Are You Brave Enough?

Finally had a chance to read an article posted by a sweet and amazing mother on the Facebook page.  To understand the context of this entire post, read the article HERE.
I love the example the author gives about filters and how we interpret what people are saying.  It’s so true!  I’ve tried many times in my writing to explain that concept of filtered listening… how I can say, “I am co-sleeping” just very matter of fact, and someone else will automatically hear, “You fail as a parent because you put your baby in a crib”.  Before I knew it, they were defending their parenting decisions and I suddenly found myself in a heated discussion about why it is or is not okay to Cry It Out.
I learned a lot about human nature when I decided to have a baby.  I learned how we tend to be creatures of habit, creatures of comparison and how we are largely motivated into action by the actions of others. I also learned a great deal about the human capacity to judge and turn that judgement into anger, disappointment and hurtful actions.  When I decided to stay home and exclusively breastfeed through the first year, when we realized that we were, in fact, a co-sleeping family and when we chose to keep nursing until both were ready to stop in their own time and neither stopped after they turned one.  Most of all, however, I learned how putting my family first, I mean TRULY putting THEM first… caused massive disturbance in others around me.
I had no idea when I made the decision to do all I could to benefit my children, even if it wasn’t convenient or “fun” for me, that I would be opening a huge can of Dune-sized, man-eating sand worms both in the parenting community around me, as well as with friends and family who did not even have children.
Can you believe… I was actually under the impression that it was not their business what I did??  I know, silly…
So, in that way, I absolutely agree with this author- those “guilt filters” inspired by fear are absolutely, 100% real and I do believe that as parents, we need to get over things.  Things like- what my neighbor thinks about my child’s diet when she continues to tease me about how my kids refused her McDonalds Happy Meals.  Like, sleep patterns when my friends tell me THEIR kids are in bed by 8pm while mine are still active until 10, sometimes later because I refuse to force a bedtime on them when I truly see no need for it.  Or, when I hear about friend’s children who are the same age who all know how to write their letters and mine is barely able to recognize the entire alphabet. There is also the reality that I spend about four hours every other day or so on the computer doing work, blogging, business stuff and bills while they amuse themselves in the living room with My Big, Big Friend, Leap Frog shows, Super Why or some Disney movie and I know people who never even turn a television on the entire day, people who are constantly interacting with their children directly.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on our potty training process… when I hear people boast about how their 18 month old “trained herself” and my, 4 year old is still wearing pull-up’s to bed and wouldn’t poop in the potty if his little life depended upon it… Lord help me, I’m just thankful the poor kid doesn’t have to do daycare and we’re planning to do home school with him next year.  Picky eater. Stays awake till 11pm.  Doesn’t know how to write his name.  Watches too much television.  Can’t poop in the potty.  All of these things spell judgement and I KNOW people in my life believe I’m doing these, and probably many other things, completely wrong.
I used to feel guilty.  I used to allow those things to bother me, to make me think that I was doing something wrong, I even considered hiding the facts of our life from the people around me until I realized there was always going to be something- someone, somewhere, doing things “better” than me.  I had to make choices.  Be able to always afford organic, non-GMO groceries and work a 10 hour day with an hour in traffic each way, or stay home, be a full time parent to my children and go easy on the fancy groceries.  Exclusively breastfeed until they both self-weaned, or put them in daycare and go to work so I could put them in fancy dance classes and a new car.
After 4 years now, I have come to understand that I can’t feel guilty about my choices.  I made all of these decisions for the right reasons (in my opinion) and I can defend them, stand by them and confidently engage in conversation with someone who did things another way and not lose my head if they tell me they chose not to do what I do, because they hold higher value on organic food and without a job, they couldn’t afford it.  I can have that conversation now without feeling judged because I am proud of who I am as a parent.
See, once we own who we are as parents, we stop needing to be validated by others. We stop seeing other’s parenting as an attack.  We stop judging others who we secretly believe do things “better” than we do and we stop pretending that they are vocalizing their actions JUST to hurt us.
