now–or perhaps more preachy), but I say this with all the love in my heart: unless someone is being openly hostile to you and yours (like calling the cops on a three year old), figure out what the take-away is for you, either in the behavior of the other person or in your resistance to it.
And be kind to the mom who seems overly anxious. One of the reasons she may be anxious because she’s pretty sure she’s “parenting” wrong, too. And maybe because she thinks you are judging her, too.
With love and tenderness,
P.S. See the brand new “Ugly Pies” logo up there? I’m so grateful to my friend Melissa Washburn for the design. Be sure to click on her link to view her portfolio of art and design!