Friday, March 22, 2013

The kids are alright

Disclaimer: The parenting decisions listed in paragraph two are used simply as examples of controversial ones. Their presence in this diatribe does not indicate my opinion toward them.

I have been thinking long and hard about writing something like this for a while, and then my friend posted a blog, and the discourse that followed (on her personal facebook page) was enough to make me engage in a facebook status argument. Ugh. And then I sobbed at my desk for five minutes thinking about how I'm destroying my child. About how my friends might respect me less for my parenting decisions (that was not directed at you, Jillian). And about how I have sacrificed so much for my child, but I'm still being lumped together with "lazy and/or mean" parents because I adopted an apparently unpopular bedtime routine. So I called my pediatrician and left a crazy message on the nurse hotline. Then I pulled it together, and thought critically about why it is so upsetting to me.

I'm not going to defend the choices my husband and I have made. It's irrelevant, and it just invites people to poke holes in my argument. What I will defend is my right not to be judged. I have spent the better part of my professional life working with abused children and violent couples. I have seen lazy and mean parenting up close. To insinuate that sleep-training a child (or co-sleeping or baby-led weaning or using formula or strollers or refusing immunizations or working outside the home or circumcising or whatever else you could be doing) is abusive or neglectful minimizes true abuse and neglect. Further, parents are so bombarded with information these days, it's a full time job just to sift through it all, to determine what's personally important and what's not, what sounds like voodoo and and what doesn't, and what is feasible given your circumstances. With that burden, no one can find all the answers.

In the five short months that I've been a parent, I've learned that a lot of people think they're experts on raising kids. They gleefully dole out unsolicited advice, inadvertently condemning something you may or may not be doing. This judgment only serves to marginalize parents, especially new ones. To separate us when what we really need are supportive parenting communities.

So I talked to old people, and guess what I learned? Not breastfeeding will likely not make your kid stupid. Letting your child cry herself to sleep will likely not make her an axe-murderer. Giving your kid rice cereal will likely not make them dependent on Happy Meals. Putting your kid in day care will likely not turn him into a woman-hating basement-dwelling ineffectual troll. I say "likely" because of course there are correlations out there somewhere. Who knows if the Steubenville rapists were weaned too early or left to cry unattended for hours or were plopped in front of the TV at too young an age. But what's more likely is that they performed heinous acts in a social and temporal context after a long and complex series of life events. There was no one decision that their parents made that caused them to rape and humiliate that girl. So I think we, meaning new parents, can rest assured that we can make these early mistakes. What's more important, in my opinion, is that the decisions we make are made with love and serious deliberation. If they are, the kids will probably be alright. So let's leave judgment up to the mothers-in-law (of course I don't mean you, D-Lo).

This kid is alright.


  1. I LOVE that you called your Pediatrician! HA HA And I also love your comment about "inadvertently condemning something you may or may not be doing". Mostly the 'inadvertently'. Of course, we can't be consumed by what we think someone else might think of what we think BUT it is important to be mindful - and thoughtful - of someone else.

    I have a FB friend who continually posts BF-ing articles. I support BF-ing. We were created with the ability to BF. But that is NOT a hill I'm going to die on. And although she has never said, "YOU ARE A BAD, LAZY, NO-GOOD PARENT B/C YOU DON'T BREAST FEED YOUR BABIES" I often feel that way when I read her comments. Oh well. I'll just change my settings so I don't have to see her so much. :)

    There are folks who would say we could make "better parenting choices" but my kids smile and giggle, they are well-rested and so am I. [No use of legal or illegal drugs were involved in the sleep-training of my children.]

  2. Honestly, I should admit that I've also been guilty of "inadvertently" condemning people's decisions before I knew better. Parenting is the most humbling journey I've ever taken, and I think the fact that you had two babies at the same time and that they're both still alive is a pretty good accomplishment.

  3. "What's more important, in my opinion, is that the decisions we make are made with love and serious deliberation. If they are, the kids will probably be alright."

    So I am just seeing this, and shame on me. But I love it. A lot. Just thinking before we do even one thing - because seriously, sometimes I just don't think, I just DO because I'm sleep deprived - matters. Being intentional matters. Love and respect matter.