So again, I agree with her.  We need to grow thicker skins and, as I have stated time and again in my articles, I really wish people would just own their choices and be able to confidently enter a conversation where opinions and processes differ without feeling attacked every twelve seconds.
I believe if we feel guilty, maybe it’s time to take another look at our process and make some changes.  I mean, that’s what I do- I treat the presence of guilt as a warning that I might not be completely aligned with my own purpose and I need to reevaluate.  I need to decide where my parenting priorities actually lie and make changes so I feel less guilty.  It doesn’t mean I’m going to lash out at someone else’s process and condemn them or get angry because they are supposedly “attacking” my way of life just by existing.
So, even though I see where she’s getting her examples and I understand her point and have even felt that same judgement, I really don’t think she’s right with the whole “no one really cares what you do with your own babies in your own house”.
They do care.  Maybe some don’t, but I think a great number of them actually do.
I mean, I care… I care about your babies, the babies down the street and the ones across the world, too.  I think it’s unrealistic to believe otherwise.  I’m also growing tired of the whole demonization of those who care about other people’s kids like we’re all just horrible monsters out to make every other parent feel like idiots.
I’m not sorry that I care about other people’s children and their well being, and I don’t believe it makes me, or anyone else who does, a bad person.  Especially when the reality is, if every other parent really stood back and evaluated this issue for themselves, they would undoubtedly find they don’t think completely apathetically about children who don’t belong to them.  We have compassion.  That’s part of being human.  We care and we genuinely want the best for one another.
I care if I hear about a parent who has chosen a parenting style that is not healthy.  I care if a parent is doing something with their child that can be dangerous.
I care if I see an obese child packing a candy bar in her lunch box every day and complaining about how she hates PE because running is stupid and her parents agree with her then each her how to get out of class or they blatantly sign her out with some bogus medical excuse (I’ve seen this countless times growing up).  I care about her and I care about the poor choices her mom and dad are making that are enabling her to create a lifetime of struggle for their daughter when it comes to weight and health and discipline.
I care if someone has chosen a method of parenting that we know through years of scientific and psychological research (not we think because we speculate and want to be right with no evidence) is unhealthy, or maybe even just, “not the healthiest” of options because they are ignoring facts in order to be lazy and selfish as parents.
I care when someone who has chosen a selfish, lazy or unhealthy parenting route, then teaches new parents that the healthier ways are not important and help to perpetuate generations of poor choices in order to feel better about themselves.
I care if I see a little girl of elementary age wearing a trashy outfit because her mom thought it was “sassy” and cute to dress her up in a short skirt and a tube top.  (Yes, I’ve seen this, it’s not just a made up example)
I care if I see a parent who refuses to accept her child’s poor behavior and correct it.  When that child continually performs poorly in school and even gets in trouble with the law and the parent does nothing but enable them by blaming everyone else.
I care if I see a child with a nasty attitude and no respect for authority and realize their parents are absolutely no better than they are and they actually encourage it because they think it’s funny to see a child with “a mouth” on them. (yep, seen this too)
I care, not because I’m trying to be “better than” anyone or because I like to tell people they are wrong.  I don’t. I hate that.  I HATE it and anyone who has ever read ANY of my blogs knows that to be true.  But I’m of the belief that we are all in this together as humans and it’s our task to teach, to learn and to help one another because like it or not, we’re all on this rock together and if we acted like it, we could be a community.
I wouldn’t want to make the wrong decision for my kids just because I didn’t know better.  I mean, how many times have you made a mistake and after it’s all over, (usually a relationship or a poor financial decision) your friends all say, “well, I didn’t want to say anything but I totally knew that was a bad idea.”  WHAT??!  What kind of friends are you people??  You let me just keep going in that horrible relationship and NO ONE thought it might be a good idea to sit me down and ask me what the heck I was doing??  It never occurred to anyone to smack me upside the head and tell me what I was doing wasn’t a good plan?  It’s an awful realization when you find that your friends would rather see you fail than get involved in your life.  They would rather let you do whatever you want and fail than stick their necks out to tell you they care and they want to see better for you, and why?  Just so they don’t have to get their hands dirty or sit through an uncomfortable conversation.  Because they don’t care enough about you to be honest.
