I haven’t been in much of a writing mood lately, which is admittedly odd for me. I’ve had a lot on my mind and heart but really, no desire to try to put words around it. As the year draws to a close I find myself in my usual reflective cocoon, trying to make sense of the last year and creating a vision for the next. I looked up today and realized that December is nearly half over and wondered if I could muster the umph to initiate my annual yoga challenge. I usually challenge myself to 30 days of yoga, even if it’s just one piss-anne posture. It stretches me out, usually makes my body more comfortable and at times more shapely, but finally and most importantly the challenge gives me dedicated time to just sit with memories and emotions, hopes and dreams, the messy and unmessy.
Last weekend, ComplicatedMelodi’s Mimi and I hosted our Add Water and Stir podcast and discussed parenting foibles: the good, the challenging and the ugly. Parenting taboos and challenges have been floating around in my mind ever since. I’m coming to grips with a couple of the reasons why there are so many parenting taboos.
Parent shaming is so dang real.
So a funny thing happened while I was out before dawn this week getting a script filled for Hope. The pharmacist judged me for having my kid on a certain medication.
“You clearly haven’t done your research or you wouldn’t have your daughter on this medication.”
My foggy brain tried to pull it together. “Huh?”
“You could and should be controlling things with diet and exercise.”
“Um, not at 6:15am. I’mma need you to back up on over to that counter and count out those pills and put them in that orange container, m’kay?”
Gosh, I felt like I’d gotten judged all over the waiting area of my local CVS. My ability to make decisions about my daughter’s medical care and well being was openly questioned at the drop off counter, and I felt pretty put off by the whole exchange. The pharmacist didn’t try to educate me, she tried to shame me for making what she believed was a poor parenting decision. Nice.
No wonder we are limited in how we talk about how we parent and the tough decisions we make for our kids. If the pharmacist will judge my decisions, so will Jane Doe.
Everything my kid does reflects on me and my parenting skills.
While reading a great blog (My Perfect Breakdown) this week; MPB was discussing her struggle in deciding whether to be open to transracial matches. It was a great post, check it out. As with many things the dirt is in the details, or rather the comment section; one commenter noted that as long as your child doesn’t grow up to be a criminal then you really needn’t worry about racial profiling or excessive force, especially if you’re in the “midwest.”
Girl bye. #bloop
That comment lit me up, because the subtext is so heavy–”Those parents raised a criminal and he got what he deserved. His parents should have done better.” And let’s not forget “those crazy liberal, east and west coasters!”
Awesome. And folks wonder why I worry about the well-being of my beautiful brown child. She’s got a sharp tongue and a not so quiet loathing of law enforcement because of her early life experiences with them, and I wonder at what point will she get what she deserves?
I grew up in a nice working class neighborhood. Kids played in the street and couldn’t ride their bikes around the block until they hit double digits. Families went to church, celebrated together, cooked out together with Kool and the Gang and Sister Sledge playing in the background. I slept over at friends’ houses. My parents were considered strict, and at times it felt like they were very strict. Other times not so much. It was a nice, wholesome experience. We had good people on our block, and I look forward to greeting them whenever I go home to visit.
And for our most immediate neighbors, 8 houses or so, my generation of kids grew up to be nurses, international attorneys, educators, engineers, members of the armed services, law enforcement and members of the clergy. In the same homes, some of my cohort grew up to suffer from substance abuse, to deal drugs, to rob banks and to murder.
These folks all had siblings who did well, in the same home with the same parents. It troubles me that those parents might be judged exclusively on the kids who grew up to make a mess of their adult lives, rather than the ones who excelled. But because we are indoctrinated to believe we are responsible for our kids (even as adults), as opposed to our kids and that they are a complete reflection of our child rearing, the pressure we apply to ourselves not to eff up is crushing. And the truth is that often we don’t mess up, but our kids may very well mess up somewhere down the line.
If only child rearing, and child rearing while black, were so simple as to just not raise a criminal.
Chile, please exit stage left with that foolishness.
External judgment doesn’t hold a candle to the internal machinations of trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing on any given day. I have come to the conclusion that I’m, without question or competition, my own worst critic. I second guess ohhhh about 80% of my parenting decisions, maybe less, maybe more. I usually ride them out, but I am tossing and turning over them at night.
Calling out for a lifeline? Naw, much too embarrassing. Some well-meaning folks in my life have said some really messy stuff about my knowledge about kids and my parenting so basically my therapist is the only one who gets the full download.
But I do suck in all that negative energy; add a bunch of my own lack of confidence and just backstroke my way through the day of figuring out how to raise a kid, a kid who has some issues. It’s foolishness really. All of it is just a bunch of foolishness. And it’s hard to remember that when you’re just trying to cope with the hard stuff.
I’m now far more careful about passing judgment on Hope’s first parents and their failings. I have no idea what brought them to the places they’ve gone in their lives. I can only imagine that in the midst of whatever it was they went through, they were probably dragging themselves down because it feels like it could be impossible to be successful. I can’t say I know the depths of that pain, but I’ve learned my own pains and fears in parenting this year. And some days it feels really awful.
