Monday, April 16, 2012

Parenting Isn't Hard?

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.

13 comments:

Swistle said...

I completely agree with you.

Saly said...

I am SO with you on this! Kids are individuals and people and all that jazz and should be treated as such and yadda yadda yadda. In my experience though, kids are also professional limit testers and button pushers.

Jules said...

I agree with you as well, though in contrast I did see her comparison of this in an adult situation struck a little more closely to home. Parenting is hard when you are working on frayed nerves, some sleep deprivation, worries of your own and having said 15 times in 3 different ways for them to understand to lower their voices or do not hit your sibling. I don't think there is a parent out there who doesn't regret giving a little push or saying in an ugly voice - when the situation didn't warrant it. I think this woman ought to wait a few years, especially to when her child begins to move more independently, and she finds herself pulled in just a few more directions at the demands motherhood can really place on you, and then re-write her take on the situation. Parenting is hard as we are life-givers and teachers yet still learning ourselves.

Scottish Twins said...

I agree with some of what she is saying, but I have a problem with categorizing all corporal punishment as abusive. Spanking your kids for spilling their drink is wrong in my opinion (unless they are spilling it on purpose after being told not to do it again). Spanking your kid because they are throwing toys at their sister for the tenth time of the day after you've tried other discipline methods is just fine in my opinion. And I don't do it because "parenting is hard". I do it because children aren't adults and don't have the capacity to control their impulses, keep attention, and respond to instruction the way adults do.

I think it's dangerous to compare the relationship between two spouses to a relationship between a parent and child. Yes, both are loving relationships, but only one of those relationships involves two full-grown people of equal (well, usually) mental and emotional capacities. Besides, I think that sometimes the more loving thing to do IS to discipline (to teach appropriate behavior) and sometimes when all else fails some children will only respond to a raised voice or a swat on the butt during certain phases of their lives.

I'm just so over the mommy war on this issue. Not everyone who spanks is an abusive ahole to their kids.

d e v a n said...

I'd like to hear from her when she doesn't have ONE INFANT.
Yes, I think all parents have spoken too harshly and regretted it. I know I have!
However, I don't think that makes me abusive. It makes me human! It's hard to imagine snapping at a sweet little two month old, but they don't stay that little forever and yes, parenting IS hard.

kate said...

I agree with you entirely. Also, I'm not sure she's qualified to say. It's just not the same with an infant. Or even with a toddler for that matter. It's effortless not to yell or snap at my one year old, but a whole lot harder not to raise my voice with my four year old.

Tracy said...

I'd like to hear the things she says to baby #2 in the middle of the night when it won't go to sleep at 3am and she knows child #1 will be awake at 5am. Because you know we've all almost said, even if only in a tiny whisper, "Go the F to sleep!" At least those of us who are honest, anyway.

Kalendi said...

Wow, how could anyone say that parenting isn't hard? I'm not a parent but I have many friends and family who are and they have all worked hard to raise their children. I admire and respect anyone who has embarked on the joys and trials of parenthood!

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Oh I so agree with you. And I found myself biting my tongue (literally) to keep from yelling at the author "JUST. YOU. WAIT!" It's awfully easy to judge other parents when you have no idea what is going on in their life and what else they've tried that day/week/month with that particular child. We are all human and all make mistakes. Yes, I've seen other parents berate their children in public and it's made me horribly uncomfortable and upset at times. But I know that if I were given a video of my worst parenting moments, I would most likely be equally horrified.

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