Call me crazy, but I want my friends to tell me if they see me doing something stupid. I want my family to do the same.  Hell, I even want some random person in a park to tell me if I’ve got my kid’s helmet on wrong or I strapped my baby into the car seat incorrectly.  Wouldn’t you?  ESPECIALLY if it’s just because I might not know another way exists!
I have learned SO MUCH just by being open to alternative practices and being willing to change my mind.  I let go of ego in this game a long time ago because parenting is not about me or what I want or what makes me feel better about myself.  It’s about doing whatever it takes to raise decent humans to make our world better.  I didn’t have kids to fill some emotional hole in my heart or to make me feel complete as a woman, or to create a person who loved me or needed me because I don’t feel loved or needed enough or because I believed that somehow I deserved to have a child just because well, I’ve always wanted one so I should get to have one”.  I didn’t bring my emotional drama into my life as a parent, in fact, I let go of ALL my emotional drama.  Because of this, I can stand firm behind my choices – knowing if there is a better way discovered down the road, I can adapt when needed and I’m willing to change my mind.
I also make a lot of choices from the “because I feel like it even if it’s not 100% the best idea” camp, but I own those choices and I don’t make excuses.  I know it’s probably not great to feed my kids chicken dinosaurs, but I do it because sometimes I’m busy and they are picky and I’d rather they eat SOMETHING rather than nothing at all and if I have to choose from the very short list of food items they will actually eat, that’s actually one of the better ones when I’m in a hurry.  I know I should make them brush their teeth multiple times every day, but sometimes I forget.  Oh well.  Try again tomorrow.  I know we should get outside and exercise every day, too, but that doesn’t happen all the time and I’m aware I need to make more time and I don’t, but I’m cool with that for now because it’s a work in progress that is slowly getting better.  If someone came up to me and started scolding me because I need to teach my kids to get outdoors every day and be active, I’d totally agree with them and then continue working on it as I was going to anyway.  I let my kids watch TV a lot.  We have down time and quiet playtime and music-filled learning time, too, but we do watch a lot of TV, especially if I’m busy in the kitchen or writing and part of that is because I like the background noise so even if they’re not watching anything and in another room or even asleep, I usually have it on some kind of music and images sort of program.  Is it better my way than the no-television households? Probably not and I’m sure there are plenty of studies to back up the fact that what we do isn’t by any means perfect… oh well.
This conversation however… It’s not just about ego and allowing parents to say “whatever I feel like doing with my own children is okay and no one has a right to tell me what to do”.  It’s about responsible parenting on a global level and doing all you can to raise humans that will be good, kind, productive and compassionate people while encouraging others to stop being complacent and defensive when their methods are questioned.
Now, I should say here that I absolutely believe it’s all about delivery of that advice or alternative perspective that will make or break a conversation.  If someone says, “well you’re stupid, you’re doing it wrong” – clearly, they won’t get too far and no one will want to be friends with them.  But if someone says, “I wanted to share this article with you on the effects of yellow #4 & #5 in regards to attention and behavior in children your son’s age.  It may answer some questions for you!”  well, that’s not bad at all and if someone takes offense to that, they really are just being too sensitive and need to hold their horses and reevaluate what is really going on before they lash out in defense.
So often, I see parents getting angry and demonizing those who speak out about doing what is best for baby, not ONLY for mom and dad.
People are so “me” focused, so deeply concerned about getting their fair share, they will gladly take it, even at the expense of a child because someone, somewhere will agree that it’s okay because you should be allowed to do whatever you want with the people you create, consequences be damned.
