This weekend on three different occasions a theme presented itself to me. The theme being whether or not to openly voice opinions about the parenting style of others.
Let me go on record by saying I fall into the “not” category if the question is whether or not to do this. I may have private opinions but I would never make them public, I would never speak out because who made me the expert? I don’t even have kids!
So, here is how it started..
I read a story a local celebrity posted about how they were complimented on their child’s good behavior in a restaurant and how proud that made them. Personally, I was super uncomfortable with the story, here is why:
The specific compliment was how their child was acting like “such a lady”.. I don’t think I need to unpack that one, read any of my feminist posts and it is already covered.
Another compliment paid was how they were good parents because they were not using technology to make their child behave while in a restaurant. The people paying the compliment made it very clear what they think of parents who do this.
- You do not know a family’s story. The first thing that pops into my head is a personal example and that is children on the autism spectrum. Don’t shame a family for using technology if it works, everyone is doing their best.
- I recognize that these people were not trying to shame other people for using technology, but rather pay a compliment to this family for not needing it. My thing is, it is not a compliment if it is cutting other people down in the process of trying to lift these people up.
Personally if I was the parent receiving the compliment I think my response would have been Thanks, but no thanks.
The next incident took place at the grocery. Todd and I popped in to get a few things on our way to a pool party. I was in the deli getting humus when I got to bare witness to what I personally think was some pretty awesome parenting.
This dad was there with his son who was under the age of 5 and his son kept asking him for this and that. The dad stopped what he was doing (picking out potato salad), got down on one knee to be able to be eye to eye with his son, and had a quick talk with his son about it. It was discrete, if I had not been standing right next to them I would not have even noticed it happening, no one else in the deli seemed to. Here is what I liked about it:
- He got on his son’s level. He disengaged from picking out his deli selection and turned all his attention to his son who was asking for something.
- He explained himself and talked it out. He did not ignore his son, he did not pacify him by giving in, he did not dismiss him by just saying no, there was no tone of annoyance or frustration. They talked, he treated him like a human being, he did not patronize him just because he is a child. Respect, I like that.
- He did not make a scene and a result neither did his son. It was a total nonissue.
I was impressed. Did I say anything? Nope. He handled that the same way I would have but so what? That does not make him or me any better than any other parent trying there best. Also, and most importantly, this is none of my business. Just because it is happening in a public space does not mean it should be open for public opinion.
The third occurrence was a bit more involved.
We were at the pool with some friends, it was a public pool at a town home community. It was a busy day at the pool. The adults were on one end of the pool, the kids and families stayed towards the other end. About half way through the day a situation that was escalating on the family end of the pool started scooting closer and closer to us until it was happening pretty much right on top of where we were hanging out in the pool.
There were about 4 or 5 little boys between the age of 6-10 I would say, most on the lower end of that age range, one was clearly older than the rest. The older kid kept pushing the younger ones into the pool and in a way that seemed really unsafe. There were parents right there so while we did notice and were slightly concerned we minded our own business.
Eventually the younger kids were getting tired of it and tried to get away from the bigger kid which ended up with all the kids being right on top of us. That is when one of the dads got involved because these boys were being thrown into the pool in an unsafe way (one hit his head on the side) and right on top of our heads at this point. We moved to give the dad room to handle the situation. It was uncomfortable to watch.
We realized real quick the younger boys were his sons and the older one who was throwing them in and jumping in on their heads was at the pool without a parent. The dad first told his sons to stop playing with the older boy, that didn’t stop the older boy from coming after them. Then the dad escalated telling the boy that if he touched one of his sons again he was going to beat his ass. This still did not deter the boy and again one of the younger boys was injured while being pushed in. Finally the dad came over and told the older boy that if he touched one of his sons again he was going to drag his ass home and speak with his father.
The older boy relented but he found other ways to terrorize the younger boys (holding them under water etc) which resulted in the family with the younger boys leaving the pool. When all the kids were gone from the pool the older boy decided to leave too. This left the pool to all the adults hanging out.
One of our friends went over to one of their neighbors to ask about who that older kid was and why his parents were not with him at the pool. For about 15 minutes there was talk about bad parenting in reference to how the dad handled the situation, and there was plenty of judgement towards the 10 year old’s parents whoever they are because they did not accompany their kid to the pool. Todd and I were radio silent.
The whole situation sucked. That dad was doing his best. His approach may not have been mine but I was not going to have an opinion about that. And who knows what that 10 year old’s story is. Yeah, I don’t think it is safe to let your kid go to a pool alone, I also don’t think it is fair to make other adults parent your kid in your absence.. Still, I don’t know what that was all about. I was not about to say anything.
One of the people we were with had a lot to say about it, and I get it but it doesn’t change things for me. I am sure that dad’s number one concern was his kid’s safety, he was doing his best. And who knows why that kid was there unaccompanied but I am not about to tar and feather his parents either.
I would not pass judgement any quicker than I would pay a compliment when it comes to parenting. When you see a few minutes of an interaction or a snippet of a family’s dinner at a restaurant you are not getting the full story. You might have good intentions with whatever it is you feel the need to say but it is a case of intention versus impact. I just don’t think it is ever a good idea to involve yourself in business that is not yours unless a child or anyone else appears to be in serious danger or something.
I don’t know, I may have this all wrong. I am not a parent yet. This came up a lot this weekend though and I wanted to process it.