Thursday, May 7, 2009

I had to think long and hard about this one, because I know who is (and isn't) reading it.

One of the things that you don’t really anticipate, don’t really understand, before you have children is how many other people will try to force their parenting ideas on you, and constantly offer up unsolicited advice. It starts when they’re infants: Don’t pick him up so much, he’ll get “spoiled.” Don’t let him cry so much, he’ll feel like you’re abandoning him and grow up “insecure” and “needy.” Don’t let him have the pacifier. Don’t give him baby food yet. Why haven’t you given him baby food yet? Take the bottle away. Why are you still breastfeeding? He would sleep through the night if you let him cry a little. Only selfish, evil people make their babies cry all night. If you really loved being a mom you wouldn’t have gone back to work when he was only ten weeks old.

It only intensifies as they get older, and start being able to talk and reason and require some kind of discipline. The looks in the store when they start acting up. The disapproving eyebrow raise when they defiantly scream “NO!!” at you and throw something, like they’re the first kid on earth to do that. The tsk tsk as if you’re a child abuser when you lose your cool for a minute and raise your voice, and the same sound if you try the "ignoring" the crying when you can’t “just leave the store” because you really need to get some feminine products, dammit. All of the questions about why isn’t he potty trained, and aren’t you worried that he won’t be able to start preschool if you don’t get him out of diapers soon, and don’t you want to be done with all of that before the new baby comes? And why does he still have a binky and sleep in the crib at 2 ½? Why do you spoil him and give him yogurt or cheese when he won’t eat what you’ve made, just take the plate away and let him starve a little, he’ll learn. Don’t you know children his age shouldn't watch TV???

This week, I had to draw the proverbial line in the sand. Up until now, I’ve been pretty secure in my parenting choices, never feeling the need to defend what we choose to do with J to anyone else. I’ve never had a problem saying, “well, it’s just what works for us,” or “I know some kids are like that, but not mine, so that’s not what we do.” I’ve haven't felt like someone was truly judging what we do or questioning whether we are good parents. Until this week. We had an out-of-town visitor, who hasn’t seen J in quite awhile. Since he was an infant, really. Usually, when people meet J for the first time, they comment on how cute he is, or how well-spoken, or how well-behaved he is. Sure, he has his moments like all newly-minted three year olds, but for the most part no one has ever said anything really negative about him. This person, however, within a few hours of being with us and witnessing one – JUST ONE – act of defiance that resulted in a few minutes on the Timeout Rug, made a proclamation that made my blood boil. This Judgmental Person turned to us, and said, “Wow, he's kind of out of control. He needs real discipline.” Then they called him...."bad." In front of him. And then. AND THEN. They told me I should spank my 3-year-old, my sweet, kind, smart, mostly well-behaved little boy, with a belt. A BELT!! Then they accused us of being bad parents. In those words. As in, "I'm surprised that you are such bad parents."


Imagine their surprise (and quite honestly mine and TH’s) when I flipped out a little. And then flipped out a lot. I’ve had a few “mama bear” moments, where I made a little snarky reply to some thoughtless comment or even huffily gathered up my kid and left. But this time, I was really, really, really pissed. Pissed that someone could spend a few hours with my beautiful family and only have something negative to say. Angry that they felt such little respect for my son, who understands so much more than we realize, that they called him names right in front of his face. Incensed that someone who isn’t here with us day in and day out, who isn’t privy to the many conversations that TH and I have had about How Exactly We’re Going to Do This Parenting Thing, felt that they had any right to say anything about what we do or don’t do with our kid. Blog world, you would have been proud. I really stood up for myself, stood up for us. I don’t care if you believe in spanking or not. It has nothing to do with me if you were “raised the old-fashioned way.” (So was I, Judgmental Person. So was I.) When it boils down to it, sometimes as a parent you have to decide if you believe something is wrong or right for your family, no matter if it’s something your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents did “and you turned out fine.” TH and I have been dancing around this issue, To Spank or Not to Spank, for some time, and this week it finally crystallized for me in a way that it hasn’t before. I’m not saying the occasional pop on the butt is child abuse. But spank my kid with a belt? For being a little kid? NO.





I am J’s mother. TH is his father. WE MAKE THE DECISIONS. Not because we don’t know any better, or because we can’t come up with ideas on our own so we “probably read it in some modern parenting book,” but because we really have thought about these things. And talked about these things. And prayed about these things. If you don’t like it? Tough. If you don’t like it so much you feel the need to disparage my kid in front of me? You’ll have Mama Bear to deal with.


Steph said...

Oh no! Had your visitor never had children of their own or spent any time around a toddler? There I go being judgy, but really, I have a hard time understanding how someone that has been through any kind of toddler stage could say that. Awesome job standing up for yourself and your family decisions.

LauraC said...

AWESOME. Good job standing up for you and J! And really, that is SO RUDE to say something in front of a kid's face.

Joanna said...

Oh man, I was starting to go all momma bear just reading your post. Good for you. I'm so glad you stood up for yourself and for J.

I wonder how your visitor would have flt if you had told him/her that they were bad and them hit them with a belt?

Maria said...

You are AWESOME! That is what being a Mom is all about. You are doing the right thing for YOUR FAMILY. I hope your judgemental "friend" got the message and isn't such a turd to anyone else ever again.

deebo47 said...

OMG, this issue gets me in my soul, no joke. When X was a toddler, he started having "behavior problems", which persisted until really the last few months (he's in third grade now). We heard about it from everyone we knew - family, friends, strangers, teachers. We worked on it. We struggled with it. My neighbor told me they "felt sorry for me" because I had to deal with his tantrums. A family member argued with me when he was J's age because they said he was "too wild" and "out of control" and I was really offended (you may remember that incident LOL) The truth is, he was being himself, his crazy, busy, genius, overly affectionate, sensitive self. And it took me a long time to grow a thick skin about it and not take it personally. I love him the way he is, and I would not change it. Tantrums or not, he's a wonderful kid, and growing into an incredible young man, and you absolutely did the right thing by defending your baby.

Julie said...

YOU ROCK! I am so proud of you for giving Judgemental Rude Person a talking to! This really hits home with me too b/c I get a lot of underhanded comments about my parenting decisions from my own mom (she is living with us right now). Nothing as extreme as what you describe, especially for such a minor infraction--a belt?? HUH? But I have heard it all from family and strangers about my wild child. Its just like you said, don't you think we as parents make these decisions together, we talk about them, think about them and implement them together--its not fly by the seat of your pants parenting and we didn't get this out of some newfangled parenting psychobabble book! Sheesh! So GO YOU!!