Here I am, minding my own business at a coffee place, when this mom starts telling her best friend how to parent. (Okay listening in on another person’s conversation is not exactly minding my own business. I did consider moving tables. But then what would you have read today?)
Her best friend’s husband spanks the kids. And then the best friend clarifies that her husband does it VERY HARD. And she says again, almost inaudibly: Very hard.
This mom responds: Good. You need to do that.
When a woman needs to softly reinforce the strength of her husband’s reaction, it’s not spanking. I can almost guarantee it.
And the advice-giving mom goes on to say: Children are like puppies. They can be trained and untrained.
Her best friend nods and tells another story. This time about her child being upset at a sleepover and asking to go home. This mom suggests the best friend tells her son: You’re being rude. You’re not really afraid.
At the end, the advice-friendly mom sums it up by saying: You’re my best friend and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but your son is a brat.
And she goes on to detail how it’s all her best friend’s fault. For not puppy-izing him.
(Multiple people commented on the amount of restraint I showed by not yelling or stabbing her. Thank you.)
Look, I get that we all parent differently. And my style of parenting is soft and laid back with a lot of helicoptering when it comes to social interactions and water. I, personally, don’t believe in spanking because the idea of teaching our children to not hit or hurt others, then hitting or hurting them seems counter-intuitive, but I have never unfriended someone for it.
I have hurt my children with my word. I have held E tight to keep him from hitting me — maybe too tight if the situation feels particularly out of control. But I never feel good during or afterwards. I feel broken. I feel wrong.
I am their example of what it means to be a part of our world.
I am their first and strongest vision of humanness.
Therefore, I am also their example of what failures and shortcomings look like. How we acknowledge our mistakes. How we try not to repeat them.
So I have apologized to my children more times than I care to remember. I have walked away rather than scream or hit. I have cried into the telephone. I have used my blog and social media to find humor in the insanity.
They just aren’t dogs or even little adults. They are children. With a small capacity to empathize but a great ability to love. (Okay, they do sound a little bit like dogs.)
We are their parents. They are completely dependent upon us. For everything.
When we are off and wrong and mean and tired, it is terrifying.
When they are off and wrong and mean and tired, it is annoying.
Very, very, ear-splitting, annoying. Even shoulder-sobbingly difficult. But they don’t feed, cloth or shelter us. They don’t decide when we go to bed, when we eat and if we get to spend time outside. (Or most importantly, if we get to play on the computer.)
If I want my children to act different, I must be different myself.
Parenting begins with me.
Epilogue: Children don’t only learn by example. Trust me. But most people, when recalling their childhoods, retell what their parents did that they emulate or run from, not what their parents taught them to do or not to do.