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Parenting Isn't Hard?

Posted Apr 16 2012 12:00am
I read this article a couple days ago on Blogher and had been mulling it over ever since- the title is the same as that of my post, minus the question mark. The author is a mom who has one child, aged two months at the time of publishing. I'd rather not recap the whole thing, so if you want to get what I'm talking about, maybe click on over and at least skim through it. The comments section is interesting, too!

I agree with the general gist of what she's saying. I think people do disrespect children's essential personhood quite often, myself included. No, they don't have the same rights and responsibilities as adults, but they are human beings and should be treated as such. They shouldn't be interrupted when they're trying to explain themselves, they shouldn't be jerked around and manhandled unless their bodies are in imminent danger, they shouldn't be screamed at for unavoidable accidents, they shouldn't be berated for being hungry or needing a bathroom at inconvenient times, etc.

I have to remind myself of this all the time; it's especially easy to be empathetic now, when I myself am often hungry or need to pee with ridiculous frequency. But my requests are always respected, whereas a kid pops out of bed saying they're hungry despite having had dinner and a bedtime snack would probably be snapped at and sent back to bed, right? People trust me that I know my body; people often think kids can't be trusted to know what they need, or that they're trying to be manipulative.

But the thing is... sometimes they are. And as the caretaker or parent, sometimes you just have to feel it out and listen to your instincts, not your emotions, whether those emotions are ones of pity or guilt or frustration. You have to know the kid, and know the situation. This is something no outside observer can do. So some passer-by might think you're being way too permissive, or way too harsh, and either way they might be right depending on what transpired in the moments, hours, days, and YEARS before the five minutes they happen to be witnessing.

That's why I personally felt some of the content of the "Parenting Isn't Hard" manifesto was a little judgmental and simplistic. Yes, some things, beating your kids or calling them awful names, are always inexcusable and wrong. Other things, such as angry impatience with childishness, or a seeming overreaction to one act of misbehavior, well... maybe the parent IS a jerk who acts like that all day long and never interacts lovingly with their child. Or, maybe they've been putting up with misbehavior all day long and trying their best to correct it and redirect it and stay positive and they themselves are hungry and tired too and they just snap a bit. It's not anything they're proud of, but none of us is our Very Best Self all the time. It doesn't make us abusive parents.

I also found the "is this how you'd treat another adult?" rationale a little weak. I used to spout this example all the time, myself- before I had kids and actually realized how unfair it is. Because see, another adult wouldn't wake me up every morning by calling, "Mom, come WIPE me now!" Another adult doesn't whine because his little brother got the bowl he wanted, dither between the remaining choices for thirty seconds, and then, just as the cereal begins to hit the bowl, change his mind and want the other one. Another adult (hopefully) isn't demanding and oblivious to others, doesn't burst into tears at the slightest disappointment. An adult doesn't gripe and moan every single day as you are trying to help them get through necessary routines such as hair brushing or shoe tying.

Adults are in general far more polite and rational and easier to be around and interact with, so no, one doesn't usually feel the mounting impatience, the urge to yell at them to settle down or to hiss in frustration when they spill their third drink of the day after being repeatedly asked to be careful. And the adults that DO still act like kids, the ones who leave giant messes and talk loudly at all hours of the day, with no respect or awareness of the needs of others? You complain about and avoid at all costs, right? Because that crap is exhausting! It's rude! It's considered antisocial! And sometimes, despite our best efforts, despite knowing that these are children and it is our job to slowly civilize them, we still get worn down and feel unappreciated and disrespected and sometimes we do not treat our kids as we would another adult. Are these our proudest moments? Nope. Are we embarrassed by them, especially when other people witness them? You bet. Am I an abusive mother because I have on occasion steered my kid's shoulder just a little more firmly than necessary?

Well, you tell me. If you read the article, what was your take?

Edit: I also found this piece on Blogher in response to the original article, and really liked what she had to say.
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