Saturday, August 1, 2015
Our Very Best
The kids were enjoying a "movie morning" with my little brother and I was here, sitting at this very computer, when an article caught my eye.
It was entitled, "The day I left my son in the car", and although I've read a hundred articles of children dying in hot cars, for some reason, I knew that this article wasn't going to be about that. I had this weird gut feeling that this would be a story that I'd find myself feeling rage and empathy and sadness for.
And I was right.
As she bravely told her story of the day she made a split decision to allow her son to stay in the car while she ran in the store to buy something, I was hoping the outcome would be different than what I expected.
The quiet lady who recorded the whole thing and called the police as this mother drove away with her son. The lawyers and court dates and criminal charges. The labels of neglect and unfit parenting.
This could've been you or I. It could've been someone we look up to as a parent. It could've been anyone.
Maybe we wouldn't have allowed our child to stay in the car and play on the iPad for a few extra minutes but more than likely, there would be something that an outsider would believe to be "unsafe parenting" that we could be written up for.
This story brought back an immense amount of anxiety because I've witnessed this before. In fact, I've had personal experiences where my parenting flaws have been viewed as neglectful and even malicious.
And as I've experienced this firsthand, I've struggled with whether my belief in my own parenting style is just a false sense of security I've built. I've wondered if I'm just lazy and incompetent and overconfident in how I parent.
Am I a good mother?
For a while, I struggled with the thought that there are people who don't believe I'm a good mother. But I've come to the conclusion that there are also people who think you're a bad parent---there will always be those people.
Whether they judge because they don't know the full story or they judge because they just don't have the same views, it's ok that they think you're a bad parent. It's ok that they think I'm a bad parent.
It's not ok for our different beliefs to turn us against each other.
I believe a lot of us are "helicopter parents" because of the stories we've heard. We hover over our children because we don't want to be the next mother in the news who let her children walk to the store alone and got her children taken away because of her choice. We are afraid of what others will do to us if they see our parenting flaws.
Even as I type, I can't bring myself to give you examples of decisions I've made regarding my children that others may not deem safe or age appropriate---because what if I write them down and someone turns me in because they don't agree with my views?
It's a valid fear. It's valid because it has happened to the people we love. It is valid because we've seen parents get their children taken away for exact split decisions we have made with our own children.
The only difference is that there wasn't an on-looker who deemed our choices neglectful and we didn't get written up.
But the mother in this article did. And it has happened many times before.
One decision can change you're entire life. We've all heard this statement but what happens when this statement becomes you're parenting nightmare? What happens when you're faced with the fear that your children might not be in their own beds tonight because a court system found you unworthy of raising your children?
This thought gives me anxiety but it also makes me angry.
So many of us are trying to do our best to raise our children to be successful on their own someday.
I know, for me, that is one of my main parenting goals. I have one child who is incredibly responsible but fearful of leaving my side. I have another child who isn't as responsible but would be totally fine leaving my side.
With each of these children, I want them to learn how to grow up and be responsible for themselves. I don't want them to fear life or be afraid that something bad will happen to them.
I'll admit, I've had visions of my children being snatched up by a stranger or getting lost in a crowd. I fear their safety even while they are at school. I am a paranoid mother.
But I try so hard not to let my paranoia deter my children from learning and growing.
It scares me to think of them riding their bikes around our neighborhood without me right next to them. It scares me to think about them going to the movies on their own or staying home without myself or a babysitter. But someday, these things are going to happen.
Someday they are going to be able to make grown up decisions on their own.
And shouldn't I, as their mother, be able to make the decision of when they're ready for that responsibility?
We can try and protect them the best that we can but our children are still going to get hurt. They are still going to make mistakes.
And my goodness, we are going to make mistakes too. We are going to do everything we can to make the right parenting decision and one of these days, it will bite us in the butt because someone might not agree or our children might get hurt.
But we teach them the best that we can. We try our damndest to keep them safe when we can.
Our best might not be good enough in the eyes of others but it is all we can do.