Stop.Parent.Shaming.

Do you ever have days where you just hate the internet with the fire of a thousand suns??

I get it. We all have perspective. We all have the right to sound off about what we want whenever it suits us. ‘Cause ‘Merica.

Even though I consider myself a blogger and bloggers are synonymous with sharing their opinions and offering commentary about whatever, I personally try to stay out of the fray. I don’t mind discussing one thing or another with the people in my day to day life, but it’s a whole other thing to comment about something on social media.

Even if you are like me and you’re pretty much a nobody, addressing something “publicly” adds our voices to the collective conversation in an entirely different capacity. And we humans don’t always think things through when we do.

We all know what happened at the Cincinnati zoo. We know that a beautiful and magnificent member of an endangered species died. And it’s horribly tragic. I love animals. LOVE them. And the thought of such a wonderful creature dying violently is heart-breaking. I cannot imagine what his caretakers who had to make that decision must be thinking. So yes, let’s take a moment to pause and mourn this beautiful creature. 

But I’m not here to talk about Harambe.

I’m here to talk to you about a mother. A parent. A person. On a trip to the zoo with her children. Who woke up on a Saturday and assumed that the day ahead with her children would be the same as almost any other day she spends with them.

Little did she know that her dire and awful mistake would garner her world wide attention. Scratch that. Not just world wide attention. But world wide scrutiny. And shame. And bitterness.

And hate. Because believe me, a great deal of the reaction to this news story is rooted firmly in hate.

All because she screwed up for a few minutes. I mean, yeah, she royally screwed up. And she will now spend a good chunk of the rest of her days living under the scrutiny of the public at large who doesn’t even know her, but sees itself fit to call for her to be prosecuted, punished and shamed without remorse for her child’s mistake. 

Unfortunately though, this is what we have signed up for as parents.

We have signed up not just for a 24/7 job, but also for the lifestyle and responsibilities of being a parent. We have signed up to be culpable for the actions of our children for pretty much the rest of our lives. Because we all know that whenever someone screws up, whether they are four or thirty-four, the rest of us are looking at the parents and wondering how they could ever raise such an imperfect person.

I’m choosing to speak up now because I have been this mother. Just maybe you have never heard of me because my children never ended up in the gorilla pen at a large zoo. At times my actions as a mom may have proven inadequate, but hey, at least my shortcomings have never made headlines or trended on Twitter.

Let me tell you a story that a thousand other mothers could tell you.

When my oldest child was not quite four, we were leaving our local Target store. My sons behavior had taken a downhill turn, and he was being difficult – as three year olds are wont to do on occasion I’m told. Shocking.

I even had another adult with me to aid in my ventures. We were approaching our van in the parking lot when his mood was deteriorated further. I let go of his hand for just a moment as I fished out the carkeys from my purse, and guided the shopping cart containing my toddler to a stop. 

I let go for a moment and let my thoughts travel to the next thing on my to do list.

Meanwhile, my son decided that he had finally had enough.

He started screaming as he about-faced and started running full speed away from me. In a busy and crowded parking lot. Red-faced and not paying attention to his surroundings at all. 

Let me tell you something about my son. Even now, his bad moods are few and far between. He has always been a very reasonable person ever since he was born. This was incredibly unlike him. This was totally out of character and unexpected. 

But in that moment, it didn’t matter. 

I screamed and ran after him, catching up to him maybe ten seconds later, so this whole thing was over in barely the blink of an eye. But a car backing out of a parking space or rounding the corner in our lane and crushing my son would have taken far less than that. 

I wanted to vomit when I caught him. People looked at me, trying to distinguish what was going on, wondering why a child was screaming bloody murder in a parking lot.

Some I’m sure clucked their tongue at me, dismissing me as yet one more parent who couldn’t keep their child under control. How dare I?

I knew I had dropped the ball. Why would I EVER let go of his hand in a parking lot?? Why didn’t I think, and have my adult companion hold his hand? Why didn’t I help him calm down before we loaded up into the car? Why why WHY!!? 

That’s all that I could think about for the rest of the day, an even on occasion now. I think about how differently that situation could have turned out. 

My husband and I are very hands on parents. We have rules. We have boundaries. We monitor or children in potentially unsafe situations. We might even check a lot of the boxes for what people say make a parent “good.” But if you had seen what unfolded in that parking lot for fifteen seconds on a Thursday afternoon, you would probably never know that.

And if you had watched, would you have given me the benefit of the doubt that I’m a good mother?

I feel stares when I’m at the store on a normal day. Any parent probably does. 

