I have a friend who said this phrase one time that Dane and I have totally adopted, usually tongue-in-cheek.
“I reject your yoke of judgment.”
Which was my instant fav.
Ohhhhh, Mommy Wars. Or whatever. How many people have written blogs about Mommy Wars? From this side, from that side, from the middle, from neither side but just ABOUT the Mommy wars, etc.?
Here’s my take, though. I think that it basically all comes down to fear. It’s all control, which is all about fear. And I am as guilty as anybody, for sure. Here’s the thing. We argue about what we should or shouldn’t feed to our children or withhold from our children. We argue about where we should send them to school or where we should not send them to school. We talk about how we should discipline them or ways we should absolutely under no circumstances discipline them.
I have read so many posts, books, articles, journals, etc., like probably literally HUNDREDS, about parenting, especially of toddlers (for obvious reasons) and with very few exceptions, they are all basically like adding another 10-lb weight to my back. Every single one.
You know why? And maybe this is just my defensive nature, but the thing is, I RARELY, like as in ALMOST NEVER, find articles that offer suggestions without assigning awful, horrible consequences if you should choose a different “method” or practice.
Like, “If you parent my way, your child will respond in THIS exact way and reap benefits for years to come; and if you do not, you are literally-not-literally driving a huge wedge between you and your child and causing them irreversible psychological damage.” And then they all contradict each other, so that I’m left feeling like no approach is safe.
Well you know what? I reject your yoke of judgment.
Here’s the thing. I did not make my kid. Even those of you who biologically birthed your child, you did not MAKE your child either. You took some actions (bow-chicka bow-wow) and had a little bit more control over the physical-biological process than I did, but you still didn’t MAKE your kid. I don’t know anyone who was capable of personally causing cell multiplication and the instigation of an actual Self, including individual will and personality. You didn’t do it, and you still can’t. You can’t MAKE them anything.
I read an article recently about kid freedom, basically, like how kids used to have these whole worlds where they just ran around and made tree houses and played games in the neighborhood, and now a kid is likely to have something like less than 5 minutes of un-supervised time in their first, like, 10 years of life. It talked about the difference in the way playgrounds are made – not for fun or function but for SAFETY, which nowadays usually results in playgrounds with very little fun to actually be had.
It was basically talking about how 40+ years ago, fear of things like kidnapping or major injuries from playing or illness etc. – those things were actually more likely to happen than they are today, but FEAR of those things today is like exponentially higher. The things occur considerably less nowadays, but we fear them considerably more.
And a big difference, it said, was a shift in thinking about blame. Back then, if your kid fell out of a tree and broke his leg, people said “oh no, what a terrible accident, I’ll bring you some cookies.” Now they say “What kind of parent allows their child in that kind of environment???”
Back then, if a child was kidnapped, people said “That is a HORRIBLE unforeseeable event, perpetrated by a horrible kidnapper.” Nowadays, they say “What kind of parent lets their kid walk home from school unattended???”
There’s an ILLUSION, dear readers. An illusion that is our job to control every single eventuality in our kids’ lives.*
There’s an illusion that nowadays, if a child grows up to rebel, behave badly, choose blue-collar work and quit school, reject faith, whatever other TERRIBLE unspeakable outcomes we can think of – that we parents should have done something differently.
And along with that comes a very dangerous illusion as baby/toddler parents that the actions we take now (putting them in this school, choosing this disciplinary method, starting with this sport or those lessons, limiting TV to this much per day, supplements, dietary choices, home preschool curriculum…..) are FOR SURE going to set our children up to follow the exact path we want for them.
I believe in science, don’t get me wrong. But I also believe in something bigger than that – something sacred, or human, or both, or something. I do believe all humans were made in the image of God, and in foster care training I have learned about SO many unbelievable ways that humans find ways to heal and cope in less-than-ideal circumstances. I hear it over and over again: “Kids are resilient.” Kids have been growing up into Einsteins and Picassos and Apostle Pauls and Roosevelts Augustines and Mother Teresas for centuries without 8,000 interventions found on articles posted on Facebook.
I also believe that humans have an undeniable inherent tendency towards “human” wants that need to be mastered by discipline (self- or parent- in young years) – we innately crave foods that are bad for us, activities that are “fun” but destructive, and we always have a selfish desire first that might be “evolutionarily significant” or whatever but also makes you an a**hole unless you learn how to master it.**
We think we can control enough factors and make our children, and we are making ourselves God, you guys. They have wills of their own, because they are human. They have depths we will never ever ever fathom, because they are made in the image of God.
Matt Chandler talked about this once in terms of faith – he can lay the kindling, keep it dry, establish an environment that is conducive to his kids adopting his faith, but he personally will never be able to make it happen. We can certainly do the best we can to set our kids up for whatever success, but we can’t be God, and in trying we are crushed by the weight of it.
We try to control everything, and we jump to the defense of our chosen methods while lambasting opposing ones, we “research” every tiny aspect of our children’s lives (while there is totally identically legitimate science to back up any one of a billion opposing views), because the world now looks at us and blames parents for any less-than-ideal outcome, and we are afraid.
Control, because of fear.
Well, I reject your yoke of judgment. Kids are different. Moms and dads tend to know best, because they know their kid. Same friend as before once told me “Parent from love. Trust your gut. Apologize when you mess up. Don’t overthink it.” Which is the best advice ever. Make choices based on love for your child, and on the gospel (which includes grace AND justice). Listen to other people’s advice, weigh it and measure it against what you know of your own kid, and take it or leave it. Know that you’ll mess up because you’re a human being.
And for goodness sake, chill.
*Do we be careful, and use knowledge and information to our advantage? Obviously. But do we drown ourselves in this STUDY and that ARTICLE until we are effectively paralyzed and hyper-judgmental of everyone else? How bout no.
**Sorry, Ayn Rand. Some of your people might turn into great architects or whatever but unless they also happen to be freakishly brilliant, they probably just get fired from jobs a lot and have no friends.