Sunday, June 4, 2017
Spare me your judgement. You know the kind I’m talking about; the kind you pass when you see a screaming child sprawled across the supermarket floor while the mother carries on despondently; the kind where you say to yourself, “that will never happen to me” and silently condemn the parent for the countless hours of therapy the child will surely need in the years to come.
Because you know better, don’t you? The answers are usually simple, and the parents who are so clearly failing before your eyes are either lazy, ignorant, or both.
You’ve heard their excuses, that they’re “just doing their best”, and you frankly find them just a bit pathetic, to be perfectly honest. And how very dare they claim you don’t know what you’re talking about just because you don’t have children?
Oh yes, I know you don’t have children. It’s not hard to guess.
When people like you do “your best”, you do that amusing thing they always talk about in books and movies where “if it isn’t good enough, it isn’t good enough. You can only do your best”. It’s a nice Zen-like approach to life, isn’t it?
For parents, our “best” means considering the consequences of what our children learn now and take with them into adulthood. It applies to everything we say and do. Our best means making decisions that aren’t always natural to us, being the calming and soothing voice of reason amidst the tantrums, the screaming and shouting. It means staying up until the wee hours, getting only three hours of sleep a night for a week straight. And just when every fibre of your body is pleading “no more, I need to rest, I need to have an intelligent conversation with someone, my head hurts and I feel like I’m going to fall apart”, we dig deep and give it as many more hours as is required.
That’s what our “best” means to us. We don’t get to walk away from our kids. We don’t get to give up.
As parents, we don’t always agree on the best way to handle every situation, but I can assure you that we do not sit in quiet judgement of each other. We know that our situations are different. We know that if the roles are reversed, we’d probably have less of an idea of what to do.
Our problems don’t make sense. Any one of us could easily describe to you the sequence of events that led to our child’s meltdown. But if you ask us to explain why it happens? Well… how long have you got? How do we explain the motivations that drive the quirks, preferences, annoyances, tantrums, and behaviourisms that we’ve kept track of since the day they came into our lives? How do we do so without having the rightness or wrongness of our actions questioned every step of the way?
No. Our problems don’t make sense.
You can keep your judgement and whatever pop psychology you gleaned from that article about “If you’re wondering why your kid is doing X, it’s because you’re doing Y wrong” in Parenting Tips or HuffPo or whatever. We stopped reading that guff because we realised it doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ solution for these things.
Where do we get our advice from? Other parents. Other parents who share similar situations. People who’ve been there. We trade tips on what works, what didn’t work, and try to adapt it to our own situations. That’s how communities work – we make real connections with each other.
Those articles you read? The ones you think give you the moral high-ground and the answers for our problems? They’re not meant for us.
They’re meant for you.
Because you don’t have any idea.
And that lady in the supermarket? I would go and help her. I may not succeed, but two minutes of my time to brighten what I’m sure is a miserable day for her is the least I can do.
About today’s photo: A reminder to myself that, as a parent, you will fail. Often. But you mustn’t quit. Ever.