The way we speak to our children. The way they behave. The way we as parents handle their bad behavior. We know people are watching.

It’s people who have no issue with staring us down while our child is throwing groceries from the cart or fussing at a restaurant, or people who are careful to watch the madness unfold peripherally while they purse their lips and roll their eyes in displeasure. 

Dear Peanut Gallery of the World, we parents know that you are watching us.

We know you’re judging. And maybe it’s time that you understood that no parent is perfect. Maybe it’s time you understood that children are at times highly unpredictable, but capable people.

And maybe it’s time you minded your own business.

Every parent has majorly dropped the ball at one point or another in their parenting journey. It’s just that minor screw ups don’t make it into the news.

Once, I let my youngest child fuss and cry from her bed while she was supposed to be napping because I just wanted her to give up and go to sleep. Because I was over it. Turns out she had a bee in her room that she was both hypnotized by and afraid of. 

I once let another child fuss in their bed until they drifted back off to sleep, only to find in the morning that they had puked in their bed and slept with it for the night. 

Another time, the back storm door in our kitchen wasn’t latched and my not quite two year old let himself out and went on a stroll…toward the street in front of our house.

I have snapped at my children needlessly. Been grouchy and impatient with them in public. I have punished them when I was angry. I have told them that I didn’t want to play with them and sent them away in a bid for two minutes of sane child-free time spent on my iPhone 

But I’m a mother who is literally trying her very best every single day. 

At times, my life could make for a series of convenient headlines if only something worse had happened. But headlines don’t tell you about the people who are trying to do their best by their children.  Blurbs on Twitter or Facebook don’t tell you the entire story. And they sure as hell don’t trumpet the accomplishments of the parents who get it right every.single.day. 

We make excuses for so much in this world. We tell people that they don’t have the right to judge another’s religion, sexuality, gender identity or life choices. We tell people to frequently mind their own business when it comes to matters that don’t involve them directly.

Maybe it’s time that we realized that the decisions that parents make are nobody’s business but theirs. Maybe it’s time that we realized that a fifteen minute or fifteen second snap shot in the day of a life of a parent doesn’t tell the whole story.

Maybe it’s time that we reaffirm the people who are trying really, really hard to raise up responsible, loving, aware and helpful people that we really, really appreciate them. 

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Stop the mommy wars: Be the Community

I know that the “mommy wars” blog posts have been beaten to death.

Literally. 

You can’t open your Facebook or Twitter feed without seeing an article about “Mommy Wars” and how to best counteract/avoid them. 

Sometimes, I think articles like that are a bit overblown and make for good click bait. Other times, I shake my head in disbelief at some of the comments and encounters other moms have had to endure over their parenting choices – even with complete strangers!

Because if there is one thing that people think they have liberty to judge/comment on/assess/obsess over, it’s the parenting skills of anyone, even complete strangers.

And nowhere is this insensitive mindset more obvious and pervasive than in how we treat mothers/women with children in our society. 

I want to tell you a story. 

I met my husband in town for dinner with the kids at Chick Fil A – because where else are we going to take three small people out to eat?

As we were sitting down with our food and getting the kiddos settled in with their meals, somewhere in the restaurant we heard a small child erupting into a full-on-cover-your-ears-hang-on-to-your-butts temper tantrum. 

After scanning the restaurant to see where the disruption was coming from, we saw a woman holding her two-year old by the arm while balancing a car seat carrier containing a newborn and her handbag on the other.

She was trying to make her way to the door. Her shrieking toddler son fought her every. step. of the way. 

She tried to quietly convince her son that it was time to go, and coax him out the door without much more of a scene. Her efforts only served to make him dig his heels in further.

I was sitting with my children and trying to help them manage their food while not staring at the scene that was unfolding in front of me. But it’s kind of hard not to look, right?

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I looked up at my husband and told him I would be right back. 

I stood up and walked over to the woman. She was stuck in front of the door to leave, unable to open the door and keep hold of her son. As I walked up to her…I smiled. I asked her if I could help her out to her car with her children.

She seemed blown away.

She nervously kept asking me if I was sure, but she seemed all the more grateful at the same time. I’m quite certain that I could have had three heads and she still would have eagerly accepted my assistance. 

To our collective relief, her son came willingly into my arms and we walked out the door together. Turns out she was parked at the far end of the parking lot. How she would have gotten her squirming child and the car seat carrier across the parking lot without incident is beyond me. 

We reached her vehicle and she unlocked and opened the backdoor for me. I lifted her son into the back of the SUV and on to the seat. As I asked him if he could climb into his seat, I looked around at her car and could see the mess. The mess that comes with having children but not enough time or energy or concern about cleaning the floor of your car because who cares anyway, right?

