Compassion Vs Show Down
My dad has had a great impact on my parenting. He is a wealth of knowledge. Some advice comes from real life experience, and I am pretty sure, some are just plain old made up. I know, all of it comes from his heart. He once told me that it isn’t until you have children and your friends have children, that you realize who your true friends are. The people who you knew post-children are very different than the ones you know now. Children bring out the best and worst in us. They also cause us to have to make real decisions that impact how we see the world and how we live out our lives. Decisions such as co-sleeping and breastfeeding in the early years and in the later years we have to decide between public and private school as well as everything in between. How do we, as parents, respond to sass from our children? How are we going to teach our children about respect for elders or the importance of apologizing? What about topics like spanking? or hot topics such as immunization and circumcision?
There are so many topics and decisions that come up in parenting that can cause a divide in friendships. How do we navigate our adult relationships while doing our best not to compromise our own parenting choices and decisions?
Living in a world with so many different people in it, we are sure to interact with people we do not agree with, every single day. As I am raising my children I find myself often telling them that they need to be kind and gentle with the little ones that cross their paths. I am often correcting behavior that is causing my children to come across as unsympathetic or aggressive. Am I doing the same for myself? How am I coming across to those around me? The best way to show our children the proper behavior is to model it ourselves. Am I being kind? Am I being gentle?
We are in this together. Parenthood is a community. The largest community out there. People all over the world are raising the next generation and parenting has no language or cultural barriers. We are all thrown into the trenches as soon as that baby is placed in our arms. There is no getting away from it. So, why are we adding to the battle instead of supporting each other?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when interacting with either a lifelong mommy friend or a new mommy friend:
- BE KIND – Motherhood is hard and when we aren’t battling the evil glares of strangers as their eyes, nose, and mouth show us their judgment on how we are parenting our child who is currently throwing a tantrum. We do not need to also be self-conscious of our fellow “trench dwellers”. Offer to watch that mom’s shopping cart while she does what she needs to do to gain control of her wild child. Be a safe place for that mom as she handles this awkward situation. Write a kind note about how you saw her doing her best and leave it on her car or hand it to her in person. We all need kindness. There are enough people out there judging. How about we make it normal for people to show kindness rather than attitude. Let’s be honest, next time it could be YOU with the full shopping cart and the toddler screaming at the top of her lungs. Invest in the crazy moments and throw kindness around like confetti.
- ASSUME THEY WANT THE BEST FOR THEIR CHILD – This one is sometimes hard to apply. We see a mom yelling at their 2-year-old son for picking something off the shelf in the store and it seems like she is overreacting. I mean, it was only one little thing. NO need to scream and cause a scene. What we don’t know is how often she has had to say it or what else had transpired that morning between them. We often are condemned just on the small glimpses people see into our relationship with our children. Before we decide that we have found the “worlds worst mom and should probably call child services, thank goodness I was there.” Let’s assume better. Take some time and observe some more interactions that they have. If their entire shopping trip is cause for concern then maybe you should be concerned. But if it is just one interaction than I am pretty sure she is just a mom. A mom like you. There are areas that we may also need to apply this attitude. When a mom makes a decision for her child that is the opposite of what you would do, we should assume the position of Support and educate ourselves as to why she has decided to make that choice. Only the stories of the parent’s making epic fails of choices for their children make the news. What about those moms and dads who make daily decisions that affect their children for the rest of their lives and don’t make the news. These days we don’t only have to be afraid of a stranger stealing our children, now we also have to be afraid of a stranger seeing us parent in our worst moment and reporting us to the authorities. Here is my take on what we should do. If you see a parent who is struggling to be kind to their child, be their friend. Introduce yourself and be brave enough to confront them like a fellow human than a faceless enemy. Tattle tailing is always the worst when it comes from a stranger.
