Parenting the Parents
As parents, we have all had someone, somewhere, tell us how we should, or shouldn’t, parent. Usually it is our own parents.
“Well, I never used those kind of diapers. Brand X is much better.”
“You should always check the temperature on your left wrist first before feeding her.”
“I always used to put you down in bed with your head facing north in the morning and south in the evening.” (Ok, I made that up.)
“Jesus Christ! Will you shut up and let me do this myself?!” You scream, (in your head, of course).
What makes it even worse is that your parents’ ideas of how to raise a kid is different from your in-laws’ ideas of how to raise a kid. Then there are aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and on, and on, and on.
Raising a child is hard enough, especially for first time parents, without having to have the added pressure of other people telling you what you are doing wrong, or not doing right. It is bad enough that you are always second guessing yourself, but to have others point out your perceived short comings as a parent just makes it worse.
Being a first time parent is hard and it’s exhausting and sometimes even terrifying. It certainly is frustrating and exasperating. Yes, you understand that people are just trying to be helpful (except that one aunt, you are sure she just hates you), and that they have the best intentions, (well, not that irritating neighbor, she just loves to cause trouble, the sanctimonious asshole). Still, you just wish they would all just keep it to themselves and let you parent as you see fit.
On the flip side, there are the grandparents. My daughter-in-law recently had her first child, a girl. Now I’m a grandparent so I am able to see parenting from a whole different perspective. I’ve raised two kids myself (I was a single dad for most of that time). My wife also has two kids and was a single mom. , so we have plenty of experience to share.
The interesting thing is that neither my wife or I have an overwhelming urge to dish out unsolicited parenting advice. Sure, we occasionally will make a suggestion, but usually only when our kids are obviously looking for answers to issues they are dealing with.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t disagree with the way they parent sometimes. We think they are too quick to pick her up when she fusses. We are also think their insistence on feeding the kid organic food is silly at the lease, and a waste of money at the worst. Still, we keep these things to ourselves. There is no harm being done and we feel that they should find their own way as parents.
The only time I’ve spoken up is when my step-daughter expressed her concerns about vaccinating her daughter. Then I explained to her, in a non-condescending way, the importance of vaccination. I told her about the pertussis and measles epidemics that have been breaking out across the country and that kids her daughter’s age have died from these diseases. I told her to talk to her pediatrician about it. Fortunately, they decided that it was safer to get her vaccinated.
I’m not sure why my wife and I are not judgmental about our children’s parenting like our parents were. I guess we feel that we should be giving them the same freedom to be their own kind of parents that we wanted for ourselves.
Parenting is an intensely personal endeavor. Every child is unique and as parents we need the freedom to respond to the specific needs and personalities of our children. We need to understand that most parents not only want the best for their children, but usually actually know what’s best for them because they, more than anyone else, know their children better than anyone else.
So next time someone tries to tell you how to raise your child, just politely thank them, but let them know that you know what’s best for your child. Or just tell them to fuck off. It’s totally up to you.
Featured image by cheeseslave
I often think that people feel they’re entitled to deal out the shit they hated as parents to the next generation as a retaliation-by-proxy.
Actually, I had my mother tell me “well, people ignored my wishes, too, when you were a child” as if that somehow, magically, made it OK for her to give my kids exactly the toy I had said “no” to. Loudly. For good reasons. Which all came true.
When I offer advice I usually tell it in terms of my experience. Like saying “what really worked well with kid #1 was this and this.” Usually be adding and admitting that it totally didn’t work with kid #2, because kids aren’t all the same. Or vice versa.
I’ve always promised myself that I wouldn’t do that kind of thing. I’ve always taken the whole “Do unto others…” thing seriously. The idea of personally trying to make someone else unhappy seems to wrong to me. And to take pleasure in it almost evil.