I have seen that mess before. 

The woman was incredibly grateful. Before we parted ways, I reassured her that I had been exactly where she was. Literally. Same Chick Fil A, same parking lot. Probably about 14 months ago to the day.

I have been that mother trying to get out the door with two tiny hands in a firm, but not too firm so I don’t break bones, vice grip, just trying to make it to our vehicle across the parking lot. Just trying to make it home. Just trying to get them ready for bed.

Just trying to make it over the next thing. Over one…more…hurdle.

Because sometimes, it’s a hurdle by hurdle, day by day, minute by minute kind of thing, this parenting stuff. 

I don’t tell you that story to pat myself on the back. I tell you because I am so, so guilty. I am so guilty of judging other moms. 

I don’t always react this calmly. Unfortunately, ostracizing and assumptions come all too naturally, as I am sure so many of you have found in your own lives.  Sometimes, I stare. Or worse, I try not to look at all because I can’t hide my shock.

We live in a culture that admonishes parenting failures and is quick to suggest “solutions” or  “ideas” for parents. Yet for all of the ways we are connected, mothers are more isolated than ever before. 

We currently live in the most connected, and yet most disconnected age ever. We catch tiny glimpses into one another’s day-to-day lives on the regular. And yet it’s foreign to get a knock on your door from the neighbor or a phone call on a landline from someone just calling to ask how you are, but not to receive the criticism of strangers at the grocery store for letting your infant chew on your car keys. 

This isn’t to say that moms have never had their critics in the past. I’m sure that they always have. 

Now? Moms live with all of these unrealistic and exhausting expectations about what makes them a good mother or not. You are one or the other, a good mom or a bad mom. No in between. 

Pinterest. Handmade Halloween costumes. Straight A students who are involved in every extracurricular activity imaginable. A perfect, toned body that doesn’t have the look of someone who has given birth in the last handful of years. Working from home or working outside of the home, doesn’t matter, just get it all done.

These expectations and worries over what the mother next to us is doing leave us exhausted, moms. We are moms who don’t realize that beyond loving our children and keeping them safe and raising them to be good people, everything else that I just said is simply the gravy on top. 

Something about this modern-day life makes us lonely. Which makes us strangers. Which makes us more inclined to misunderstand and judge each other. And it’s sad. 

While I don’t think mommy wars will ever end, I do know this: We can each be a cog in the great mechanism of change by pivoting the conversation and simply by loving and helping other moms. 

That’s it. Help other moms. Love other moms. 

Motherhood and parenting are lonely. But they don’t have to be. 

Until we start being the community to each other, it won’t get us anywhere. 

You can reach out to the single mom in your neighborhood, and love her and accept her, because chances are this world probably doesn’t. 

You can shake hands with the nervous, new woman who doesn’t know anyone yet at your church that you haven’t gotten the chance to say hello to yet.

You can stop by your best friend’s house with a cup of coffee in a moment of spontaneity and ask her how she is handling this parenting thing. 

You can drop off supplies to the local crisis pregnancy center for moms who are struggling to make ends meet. 

You can help the stranger with three kids and a shopping cart in tow out to her car on a Sunday at Target. 

You can be that friendly face on a Monday that isn’t going so great because teething!

You can be a welcoming shoulder to cry on and hold your dearest mom friends when the season of life is hard and everything hurts. 

You can be the community, right where you are. 

Never doubt yourselves, moms! 

6 People moms think play too much

I live my life in a filtered sort of fashion.

It’s better this way, because on occasion, the thoughts in my head come out. Either in words or on paper. And then you have stuff like this….

1.) The cashier at the grocery store

Seriously?

You actually just asked me if you should bury my chocolate in the bottom of a random grocery bag….instead of placing it in my hand??

Or worse….did you just assume you should bag it, and then cover it with grapes, sour cream and baby carrots?  Did you purposely hide my treat underneath vegetables just to throw me off the scent??

I always thought we had an understanding, you and me. Maybe I thought wrong.

Maybe you want to see the look of panic wash across my face when I’m in the parking lot, stressed out of my ever-loving mind, sweat running down the back of my shirt while my children ask repeatedly if we can go to Chick Fil A while I frantically search for the chocolate bar I was SURE I just bought.

LOLZ

LOLZ

You want to see me go through waves of an existential crisis right next to the cart corral don’t you?

What makes you think that anything chocolate or made entirely out of carbohydrates is not going directly into my mouth the moment my children are strapped into their car seats??!?

