Friday, February 7, 2014

We're In This Together. Really, We Are.

I love reading blogs, specifically parenting blogs of all kinds, and the reason is simple:

Misery loves company.

I don't mean I'm miserable. I love being my son's mama. I've enjoyed every stage of his short life more than the one before. Except when I didn't love it, that is. Because this s*** is hard, man!

I don't have enough fingers to count the number of times a day I second guess a decision I made, wish I'd handled a moment better, wallow in guilt over something I did or didn't do, or throw my hands up, thinking, "Am I the only one who doesn't know what the HELL she's doing around here???" Being a parent is one of the most isolating and crazy-making things I've ever done, so when I read about another parent in the slog, I feel better. This complete stranger knows how I feel because they've been there. They are there and it looks pretty much the same for us all.

That's why it bugged me to read Sydney Steiner's post on memes of kids crying. You can check it out here. If you don't have time to read it, to sum up, she finds cruel what she perceives to be parents laughing at the expense of their children and posting it for public ridicule. She thinks we should spend more time helping our little ones understand and deal with their very real emotions and less time making them feel bad about them.

You can see the heart and earnest care for children behind her post and I agree that yes, we have a responsibility to our little people to validate their experiences from an early age when they're too young to understand or control them on their own. Even their more irrational emotions. This helps them grow up confident in their inherent dignity so they know that how they feel matters, regardless of the circumstances.

I just disagree that it's unhealthy to choose laughter over tears to cope with this crazy-hard job every day. Her post, while well meaning and spot on in many ways, supposes that parents are laughing and shaming their children instead of engaging with them, mid-meltdown. To that, I say, I'm here. I'm in it, and I don't buy it--for myself or a lot of other parents. That's not what I do and I don't believe most other parents do, either. It's healthy to find the ridiculous in tense moments. It helps deescalate things. It's healthy for kids (even really young ones) to learn that while their emotions are always valid and real, they don't always accurately reflect a given situation, nor should they be treated as the center of the universe even when they do.

It's also healthy for a parent who's had it up to here with all the weirdo things that upset their child(ren) that day to step back, stop taking it all so seriously and laugh. That way, nobody gets yelled at, shamed or punished for no reason, no child is confused or frightened by adult anger, or heaven forbid, nobody is physically hurt in a fit of frustration.

Most mamas and daddies aren't sitting by with their phones waiting for the chance to catch their children helpless and upset so they can post it on Instagram to publicly humiliate their toddlers (who last time I checked, didn't have Instagram accounts, anyway, though mine might--at two years old, he's more tech savvy than I am). We're in there wiping noses, soothing fears, kissing away tears and trying to figure out some age appropriate way to demystify bath suds for a terrified toddler so every bath isn't so damned scary--for everybody.

We all need the benefit of the doubt and some grace from other parents who trust that when we upload pictures or "can you believe this??" posts, we're not making fun of the people we love most and work the hardest for in the world. We're reaching out for a lifeline of brother/sisterhood that helps us feel just a tiny bit less alone and crazy while we figure out how to do this (which, sadly, I hear we never do, completely). And we're doing it at 1 am, well after the kid's asleep, not during play/dinner/homework/bath/reading/night-night time, because we desperately need some alone time but would actually rather steal time from our own sleep than from our time with them, no matter how much they act like tiny nut jobs.

So, let's cut each other just a small break, shall we? I, for one, really need one.

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