Enough with the Finger Pointing, Let Me Love My Kids!

[ 12 ] Comments

by jendoop

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.

_5032241This 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:

Mom Jailed for Letting Her Kids Play at the Park

Just a Minute Honey, and other things moms say while texting.

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.

About jendoop

Jen writes, reads, paints, walks, prays, eats and sleeps. Paul is her co-conspirator in teaching these skills to 4 children.

12 Responses to Enough with the Finger Pointing, Let Me Love My Kids!

  1. Cheryl says:

    I love this in so many ways. The whole point of parenting is to raise children who will eventually leave the house and live on their own, is it not? Then why do so many people forget this? If we can’t teach our children independence (within reason, of course –I’m all about curfews!), then we can’t expect them to function as adults one day, when that ability will actually be our greatest desire!

    • NotMolly says:

      On curfews: When I Was a Kid (hee hee!), I didn’t have one. I’m the only one of seven siblings to not have one, but as my mother explained to my little brother, I told them all the details, always set my own return time earlier than they would have allowed, never forgot to call if there was a needed change, and was always where I said I was going to be, period. By the time I was 14, I was in charge of my whole schedule, and it never crossed my mind to take advantage of it with poor choices. I think I was a weird kid. :)

      100% agree on the end result being functional adults, not coddled babies!

  2. Kate says:

    Great article. I agree with your main point. Part of me now wonders if my going into a bouncy house sometime with my son is going to end up in someone’s blog post about over-parenting. :)

    • jendoop says:

      Kate, I’ve been tempted to go into bouncy houses, not for my kids but for me! Having fun as a parent is another aspect of parenting – teaching them that life is meant to be enjoyed. It was the post that bugged me more than the actual presence of an adult in a bouncy house. Bounce on sister!

      • NotMolly says:

        Another Mom-Bouncer here! I just don’t want to have to share the bouncy space with little kids. Is there a place that rents bouncers to just grown-ups? :) I used to joke that I had kids mainly so I could go swing on the swings without people looking at me funny.

  3. Missy says:

    Great post! You make an excellent point, I especially agree with the part about how you grew up, I grew up in much the same way. My parents sent us outside to play, I played with friends and my siblings. My parents were always there, as in one or both was always home and available but they didn’t hover. I have a friend who’s has three kids one of which just had their first school dance. They shared pictures on line and I was surprised to see how many parents were at the dance. It wasn’t a Mother-son, Father-daughter type of dance. It was a school dance, the school wasn’t telling the parents they couldn’t be there, I can’t imagine that any school would do that, but it wasn’t something where they were exactly invited. I totally understand that they love their kids and were excited to see them beginning their adolescence, the first boy-girl dance. They likely wanted to see them actually do all of the dances that they had learned in PE and had probably been practicing at home with their Parents, The Waltz, The Fox Trot, Square Dance, etc. But every parent being there, the parents dancing with the kids at their dance, it was just so different from my own experience. I would have been mortified to have my parents show up, and when I was that age the only parent that I can recall being there was the Mom that coordinated the refreshments, and she just organized the table and then handed it over to the teachers. I am not judging these parents, they don’t want to miss a thing and time flies by incredibly fast. There were a couple dozen video cameras in that room recording each child’s experience. It reminded me about how things have changed…My friend told me that the kids didn’t mind and that they are at a unique age, if they were just slightly older they probably would have minded. She knows her child better than anyone so I respect and believe her. I still wonder though, could the parents have coordinated with each other and had one there to tape it and then made copies for all the other parents? To your point about stepping back and letting kids negotiate life, this seems like one for parents to think about. As hard as it is to let go a little sometimes they need to experience things on their own. This wasn’t a school dance in the dark where bad things might happen, this was more of the boy politely asks the girl to do the Waltz for the first time…

  4. Jan Grambo says:

    I’m so with you on this one, Jen. These days I even see fingers pointing when a mom lets her kids play in their own back yard without being out there with them! You didn’t mention the rest of the school stuff: parents who blame their child’s bad grade on the teacher, parents who do their children’s projects for them so they won’t get a bad grade, and parents who think they have to sit with their children and help them with all their homework.

