01 July 2009
On the outside looking in.... what do you think you really know?
A lesson to be learned in life is never to speak sternly about something that you have no experience with because you may just make a fool out of yourself. For those that feel very intelligent, often times it can be very tempting to feel compelled to "voice one's opinion" on just about any subject matter, but an opinion is not always warranted.
I can remember some years back, "pre-children," when I was pregnant and thrashing around thoughts in my head about the kind of parent I wanted to be. The kind that had "perfect" children who were polite, well-dressed, above average academically and well-mannered in public at all times. Those attributes were key on a much longer list. So that was it! I thought about it and it was going to be. Right!! Now welcome to the real world.
I can also remember sitting around with other non-parents and how we used to talk about other people's children, or even just about their lifestyles and how "we" would be different. Oh the lovely gossip that would take place. Which reminded me of another conversation I had later down the road with another parent. We both had very young children, and I remember him telling me this story:
"Before my wife and I had children, and we used to dine out, we would be in a restaurant and be appalled at all the noise coming from the tables that had families with children. We would sigh in disgust and roll our eyes and agree with one another that we would never allow our children to behave in such a manner while dining out. Today, however, we are now that family !!!" LOL!
You have to love it. You can be on the outside looking in and never have a clue about what it is like to be a parent until you indeed become a parent yourself. You could also be the nicest teacher (with no children) or the nicest nanny (with no children) and still not have a clue about what it is to be a parent. Not until you are in fact, a father or a mother to your own child, can you have a notion about what it is really like to parent.
A non-parent has no clue about what it is like to get up daily not knowing what lies ahead. A non-parent goes about their day mostly able to stick to the plans they have made.
For the parent, your job is absolutely the hardest job in the world because how you go about it directly affects you. You are expected to think of every single thing that would enable your child to be healthy, happy and safe. You may have a child that demands more than you could have ever thought. You may come to realize that never in your life have you ever loved anyone so much that you would be able to make every sacrifice -- first one being -- sleep. Who would you ever give up such a precious asset for?? Only your flesh and blood. Who would you drop everything for as you see them get so sick, cough so much, throw up all over you at 1, 2, 3 o'clock in the morning, fall and hurt themselves? Who would you just hold as they cry and cry and you don't know why? When they look into your eyes and all they see is you as the person who they trust, how do you look away? When you leave for work everyday because you have to make enough money to give them a decent life, but they look at you and think, "why is that so important over spending time with me?"
As they grow up and they start to meet people who are not so nice who may say mean things to them, or do mean things to them, they want to know you are there with them helping them to cope. But you can't be there every moment, so you hope you have been teaching them and nurturing them enough that they feel a sense of security in their hearts that you are with them in spirit (besides God).
As they struggle to consume life and balance school, friends, relationships, sports, curiosity..... you try to parent and discipline when necessary and be understanding when necessary, and just be loving and fun when very necessary. It's a tough program to get right. Obstacles get in the way. Peer pressure is a force to be reckoned with. Things can and do go wrong. What if your child has a serious medical, psychological or mental condition? Speaking from my own experience, it truly gets even harder to be a good parent because your emotions are all over the place as you watch your child with their struggles... it certainly was NOT what you hoped for....for them. You wanted their life to be easy.
What if your child has a personality that may not completely "jive" with yours and so how to keep it all together? How to keep the outside pressures from wreaking havoc on what you are trying to mold and nurture effectively? What about your life, career, finances? If they are not perfect, how do you still parent with an upbeat attitude to make sure it does not negatively affect your child? If your finances are outstanding, how do you still parent effectively to make sure your child does not lose sight over what is truly important and grow up to be a wonderful human being?
There are so many outsiders making judgments, passing comments, giving suggestions. Do this, do that, you should... why don't you? Sometimes much of this sideline chit chat is coming from people who are not parents. Some feel so adamant about what they think parenting is about. They think it is so simple. Why didn't you just.... ?
Anyone who has a child or children knows firsthand that parenting is somewhat of a mystery on a daily basis, always a challenge, sometimes a joy, and sometimes a pain. In the past year, I have managed to share conversations with many parents and I can say we all have this in common -- that is the challenge, mystery, joy, pain aspect of it, but we have our differences. All children are not alike, and all parents are not alike, and we all can not follow the same set of instructions to make our families work. We all do not want the same things for our children and we all do not love our children in the same way. For some of us, our children are the center of our existence and for others .. well, they can speak for themselves.
So for the outsiders looking in who believe they have all the answers, I say to you... "NO WAY!" I say until you become a parent yourself, with your own unique child and circumstances to deal with, you can not make any suggestions or cast any criticism for a situation that you think needs your opinion. It just does not work.
Perhaps in the interim, maybe you would like to babysit sometimes or offer your tutoring skills. Better yet, if you see a family, maybe within yours, or a close friend's and they seem to need some help or advice, perhaps you can just offer to help by doing something constructive that will enable them to get to a better place.