The definition of parenthood according to Webster:
the state of being a mother or a father
1.the state of being judged for every decision you make and every action your child takes regardless of circumstance or cause.
2. a time in life when everyone including people who have no children and/or whose children have their own pretty significant issues feel it necessary to comment on your children and how you should correct their behavior.
When we had our premature daughter with a heart condition I was asked “what did you do to cause your daughter’s condition.” I received countless calls from social workers assuming I was in need of government provided health insurance, food stamps, and advice on putting smoke detectors in my home, not smoking around my child (I never have), and the importance of not watering down baby formula. I don’t know how many times I had to answer “Are you literate?” on questionnaires. As if I could have answered if I weren’t.
Immediately everyone assumed I was stupid and not looking out for my kid. Everyone assumed that her condition was something I had caused by my lifestyle choices. Everyone assumed she would have a bad outcome because I was an idiot.
Then came the comments in public, at work, or from “well meaning” everybodies.
“You should feed her more.” No, I love her formula. I keep it for myself.
“What is wrong with her?” Well she fell in a capsule from the sky wrapped in a blanket with an S on it.
“How can you put her in daycare, I would stay home.” Good for you. Glad you are independently wealthy.
“Formula isn’t good for her. You should breastfeed.” Well you know what. Since you went there she was in the NICU for twelve days. The nurses would feed her five minutes before I got there even though my breast were ready to literally explode. But I never could really get results from a pump. It is like my breast knew that pump wasn’t a baby and they weren’t giving up that milk. Then my milk supply got all out of whack because well no demand… Dried right up. These nipples were barren. Would you like to inspect them for defects? I’ll be glad to whip them out since you brought them up. TMI? Well you were the one who knew what I should do with my breasts, I figured you would want to inspect them.
“Why doesn’t she have socks. You know her feet will get cold.” Because she took off three sets of them, sucked on them and now they are wet. I suppose I could put them back on her. Wet socks would be warmer right?
Do this, do that…obviously your child’s difficulties did not come from her congenital heart defect and prematurity, and four subsequent surgeries. It is something YOU ARE DOING WRONG. Because my baby was born healthy and has no challenges and every baby is alike, I know how you should deal with this.
The minute you become a parent you are stupid. Everyone has an opinion on how you ought to be doing it. And everyone feels they have the right to say it.
I learned to let it roll off my back. I’m not the only person it happens to.
But then came our son. Perfectly healthy. Rambunctious. All boy. And we are on our fourth day care because of behavioral issues. He is a strong willed little thing. But he is also sweet and smart and lovable. He behaves terribly at school. He hits, kicks, spits, screams, and bites. He also doesn’t sleep. Ever. Which means we don’t sleep. Ever. He tosses, turns, gets up and down, and has night terrors (sleep walking nightmares) no matter what we do.
The comments started again.
“You should put him on a schedule.” Because we just let him do his own thing obviously. I thought kids could stay up till midnight and run on coffee like I do. What? I’m not supposed to give him Starbucks?
“He just needs a firm hand.” You people really have no freaking idea how firm we have been.
“He needs more love.” We really subscribe to the non-contact neglect method in our house (sarcasm again just in case you missed it). We call it the Klingon method. It is the latest trend in geek parenting.
“Take away dairy and gluten. It is all that “poison” you feed him.” My kid prefers broccoli over french fries. I’m doing something way wrong here. Obviously.
Yada Yada Yada. It comes from everybody: Teachers, daycare directors, friends, strangers in restaurants and grocery stores. But the reason I write this is because of something that happened today. I went to pick him up from school to take him to an occupational therapy appointment.
(After two years of tears, anxiety,pediatricians, behavioral therapist, every discipline and parenting method available, and three schools while trying desperately to figure out why the kid was fine at home and lost it at school we finally got a diagnosis of “Sensory Processing Disorder”. The occupational therapist handed me a paper outlining common behaviors of kids with SPD and it was like “That’s my kid!”)
A nanny, yes a nanny that has to sit in class with her kid all day every day just to keep him from getting kicked out too, started giving me advice. Because “she could tell we didn’t have any structure at home.”
“You need a firm bedtime. This is what I do.”
Maybe if I could afford to pay for both tuition (at a very high end daycare btw) and a private nanny to watch my kids 24/7 (even in freaking school, for real?) I would have this under control. Or maybe not, because the kid has issues that aren’t his fault and aren’t mine or his father’s either. And besides, if your “structure” works so well why are you still having to sit here eight hours a day?
I told the occupational therapist about it and we both got a good laugh. She says a lot of her parents have the same experiences even when there is obviously a medical issue with the child. Much less when your kid appears normal but acts outside the range of normal. God bless that woman. I needed that.
Because that nanny. Grrrr.
It was a bit much to take. And there were children present.
And it was the last straw.
I’m putting it out there for everyone. JUST SHUT IT.
Since you can’t do it right like in a “Have you tried….” kind of way, just STFU.
Since you don’t know my kid. Since you don’t know me. Since you don’t know my kid’s emotional or medical issues. JUST SHUT IT.
You wouldn’t walk up to a fat person in McDonald’s and tell them to stop eating Big Macs with the Super Size fries or walk through a cancer ward shouting “I told you not to smoke.” So really what makes you think it is OK to say something to me about my kid?
I don’t care if you agree with how I’m doing it. I really don’t. What I do care about is all the tounge biting I have to do because you don’t have the class to do it yourself. What I do care about is having to use precious bandwidth processing all the completely uninformed BS you are sending my way.
So if you could stop doing that, well that would be great. Fantastic even.
And to all you other parents out there who don’t feel like you can talk about the issues you face or take your kids to certain social settings because of all the ignorant assholes out there that feel they have a right to say something to you and a clue about what to say…I’m sorry.
I’m sorry you are dealing with it. I’m sorry your kid is dealing with it. I wish you the best. I know you are doing the best you can do with all the love in your heart.
I’m not perfect. You are not perfect. Your kid isn’t perfect. My kid isn’t perfect. We are all just doing the best we can with what we have. Sometimes it is messy. Sometimes we lose grace. Sometimes we don’t get it right. Sometimes we do. And all of that is OK.
You didn’t ask for my opinion. I’m not giving it. I don’t know your kid. I have no idea how to fix whatever is ailing you. Hell. I barely have my own stuff together.
I’m just saying I feel you. No judgement here. Stay strong. Love those kids. And keep doing the best you can. It is good enough.
Nothing but love here. Love. Love. Love. Because we all need more of it.
This shit is hard.
And in the meantime on both our behalves, I am going to ask everyone who isn’t bringing the love and understanding to just shut it.
Just shut it for all of our sakes.