Let’s Relax On The Parent Shaming

I used variations of the word “shitty” about nineteen million times in this blog entry. This is my preface apology. Also? Running low on free time this morning so I’m opting to leave this note instead of editing for spelling/grammar errors. #Priorities.

I’ve been a Mom for 20 years. That means I started out parenting pre-internet. I went 7-8 years as a Mom before I learned how much I was doing wrong from the interwebs. It wasn’t until I started trying to have child #2 that I realized how many opinions people have about parenting. And it’s only gotten worse since.

The popular parenting advice trend is to find an issue (sometimes multiple issues) that can be easily researched and then blamed for the product of shitty adults. This is easiest done by finding shitty adults who blame their parents for their shittiness. This does two things. 1) It makes shitty adults not take responsibility for their shortcomings and 2) Discounts about a million other factors that come into play when creating shitty adults.

When I had Nikki the first trend I remember is Telling Parents That Letting Babies Cry Makes Adults Who Are Untrusting. Or some such nonsense. We want our kids to know we’ll be there for them! Babies are too young to know better! Cry it out is evil! Attachment parenting is King! I remember really facing a lot of internal debate on this one because I liked many facets of attachment parenting, but Crying It Out also worked for us a bit. I made myself crazy worrying about the adult I was creating in making the decision every night whether or not to let me kid cry or not.

But then I started seeing links that blamed Attachment Parenting for creating spoiled toddlers and preschoolers. And then I saw articles that Crying It Out made middle schoolers who couldn’t make friends. But wait…Attachment Parenting makes high schoolers that won’t want to go to college out of town. And Crying it out makes college kids who do drugs!

Basically I learned that – whatever parenting method you support? You can find articles to support it. There were be tons of well-adjust adults thanking their parents for doing the thing you do. And whatever parenting style you disagree with? You can find research backing you up. There are adults blaming their faults on that parenting style you don’t like. There is evidence for pro/con of EVERY type of parent EVER. Aside from extremes, of course. I doubt there’s any support for starving or beating kids. But hell, the internet can get twisted, maybe there is.

So – what did all this teach me in my early days of parenting with the internet? To read a little here and there, but to follow my gut. Because the truth is? Humans are complex. And like I said before, trying to simplify parenting into Dos and Don’ts removes the possibility for other influences, like genetics and friends and society and media. We are not solely products of how our parents raised us. And while parenting does play a part, I am sick of these trends of shaming parents into believing that if their kids are shitty adults, it’s their fault and their fault only.

Helicopter parenting. Overparenting. Whatever you call it…this is the latest parenting style being shamed by “experts”. And I’m not saying there aren’t valid points to some of these articles, but I hate the idea that now there’s a Mom who makes it a priority to go to every game/recital/play and who helps her child with registrations/conflicts/bureaucracy and who joins their child at the playground/birthday party/school dance – and that Mom is feeling shame now because the world is telling her that she’s raising a shitty adult.

But you know what? Humans are not that simple. That’s why there’s always articles also supporting the opposite side of the argument. There are perfectly well-rounded and responsible adults thanking their parents for their involvement. Just like there are shitty adults blaming their shittiness on overparenting. Yes, parents play a part, but it’s not that simple.

And I say this as an under-parenter. Or…um…what’s the opposite of a helicopter parent? A lighthouse parent? Someone who is there when they’re needed but let’s the boat make journeys without it? Whatever it is. That’s me. I’m the other side of the spectrum so I’m doing it “right” according to all of the articles I’ve been seeing lately. I have hobbies and an identity outside of being a Mom. I miss games all the time. The kids play at the park alone while I run on the track, or play on my phone. I make them take care of most conflicts at school on their own. E deals with beaurocratic nonsense without me all the time.

My kids should be perfectly responsible and self-sufficient adults if the internet can be trusted. But I don’t trust the internet. I believe there are a million other factors in play and I believe there is an adult out there who was raised exactly how I’m raising my kids and he/she is a shitty person and his/her spouse/coworker/neighbor is blaming his/her shittiness on the fact that his/her Mom was selfish enough to have hobbies outside of parenting. Or maybe this shitty adult is self-aware and sees the conflicts in their life and blames them on having a Mom that didn’t make their baseball games are priority.

I promise you. That adult exists. Times a million.

Whatever you’re doing as a parent? There are millions of adults who blame what you’re doing for their failures and millions that blame it for their success.

Basically – we’re screwed.

Instead – why doesn’t our society stop attributing every flaw in every adult to something their parents did? Yes. Parents are important in the development of humans. But they are only important for 18 years and many humans lives another 50-70 years after that. So maybe there are other influences at play? And sometimes parents DO one thing, but DEMONSTRATE another. And sometimes teachers are more influential. Or friends. And sometimes genetics counterbalance everything we do as parents. I may do my damnedest to parent so one of my genetic traits doesn’t manifest but it probably won’t work.

And as parents? Let’s be kind to ourselves. Follow your gut. Don’t ignore advice, there’s a lot of good stuff out there, but don’t think that your child’s success as a human is all up to your parenting. And don’t feel bad if you suddenly think maybe you’re doing something wrong. Change things. Don’t change things. But don’t be too hard on yourself if the internet is telling you what you’re doing is wrong. Parents raised kids for generations without articles online, trust your instincts. And if your kids turn out to be shitty humans? Maybe some of it is your fault. But not all of it. They make their own decisions, let them take some responsibility for their shittiness too. It’s only fair.

5 thoughts on “Let’s Relax On The Parent Shaming”

  1. I think it’s also important to acknowledge that the kid’s own personality/temperament plays a role in what parenting style works best for them. My parents had very different results with my brother and I, mostly because I was a compliant, eager to please, easily cowed child and he was stronger willed, always questioning authority. We both had anxiety, but his was much worse and resulted in academic and behavioral issues which got bad in middle school. As result we have very different opinions on and experiences of how we were parented, even though their philosophy and approach was the same.

  2. I just want to say that the term ‘lighthouse parent’ is perfect and you should really lay claim to it before some half assed researcher does! As a college professor/administrator can tel you first hand accounts of the results of helicopter parenting. They aren’t pretty. I like you am a Lighthouse Parent. My kids know I am there if needed ed the storm but otherwise they manage to figure things out on their own. They both turned out to be pretty independent successful young men.

  3. I remember when my first niece was born, my mother told my sister that this was her first day of working herself out of a job. She said, “your goal, no matter how you achieve it, is to make a self-sufficient, hopefully happy, somewhat well adjusted adult. Every big decision you have to ask yourself, ‘will this help make her self sufficient?’ It doesn’t matter what works for me or your neighbor or friend, it’s what works for you.” my mother thinks that she was a terrible mom to young children, but as her adult child I have to disagree. All 5 of us are self-sufficient, mostly happy, somewhat well adjusted adults who live independent of our parents and have since we went to college. And I’m sure that she did at least one thing wrong according to the internet. 🙂

  4. I agree! And I love your perspective on things. I think people forget that the RELATIONSHIP with your child (and obviously modeling what healthy adult behavior looks like) is the important thing, not the parenting style!

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