Recently a friend posted an apology on Facebook. I had not seen the original post, and so can’t comment on that. But the subsequent apology caught my attention. This a very caring person, who is a diligent parent, with four young children. Her apology was for allowing her youngest child to “cry it out.” She is a busy mom, with a baby who apparently is not sleeping. I can imagine that is up all night with one, and then has to stay awake all day to care for 3 more. Apparently she decided to try a new strategy that would maybe allow her and her baby to get more sleep. Feeling frustrated, and likely overtired, she took to Facebook, to vent to her “friends” about her feelings and frustration. Now, once again, I did not see what people’s responses to her post were, as it was deleted before I logged-on. However, based on her apology-post, I can assume that people were less than supportive.
Here’s the thing, if you don’t have kids, don’t comment. Don’t assume you know what someone else is going through, or what you would do if you had kids. The reality is, YOU DON’T KNOW. You don’t know what it is like and you don’t know what you would do. Parenting is a complicated process. Choices are never made in a vacuum, as isolated discreet choices. They are often made on the fly while trying to negotiate a myriad of factors. Take my friend as an example, she cannot decide how she will resolve her sleep “issue” without considering her needs, the baby’s needs, personality, preferences and temperament, her other children’s needs, personality, preferences and temperament, her husband’s needs, schedule, etc. What you choose will rely heavily on whether you are a stay-at-home parent, or whether you have to work. Does your child have special needs? Do any of your other children? Do you or your partner work shift work, or have a dangerous job where being rested is vital?Decisions are rarely as simple as “what is your opinion about letting kids ‘cry it out’?” And the other truth about parenting is that your opinion about things often evolve with experience. What once seemed absolute is often sacrificed on the alter or what we need to do to make our family work better. I find the older I get, the more experienced I become the less I say silly things like, “My children will always…” “My children will never…” or “Why doesn’t that mother…” or “How could they…” with regards to what other parents are doing with their families.
And if you already have children, then you should know better. There are elements to parenting that you only know by experience, they can be, to some degree, universal. But every life, every family, lives their experience in their own personal windstorm of stresses, supports, demands, values, knowledge or perceived knowledge, past experiences, and present reality that can be both daunting and exhilarating. It is this kaleidoscope that shapes each family into its own unique entity. Which is why it is difficult for any of to accurately judge the circumstances of another family. We cannot see their kaleidoscope, we can only see our own. So when we judge, we need to understand that we are not seeing what they see. It would be like trying to lifeguard from the change room.
To all the well-meaning parents out there, I would say, the sad reality of life is that people will judge you no matter what you do. I know many of good parents who make vastly different choices. What they all have in common is that they love their kids and they do what they think is best for them. At the end of the day, we can be a little more kind and a little more careful of the well-meaning rocks we throw at one another?