So, my post on Scary Mommy found a much, much bigger audience than I would have dared anticipate, and elicited a much, much more prolific response than I expected it would. I guess it’s safe to say that it touched a nerve with people! I don’t want to belabor it all, but, well, I’m going to belabor it a little more anyway. Because I do think this is all worthwhile discussion (discussion, not finger-pointing), and in all honesty I’m really bothered by the more judgmental reactions to what I wrote.
What bothers me is that there are some people who, for some reason, decided that that one piece is representative of my entire parenting philosophy. “Yell at ‘em, scare the crap out of ‘em, and brag about it,” or something like that. I just think that if you really believe that, then not only do you not know me, but you clearly have missed a whole lot of writing right here on this blog about the deep love I have for my kids, the moments of meaningful contemplation, the moments of transcendent connection with my kids that I’ve expressed, the fun we have, the battles I fight on their behalf (from trying to get a reasonable homework policy instituted by our school district, to trying to get a handle on Annabelle’s trichotillomania, to fighting for a fair and appropriate educational placement for Finn). But fine – even if you aren’t a regular reader here and all you have read is that one piece I wrote, I still cannot wrap my head around how anyone comes to the conclusion that that is just what kind of parent I am – I throw tantrums, mistreat my kids, and see nothing wrong with it.
Why did I even write about that incident in the first place (way back in February, when it happened)? Because I felt like a failure. Because I was ashamed. And I wrote that – I wrote that I was ashamed at the way I behaved. I wrote about it because writing helps me sort things out. And I wanted to reach out and say, “This is hard. Is it hard for you? Do you ever feel this way? Do your kids ever make you this mad? Do you ever screw up like this?” Yeah, I guess I wanted validation. Don’t we all? And I got lots. Lots! By far, the main response was along the lines of, “Yeah, it IS hard. And yeah, sometimes I feel that way, too.” And I think a lot of moms were relieved that someone was copping to it. It’s hard to cop to stuff like that. Why? Because there is shame involved. And because we all know that if we cop to our failings, there will be people who will judge us for those failings.
And that’s what I’ve gotten a taste of. Certain moms telling me that they don’t yell at their kids. That yelling is bad parenting, that it’s damaging to kids. That, yes, I should be ashamed. And I’m accused of justifying – even glorifying – my poor behavior.
I grew up with a father whose default method of discipline was the back of his hand or a thick leather belt applied repeatedly to my brothers’ and my naked backsides for infractions like sitting on the furniture without first changing our of our play clothes, or mouthing off, and a mother who used her hands and a big plastic kitchen spoon on us, as well as name calling and threatening to put us in foster homes. I grew up being served for breakfast, cold, what I hadn’t finished for dinner the night before, having Ivory Liquid dishwashing soap poured into my mouth for telling a fib, being made to wear to school every day for a week the same unwashed outfit because I had put clothes in the laundry that weren’t deemed dirty. I grew up being called a “little bitch,” “a slut” (when I was still a virgin), and being told by my mother that I was so awful that people thought there was something wrong with me. My younger brother ran to a neighbor’s house and called the police one day when I was 15 because my mother and step-father were beating the crap out of me.
That is bad parenting. That damages a kid. Yelling? Not ideal. But, come on, people – really?
And seriously, if you say that you don’t yell at your kids, I’ll take your word for it. I just wish I knew how you do it when you’re faced with your kid being just plain obstinate or obnoxious. Oh, you’re such a superior parent that your kids are just never obstinate or obnoxious? Well, please, share your secrets with me, I beg of you.
I have no doubt that when my kids are all grown up, they will look back and have some valid beefs with me about how I parented them. And yelling very well may be on their list. And I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying, can’t we all acknowledge that none of us are perfect? Because you know what? I’ll bet that when your kids are all grown up, they’ll have some valid beefs with you about how you parented them, too. Maybe they’ll be different complaints than the ones my kids will have, but they will have them. Because nobody – nobody – gets through childhood unscathed.
What really stinks is that we are so judgmental of each other (notice I say “we”; I’m guilty as charged, too). Why? Is that how we self-validate, by looking down at other people? All it does is alienate us from each other further, and reinforce this feeling that good parents shouldn’t talk about their difficulties, their failures – because they likely don’t have difficulties or failures. Because they’re good parents! They have this whole parenting thing down.
Well, bullshit, I say.
So, really. Before you hop on your soapbox and tell me how lacking my parenting is, please take a good, long look at yourself first. And if you come up smelling like roses, offer a little empathy and compassionate wisdom, not just cold judgment. Okay?
And that is hopefully all I have to say about that.