Quit playing, and give me my chocolate. Right. Now.

2.) The lady in front of me at Starbucks who is taking too long to order

If this is your first time at a Starbucks, then please, accept my sincerest apologies. Please take four minutes to decide which item you want. It’s a wonderful experience.

But chances are if you’re a red-blooded, coffee drinkin’, tabacca spittin’ American, you’ve been here before. And everybody knows what they drink at Starbucks. They just do. It’s practically as important as your blood type, social security number and Netflix password.

Do you not hear my child melting down in my cart? This is coffee we are dealing with, not missiles. And I need coffee more than you right now.

Quit playing and move.

3.) To the people who tell me to enjoy every moment.

You’re right. I should totally enjoy it when my kid is melting down over a pair of Minnie Mouse swimming goggles.

I should be loving it when a child appears at my bedside at 7 am on a Saturday and asks me to go out to the van to fetch a missing toy for them.

Sometimes, parenting isn’t all that fun. Sometimes, I’m only saying SOMETIMES, moms go through waves of doubt or stress or anxiety at the thought of having to get it all done and over how to best love their babies.

taken parenting meme

Parenting is not something we would change. And because we don’t enjoy every.moment. does not mean that we don’t love being moms. It also doesn’t mean that we need someone to pop up out of nowhere to remind us to enjoy it. That only serves to make us feel worse than we probably already do. 

I know that one day they will all be moved out, and my bliss at having the home to myself will fade to a longing for the good old days of spilled milk and puréed baby food. Let me grapple with that fact in due time while you enjoy cleaning your rose-colored glasses.

And quit playing.

4.) To the parents who don’t watch their kids at Chick fil A

I love it when there are 11 children in the play area at Chick Fil A. I love it even more when there are 11 children in the play area at Chick Fil A AND there are only three adults actually watching them.

I love the idea of a fellow parent being able to enjoy a quiet lunch. But not while their miniature love demon terrorizes mine and all of the other children. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t want to hear 11 different high-pitched screams inside of a 25×15 foot space.

unattended-children-will-be-given-free-coffee-kittens

Just because the wall is glass doesn’t make it any better. Great, now you can ACTUALLY SEE your child sticking their finger in my kid’s eye, as opposed to at home, where you would have to be bothered with that whole getting up nonsense to actually know what’s going on in the other room. Score!!

And no, your five and a half-foot tall child does not belong in the toddler area or sliding down the slide.

So quit playing.

5.) To the Childless people who park right up front at stores or use family restrooms when they don’t have kids.

You’re right.

You and your tiny two-door, shoe-sized car need to park right. out. front.

I know how heavy it is to carry yourself AND your keys AND your wallet.

Please, make sure you race to the nearest parking spot before I can park there with my minivan with three other human beings inside it. I wouldn’t want you to tire yourself out walking. Not when I can surely lug a car seat, hold a death grip on my other children and walk a quarter of a mile to the front of the store. I have two hands don’t I?? #blessed

And while you’re at it, child-free, close parking-spot taking person, you should TOTALLY use the ONLY family restroom at the Target store, even though you don’t have any children or disabilities that would necessitate you doing so.

There is nothing I like seeing more than a 30-year-old woman strolling freely out of the family restroom by herself while my kids are all pulling at their pants, holding on to their business for dear life.

Knowing you had a blissful bathroom experience, when the normal adult bathroom isn’t even full, means a lot to me. I totally wasn’t scanning to see if you had an artificial limb that I missed before giving you stink eye….no worries at all.

Actually, no. You can do your business in the normal, three-foot wide bathroom stall. Because your five minutes spent in three feet of cramped privacy is more tranquil than my entire week. 

So, QUIT PLAYING.

6.) The “I’m tired” person.

I know. I know I know I KNOW

There are people out there who have LEGITIMATE reasons to be tired, even though they don’t have children. 

friday parenting

Like brick layers. The guys who work on oil rigs. Doctors. Or Power Rangers. 

I’m not foolish enough to think that I’m the only legitimately tired person out of all the folks I know. 

But…see, when I say that I am tired, understand that I’ve been tired since…pretty much the fall of 2008. And my house was last clean somewhere in the vicinity of 2013. I don’t have two days off work each week to catch up on sleep. My brain cells were siphoned out of my hoo-ha the moment I popped a kid out. And it’s been a slow, steady leak ever since. 

So when you say you’re tired, pardon me while readjust my eyes to being forward facing, instead of in the side-eyed position. 

And quit playing. 

OK, I’m done. I promise. Back to your regularly scheduled program.