Well, I disagree with that total and selfish sense of ownership.  One day, all our little people who we treat like property in these conversations with the whole “SHE’S MINE I’LL DO WHAT I WANT WITH HER” attitudes will be running this country and this world and that, to me, is enough to want me to encourage people to learn more, to parent responsibly, to take the time and endure the trouble and inconvenience to do things in a way that fosters those positive attributes that will help this whole world in the future, not just the ones that will help US, personally, right now.
I know people sometimes think I’m just a big jerk who likes to tell them they are wrong, but that’s not it.  It’s always about what is right and what we learn and how we can grow and improve as parents for the betterment of our entire world.  Not about telling people they are wrong.  I simply care about those kids and the adults they will become.
It is always astounding to me when people who will stand up for human rights, refuse to stand up for the rights of a human who is too young yet to be heard through his own voice.  We are willing to stand up and fight for the right of a child to be born, but apparently after that, its none of our damn business because it’s not our child.  We are willing to stand up for animals who cannot speak when they are being hurt or treated poorly, heck, we will even speak out about pet food and the toxic chemicals in flea killer or the harsh training practices used to “break” animals of being animals… but if you try to tell them that yelling at their kid in public is not okay, you best have your fighting gloves on because THAT is just unacceptable.
Sure, we will “protect” a child from major abuse, but minor neglect, minor issues, things that will only create psychological damage that can be managed through meds and adult counseling or a good diet and exercise program once they learn that pizza really is not on the food pyramid… well, that’s totally acceptable and I, nor any other parent, has the right to say anything.  Why is that okay?  WHY should any decent human have to stand by waiting for a child to get in trouble because their parents just fed them something that will have them bouncing off the walls 20 minutes later in a room full of quiet adults?  Why is it wrong to say, “hey- here’s another option for your kid’s drink today that won’t have them getting in trouble when they end up with a sugar high when you want them to sit quietly in 10 minutes”?  I mean, really- we ALL think those things, but we allow the children to endure the results of their parent’s poor actions anyway, and why??
Because it’s not polite.
Well, you know what, screw polite.  Admit that you care about other people’s kids.  Stop pretending that it’s all this “everyone’s choices are okay” crap because you KNOW you don’t really believe that.
While it would be nice to think that the “mommy wars” are all about internal anxieties and projection of internal flaws,  we cannot deny the reality that it’s also about poor parenting choices and the truth that sometimes we DO need advice, we DO need someone to tell us we are doing it wrong and we DO need to be taught a new, better way and through our caring about others, our own children will learn to care for others, too- through our example.
At the heart of it, more often than not, people DO care.  Are you brave enough to admit it?
“It is up to us as parents to teach our children what it means to be caring.”  -Ali Wentworth.
If we are unwilling to speak up, to educate and then also, to be educated, what does this teach our children? That we are apathetic and uncaring of others to such a degree that we would allow them to fall rather than be brave enough to speak out?  That we would rather stay comfortable and same rather than open up to the new and possibly better?  What does that teach our children?  What if our choosing to stay quiet causes great tragedy because we couldn’t bear to be “the one” to say something?  What if our refusal to change our process because we are so stuck on “our way is just fine” that it hurts our child?  The reality is, it could and it has and that is why the truth is more important than your feelings.
The RIGHT way is always more important than someone’s feelings.
Please tell me if I’m doing something wrong. Please don’t just keep walking by and allow me to continue doing the wrong thing- the thing that could kill my child.
Please, for heaven’s sake, for your, my, and every innocent child, helpless to make their own choices, who live each day solely because their caregivers do everything they can to keep them safe… do NOT keep walking if you see something that needs to be done differently.

Do NOT consider my feelings. Do NOT consider your own because you don’t want to deal with the awkward feelings that come with the conversation…

Consider the life of that child and believe in your own authority as a fellow human being to do whatever you can to keep that baby safe.  Because we ARE a community, we can be a family if we are willing to accept the responsibility and the humility that comes with it.
I will just leave this mother’s tragic statement HERE.
Be brave, mamas.  Be brave enough to speak and brave enough to listen.

 

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