Monday, April 11, 2011

Judging parenting

A friend of mine recently had a big discussion on FB about him witnessing a mother hosing her small son with water after he ignored her repeated requests for him to come inside. The boy cried. It drew the usual range of comments. He asked for mine, but I missed the boat, so will comment here.

My friend doesn't have children himself, but he and his partner are planning to, so they talk about how they would like to raise their children, when they have them. While it is important to share values with your partner, in the day to day reality of living with children, those values aren't always front and centre in all your interactions. Parenting is confronting. You find yourself, and your partner, doing things you never imaged, just reacting in the moment, or just to get through the day. Living with children is more tiring (especially with ongoing disrupted sleep) and more frustrating than you can imagine.

I'm not prepared to judge that mother. Of course, it would have been lovely if she walked up to him, got down on his level, talked to him about what he was doing, turned the activity into a little lesson, and gently guided him back into the house. But we don't always have the time and inclination to do that. She may have just had a big talk with her son about co-operation and consequences. Maybe she's on the brink of divorce, or worried about money, or is sick herself. We don't know the circumstances.

This is what I do know.

1. Parenting advice keeps changing. What we believe now about raising children is likely to be unfashionable when our children are grown.

2. The way society is structured now is not the ideal way for parents and children. It isn't healthy and shouldn't be normal for a parent and child to be alone together all day. It takes a tribe. Families need more support.

3. The only response which is helpful is to try to understand, to offer support, to be compassionate, and to be kind.

1 comment:

maternal said...

I find the experience of parenting very challenging and exhausting. I know that I should not scream at my son, and explain things instead of behaving like a mad woman but sometimes I can't. As you said, you never know what happened to this mother, so better be compasive that judgemental.