By Panda of stayathomepanda.com
Do you know something that makes you a terrible parent? Giving your young child a sugar-laden cookie! Don’t you care about your child’s health? Do you know what else makes you a terrible parent? Denying your child such a simple pleasure!
Either way, you suck. And people will talk shit regardless of what you do.
When our first son was a year or so, we took him to visit his great-grandparents who always celebrate their company with a big feast. When our toddler showed his aversion to solid foods by pushing everything out of his mouth with his tongue, the old-timers (who equate health with appetite) were concerned. They literally said, “That boy don’t eat. Something must be wrong.”
Our second son is much more of a foodie. The only time he pushes food out of his mouth is when he needs to make space for something else. We were excited to show him off to them. It would be a redemption of sorts. I sat him down in between his great-grandparents and put a nice variety of foods on his tray. I smiled in anticipation of their enthusiasm but was met with their concern. They weren’t impressed at all. In fact, they worried I was offering choking hazards and gas-builders. In this moment, I realized pleasing people is a losing game.
Everyone is an expert, especially those who don’t have children yet or those who are far-removed from having young ones. The best you can do is hope all those self-righteous turds make themselves a couple of babies so they will realize how little they truly know.
In our house, we limit TV time. This sounds noble enough, right? If I didn’t place limits, people would certainly talk about how permissive I am and blame my child’s rotten behavior on too much screen time. However, when my three-year-old throws a fit because it’s time for the TV to go off, people suggest I make it less taboo. Allow it completely so it loses its importance.
I get it, but no.
I don’t care what you do in your house, but our 3-year-old would binge until his brain rotted out of his head. Don’t try to talk to him while Curious George is fucking some shit up – he’s in too deep. The severity of his poor behavior directly correlates to how much TV he’s consumed. How about he just learns to adhere to our very fair rules? And how ’bout you, sweet-sharer-of-opinions, learn to trust my judgment when it comes to my children? I swear I’ll do the same for you.
And what about breastfeeding? If you dare give your baby anything but areola before a year is up, you are a selfish-ass-mom. However, giving your one-year-old a breast in public makes you a bit of a weirdo. If you manage to please people with your source of nourishment, you will likely ruffle feathers if you do it too long, not long enough, or too openly. Shame on you one way or another.
What about your demeanor as a protector? When I was new to motherhood, the duty to keep my son safe and healthy was overwhelming, and I didn’t want to fuck up. I watched him closely and wiped his hands constantly. My siblings (who never hold back) told me I was crazy and that I should put him in a bubble. My second came along, and I am much cooler. My job still involves a lot of protecting, but I stand further back with ease. You know what? People still get their panties in a wad. I’m not distracted or negligent, people! I see that my 10-month-old has leaves in his mouth. I have simply come to terms with his peculiar snack choices.
What about the sleep situation? With my first, I followed the warm and fuzzy yet suffocating guidelines of attachment parenting. I slept with him, nursed him through the night, and never let him cry. People constantly made me feel like I was endangering him by not having him sleep in a crib, not to mention depriving him of good sleep skills. Those people were actually kind of right, and we’ve done things differently with our sweet little second born. He actually sleeps in his crib and mostly settles himself, but you know what? I’m still just as hesitant to share our sleep methods with others in fear that someone will shame me for letting my babe cry. I can’t even open those pop-ups on my feed about cribs being a relatively new concept and that for eons babies slept with their mothers, and that’s where they belong. The whole issue is sensitive to me, and unless you are going to tell me to trust myself and assure me that I’m doing great, I just can’t hear your opinion.
Parenting is hard enough with all the self-doubt, good intentions, and high-stakes consequences involved. Not everyone is going to agree with how I do things, but they don’t have to. Being a parent is no different than being an individual – you gotta find your own style and own it. I know that I always have my children’s best interest in mind and do things the way that works for my family.
Aristotle said, “If you want to avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” Smile and nod as people share their criticisms and unwanted advice, then flip them the bird when they turn around (unless they are your grandparents).
About the Author
Panda is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom to two boys, and wife of a resident doctor in Orlando, FL. When she isn’t playing with trains, doing dishes, or having sword fights, she is writing. Her work has been published by Scary Mommy, Blunt Moms, In the Powder Room, and Mamalode. Learn more about her at stayathomepanda.com or on Facebook.