I came across an article the other day with the title “6 Ways You Are Totally Messing Up As a Parent.” It was a VERY clickable title, for two reasons.
First, as parents, many of us are secretly worried that we’re doing something wrong. Lists like this let us do a quick scan and say “Okay… cool… I don’t do that. I’m good.”
Second, in a world of social media mom-shaming, we jump at the chance to defend ourselves and say “Calm down, Janet… let everyone parent their own way!”
So I clicked on the article. I rolled my eyes a little. And then I panicked.
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Sometimes There’re Just Hangry
This article was very matter of fact in telling you what you might be doing wrong based on your kid’s behavior.
What are you doing wrong if your kids won’t eat their vegetables? How have you missed the mark if they are throwing tantrums? Where did you screw up if your kids are acting disrespectful? Yikes…
My eyes started doing somersaults early on because I firmly believe my three year is not throwing tantrums because I don’t give her enough hugs. Girlfriend is getting lots of hugs. At least 25 at bedtime alone. She’s throwing tantrums once in a while because she is three and sometimes it’s hard to understand that you can’t always get what you want when you’re three. And sometimes you don’t have the words to explain why you’re upset about it when you’re three.
And sometimes you’re just hangry and Mommy didn’t throw you a cheese stick fast enough. Which I totally understand.
But then I read the section on lying and I paused my eye roll and my “let moms be!” attitude. Uh oh… they are totally right…
My Pinocchio Problem
Lately my four year old had been “forgetting to tell the truth” when he did something wrong.
Like when asked point blank if he cleaned his room, he would say yes knowing full well he didn’t but claiming “forgetfulness.” Or when his sister was crying he would try to argue that he didn’t take her stuffed animal (when he definitely did) because he “misunderstood the question.” He’s a very sweet and kind kid, who makes mistakes like everyone, but we were getting really frustrated that he wasn’t owning up to his actions.
The article said that maybe your kid is lying because you have overreacted when he or she did something wrong before.
Lying seems like a good idea to them because the truth will clearly not set them free. In fact it’s going to erupt the Mount Mommy Volcano. Particularly because the truth is that he poured a smoothie on his sister’s head…
Own My Choices
So I thought about this, and I had to take ownership for my actions. I had absolutely overreacted to times when both of my kids pushed my buttons a little too hard. A less than stellar report from teachers at school, not on my watch! Sassy attitudes at bedtime, nope! I want to raise kids who respect authority and follow the rules (within reason) and by George I’m going to be strict about it.
But there have certainly been times when I’ve raised my voice when I could have been calmer. There have been times when the stress of my day added to a minor childhood infraction has resulted in a definite overreaction on my part.
Not to mention the fact that my kids are still really small. Preschoolers. As much as I am learning how to be a parent, they are learning how to be kids. I need to be patient, let them make mistakes, and own up to my own.
Two Slices of Humble Pie
Now that I’ve reassessed my own level of responsibility for this fibbing situation, I feel a bit better equipped to move forward. So the article did its job. It taught me something, and gave me a dose of humble pie.
We’re very caught up in the whole idea of “Mommy Shaming” in our culture right now. That every choice we make is getting judged and cross examined. That people are calling us out for how we parent when they would have done things entirely differently.
And for every Mommy Shaming that happens out in the wild, there is an equal and perhaps even louder backlash against it to let everyone do their own thing. Plenty of articles, plenty of memes. Plenty of memes I know I’ve liked.
But what I am coming to realize is there is a difference between Mommy Shaming and education.
I do not know it all as a parent. I never will. That’s why I click on “101 Ways You’re Doing Everything Wrong,” because as much as I’m hoping that I’m the exception, I’m worried that I AM doing items 47-84 and I want to do right by my kids.
No Shame in This Game
Of course we shouldn’t shame each other. (I’m looking at you Facebook moms group comment sections.) And we should definitely let parents parent their own way, because there really is no one single right way.
However all of us are learning, all the time. Let’s pause the eye rolls to take in another perspective, admit our mistakes, and try to improve. Maybe even open the article before commenting. You might not agree with all of it, but maybe you’ll learn something that doesn’t warrant an angry emoji.
And on the giving of advice side? Just be cool about it, okay? Serve it up with some patience, empathy, a spoon full of sugar, and perhaps a little self-deprecation. A rising tide will lift all of our boats, as long as it’s a nice tide. Pretty sure that’s how the saying goes.
In any case, in this crazy world of parenting we’re all in this together.