    On the subject of independence, I used to teach independence when my kids were ready (in the 8- to 10-year-old range) by letting them go into the library, choose a book, and check out on their own. Or go into the grocery store, get a gallon of milk, and check out on their own. The child always felt so accomplished and grown-up after that experience!

    It is also hard for parents today to teach little kids to work out their own disputes. The parents want to jump in and solve things. I would rather teach them conflict resolution skills from the beginning — say, from age 3 — than have to spend the rest of their childhood running to their rescue. (And to those who will jump on me here, of course, when the child is in danger or the size ratio of the children is unfair, I will help.)

    Independence doesn’t just happen. And children need plenty of independent decision-making experience before they start their big moments, such as driving a car, or going away to college. Part of a parent’s job is to teach those independence skills.

  5. readermom says:

    You know I love this post. I love my children, but I want them to learn to climb on their own, and even fall down a bit. I want their confidence to come from what they have accomplished, not from knowing I will bail them out of every trouble.
    That is what I want, but I am constantly fighting the fear that come from the media, telling me to watch closer, be more afraid, buy more stuff. It is impossible to keep those messages out and I don’t even realize they are there until my sweet husband points out I am being unreasonable.

  6. Michelle says:

    I think there is a deeper issue, too, that is the challenge of the new media/amazing progress generation: the illusion of control. We have so much knowledge about what ‘could’ happen, so many opinions about what ‘should’ happen, so many things we think we can control that we can so easily spend all our time trying to MAKE those things happen rather than actually living our lives in ways that allow the Atonement to do the work we’re trying to do by working ourselves to death to keep up.

    One of my mantras these days is simply this: It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s even ok if others think I’m a failure because of them. EVEN IF I were to be put into jail for a stupid parenting mistake that someone reported, it would be ok. I think when we live to keep mortal standards happy, we live in angst. When we live doing our honest best and trust God, it’s easier to find peace.

    Easier said than done, of course, but that is what helps me when I’m feeling the parental pressure.

    • Bonnie says:

      My oldest daughter, who is parenting my grandchildren, often asks me what is the “best” thing to do. I have taken to throwing up my hands. I don’t know. Everything is a trade-off. If you wrap your kids in security, they grow up with confidence in the world as a good place, and they take the risks that confidence gives them. If you toss your kids in and let them learn to swim by not drowning, they grow up confident that they can figure things out on the fly. Each path also has its hidden dangers, the fears that will plague that child. I’m firmly convinced there is no perfect way to parent – only tradeoffs. We live in a world obsessed with insurance. We want to make sure nothing bad ever happens. It’s foolhardy. Bad things happen. That was the plan. The atonement is there. No matter how badly you pretzel yourself to give your kids the best life possible, they will have reason to go to the Lord to seek relief from a wound at your hand. The best thing we can do is teach them to do that.

      • Michelle says:

        It’s part of the plan to be raises by imperfect parents. That’s the bottom line for me. It’s hard doctrine for me at line level, but oh, so freeing, really, when I let it into my heart —notnas justification bit rather trusting in Christ’s grace and HIS justification and sanctification He offers me and my kids if and as we learn to trust Him. There is nothing more I want my kids to know than that truth.

        Even as I still hope they’ll eat their veggies and wear seatbelts and all that stuff, too.

  7. Janet Dubac says:

    What a beautiful post! In this age of super easy access to information, it can be really hard for us parents to not be in any way influenced by what other people are saying. However, I believe that allowing our own sense of protection, justice, and connection to our children to be lost in the noise of what everyone else says & thinks can really hurt our children.

    Of course, we need help from others from time to time as we don’t have all of the answers to everything. But it is very important that we do not lose trust in our own instincts–our innate capacity to raise our kids right.

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