Enough with the Finger Pointing, Let Me Love My Kids!
This is a post from Jen’s personal blog, June 2012 that reminded her who she is and why her 12-year-old should make dinner tonight.
This morning while trying to wake up I rolled over and grabbed my smartphone from the nightstand to see what happened in the world while I slept. Two frustrating mom stories woke me right up:
My tweet back was: I check email @ the park & my kids walk to school alone – confidence in my child’s abilities produces greatness.
This afternoon (after doing many other good things that didn’t involve technology – lest you judge me) I saw this story:
Pubgate (Britan’s prime minister left his daughter in a restaurant for 15 minutes by mistake)
When I was a kid (I know, the beginning of every boring story ever told) my mother didn’t accompany us to the park. She would play with us now and then, but her job was not to entertain us. I heartily appreciate that attitude toward parenting and embrace it. While I want my kids to enjoy their childhood, it doesn’t mean that they have to play with me! I am their parent, not their best friend. I want them to make friends with other kids, with their siblings, and learn to make their way in the world without a parent breathing over their shoulders. When children see that their parents have confidence in them, it inspires self-confidence.
The only problem I see with the mom who texted while in the bounce house is that she went into the bounce house to begin with. A bounce house is a place for children to play together, not for us to show the world what a great parent we are because we got into the bouncy house with them. The mental picture this makes is hilarious as this misguided mom tried to meet competing social norms for what makes a good mom: returning emails and texts in a timely manner while doting on her child. This gives a whole new meaning to “Helicopter Parent”; should we call it “Bouncy House Syndrome”?
As for the Prime Minister leaving a kid behind, every family has a story like that. It should make us all realize that the Prime Minister is human just like the rest of us, not call for a visit from child services.
These stories that are reported as news feel as if we are so overwhelmed by the competing views of how to be a good parent, fearing that we are not meeting the standard while the world is watching, that we’re ready to point the finger at someone else before they find out about our own imperfections. Here’s a real news flash: no one is a perfect parent.
I guess the reason all of these scenarios burn me up is because they take the focus off of the real tragedy of neglect and abuse. Sending a child to the park or bouncy house without a parent is not neglect. Leaving them alone all day with no food is neglect. (In most places the former wouldn’t even meet legal criteria for removal by Child Protective Services). Accidentally leaving a child behind and returning to get her as soon as you realize the mistake is not neglect. Leaving your child in a hot car while you go into the casino for hours is neglect.
I hope these examples give you confidence as a parent, because we are better parents when we are confident in our love and in our children.
It is easy to get caught in a frantic cycle of concern, motivated by love, that is actually more detrimental to our children than taking a step back and letting them negotiate life. Worrying about little details and how others view us takes the focus off of our children, as I recently learned at parent-teacher conferences. My children’s teachers both said that their problem in school is that they hurry through assignments, reading, and tests. Thinking over where that tendency might have originated I realized that their last impression of me before they go to school is “Hurry!”
My hurrying them is not about them, it is about what their schoolteacher and administrators will think of me if they are late. Their school day would be improved if I really focused on them, helping them get to school in a loving way. That could even mean letting them face the consequences of being late if they drag their feet.
Love your child the way they need it, and no one knows that better than you. Ignore the watching eyes and don’t feel bad when you leave someone behind. It gives you a lasting memory and another chance to tell them how much they mean to you.