So how are you supposed to have a reasonable confidence level, especially when you feel shamed and judged and some of that is internally driven?
I swear I wonder how some parents get up in the morning. I guess some just don’t. And we don’t talk about much of this at all do we? The shame of experiencing some kind of “I have no effing idea what I’m doing so I’ll just keep it to myself” drives the quiet. But it’s there. At least for me it is.
So as I muddle through one of my own personal challenging seasons, I guess I’m also looking at ways of considering self-care differently. More positive self-speak, more moments of quiet. More exercise, some yoga, better food, more positive self-speak. More tuning out parent shaming, more tuning out twisted concepts that everything Hope does reflects on me. More effort in reconciling that what I think will be Hope’s long term best, may not what she ends up doing. More effort to just guiding her to be a self-directed, well-adjusted young woman.
And more effort just trying to build confidence in my own parenting skills, however fledgling they may be.
December 14th, 2014 at 12:39 pm
Wow! Great post!!!!
December 14th, 2014 at 5:04 pm
I hear your struggle. I have no doubt your inner critique is the worst I know mine is too. Good news there are no right answers you keep making the best choice you can at the time and with time I hope you can learn to trust yourself more. Don;t stress about those judging you they aren’t walking in your shoes. Like I tell people “if you can’t say something supportive please say nothing”
December 15th, 2014 at 11:52 am
You’re right: there is no right answer. We just slug through. I’m going to have to borrow your comeback line. 🙂 Thanks.
December 14th, 2014 at 6:01 pm
It’s always so reassuring to know that somebody out there actually knows how to live your life perfectly, even if you don’t, no? Nah, right, not really. But seriously, I find it hard not to smack heads when people who have NO IDEA of the context or subtext or beginning or end or even the previous sentence of this one paragraph of any given moment in my day, still think they can offer editing suggestions. You hang in there!
December 15th, 2014 at 11:54 am
Ahh, it is ALWAYS easier to tell someone else how to do something the “right” way! ALWAYS. I’m finding that even me telling Hope how to do somethings is a bit overbearing and spirit crushing, so I have to take some of my own medicine here as well. I do find that I’m giving way more side-eye these days, and I can’t help but think that my eyes are going to get stuck there! LOL. 🙂 (I have no edits to your comment, btw! LOL)
December 15th, 2014 at 10:31 am
I also read that comment on MPB and nearly lost my sh*t, but then remembered that I’m probably just going to prove her point by lashing out as a person of color! So womp womp to her and you’re absolutely correct, GIRL, BYE! Ain’t nobody got time for that…I have that internal struggle almost every day about whether I am a good enough parents to my 6yr old foster, and whether or not the decisions and actions that I take will benefit her or scar her for the rest of her life. i know what my parents did that worked for us, but I have to remember that this child is different…that all children are different and that i can’t blame myself for doing what I think is best, even if i did second guess myself like 5 times beforehand!
December 15th, 2014 at 11:57 am
Re that commenter: Right! Whatever man!
I think all parents struggle; it’s real. But we often struggle in silence because to admit it just doesn’t feel safe. It’s a sad thing. I’m glad it seems folks are willing to talk about it here. Oh if I did what my parents did, all hell would break loose in my house. Hope isn’t me and has very different needs and will never flourish in an authoritative home. So, I’m winging it. So far, I guess I’m doing ok! 🙂
December 15th, 2014 at 9:42 pm
Three words for the first point – pharmacy drive through.
As a midwesterner raising black kids I have one word for my fellow midwesterner – ludicrous, not Ludacris but she probably never heard of him. Someone forgot to tell the lady at our local big box home improvement store that my 11 and 13 yr. old black kids are just as reliable alone as when their old white father turned the corner and caught her giving them the 5th degree.
Lastly, you’re doing a terrific job raising Hope. She’s blessed to have you, imperfections and all.
December 18th, 2014 at 11:49 am
Yes to the drive through. i wish I had been able to call it in but it was a new rx. Re the commenter, what can we say, it was an absurd thing to say. I travel a lot and I love the midwest but make no mistake:I get profiled more often walking through a store in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee and a few other places than I do in DC, ATL, NYC, San Fran or LA.
Thanks for the support.
December 17th, 2014 at 10:30 pm
I absolutely enjoyed this post, thank you so much for sharing it.
First, I really struggled with that comment on my blog. I chose not to respond to it directly as I didn’t feel the need justify the comment with a response. I really struggled with it, but I also really enjoyed the conversation that resulted from that post.
Also, I adore your approach to dealing with all of your stress – “More positive self-speak, more moments of quiet. More exercise, some yoga, better food, more positive self-speak. More tuning out parent shaming…” If we could all do that, I suspect we would be so much happier!
December 18th, 2014 at 11:43 am
Thank you! Seems we’re getting some mutual inspiration around these parts.
Yeah, I respect that you didn’t respond to it. Don’t blame you one bit, but it got stuck under my craw, as we say in the South. It was absurd and I had to say so. Suggesting parents own every dumb things their kid does is just BS and speaks to just how hard the parent shaming pressure really is.
Learning to practice self care will likely have the largest real estate on my 2015 vision board.