- AVOID TOPICS AND FIND COMMON GROUND – When I meet a new mom friend it always feels like a first date. Will this new friend like me? Will she agree with how I parent? Will my kid bite her kid? Or is that last one just me? It can be nerve-wracking and exhilaration meeting a new friend. Finding your common ground can come just by asking a series of questions. This questionnaire can also bring up areas of contention. The spotlight can often get stuck on the topics that you disagree on. Depending on the friend or situation this topic may come up often and be hard to avoid. But in most situations, your friendship can continue with ease, just by avoiding this topic. You can come to a mutual agreement to just leave that topic out of your friendship. This is such a great tool to model for our children. Such topics like Santa. If your child has already found out the truth, we don’t want our kids to be “that kid” who spills the beans, so we teach them to keep the secret and avoid that topic with their friend who would have their soul crushed if they ever found out the truth. Let’s apply the same topic to our lives.
- CELEBRATE AND STOP ONE-UPPING – How frustrating is it when you are sharing with your friends a proud mommy moment and they quickly come up with a better story about their child which makes your child’s accomplishment look like a minor deal. I am guilty of this one. We are so proud of our children and some children can do amazing things and some children are just amazing in their own way. I felt this way in kindergarten with my sweet boy. Last year, he could have cared less about reading. I know that reading is not expected from a child in kindergarten but I felt like I was failing him when I would share his minor “alphabet ” accomplishments with my fellow mama friends. Their children seemed to be reading with ease and I was sharing how proud I was of my son being able to recall that “A says Ah”. I am not innocent in this “Child Olympics” as I have been guilty of bragging about my 11-month-old walking and my 18 month old being able to sing a song all on her own. My son was riding a 2 wheeler at the age of 2 years and 11 months. I remember being sooooo proud of his amazing accomplishment. I was not gracious about sharing this information with the world. You better believe you can find the recording of boasting all in my Instagram history. Video and all. I am not saying that we should stop sharing our children’s triumphs and victory’s but we should remember that that isn’t what life is all about. We shouldn’t be thinking up an equal or better accomplishment done by our child in response to a friends story. We should listen. Celebrate and let them have that moment. Your moment will come. It doesn’t always need to be at the same time. Also, it is your child’s moment. They are our children, but, it is THEIR moment, NOT ours! All I can say is, I am so thankful my mom didn’t have Instagram when I was a kid.
- BE BRAVE AND BUILD BOUNDARIES – This one had me thinking. With all that I have said before this, I don’t want to leave without saying that we should be brave enough to set boundaries in our relationships. Not everyone will have the same mindset on parenting as we do. Not everyone will agree with what we do or how we spend our time. So, set boundaries in a respectful way. I find this is the hardest the earlier on in parenting that you are. This is something that develops over time and is done after a lot of trial and error. I remember the early days of motherhood when it was just me and my newborn son at home and the visitors were still flooding in. My husband was back at work and I was there to fend for myself. I got advice from everyone I saw and most of it was harmless. BUT some of it was harmful. Some of it shaped my mind and didn’t allow me to feel free to parent as I wanted to. I lost a lot of precious moments with my son trying to please other people. I wanted him to sleep on his own and I was only doing it because other people told me I should. I would have been way happier if I had let that happen on my own time. I would have been happier if I had bottle fed him. I would have been happier if I had not been so stressed about nap times and bedtimes in those early months of parenthood. I didn’t know any of this until I had baby number two. That is when I realized how much more enjoyable life is when you are doing what is best for your family and not what is best for everyone else, in order for them to stop judging you. Baby number two got a much braver mama than baby number 1. This is not something I regret, it was a great learning experience, but is something I wanted to share. Be A BRAVE mama!!! On that note. Bravery doesn’t have to be accomplished on your own. Surround yourself with people who allow you to “Build up your Brave”. Find your safe place to grow and GROW!
Parenthood is a strange-hood to be in. No one has the same story and no one has the same struggles. We are all dealing with different combinations of personalities and behaviors and circumstances. The one thing we have in common is that we are raising the next generation. What we do and how we react to our fellow earth dwellers is seen by those little eyes. We all know that children have selective hearing, but their eyes never lie. Their eyes see it all. Modeling behavior worth repeating can be hard, but it can also be world changing.