This morning, my best friend and I sat at one of those indoor inflatable playground things while our kids burned off energy, and I got all up in arms as I listened to her tell this story about how she was scolded by a well-meaning family member that she was torturing her girls by making them drink almond milk.
I've made a list of all the things wrong with this scenario, but let's start with a little context. First, my friend noticed that her twin girls were both having digestive issues every time they drank milk. So she switched them to almond milk, problem solved. Secondly, the girls love almond milk. Third, they had asked for it and were happily drinking it.
So who was being tortured here? (My vote is my friend who had to listen to her family member's nonsensical judgment wrapped in criticism.)
Honestly, I don't know what compels so many people to have an opinion about every little parenting decision young parents make these days. There are 600 million articles and books and theories and parenting philosophies that we are expected to know before we bring these little boogers home from the hospital. There is a reason we are drilled on the "Don't Shake the Baby" pamphlet exactly 24 minutes after pushing that little one out of the womb. We are expected to have unmedicated childbirths "for our baby's sake," breastfeed exclusively for a year, resist the urge to plug in a paci when our bundle of joy is screaming incessantly at 2 a.m., and you can forget rocking them to sleep! Oh no, we wouldn't want to create a "sleep prop" (which, unfortunately, is not some useful invention to keep overtired parents from crashing onto the floor when they spontaneously fall asleep while scrambling eggs.) But don't let them suck their thumb or they'll be bullied by school kids for doing it when they're 12. Oh, and don't let them actually sleep with a blanket, or they'll suffocate. In fact, here's a super expensive piece of equipment that will sound an ear-piercing alarm if your baby pauses her breath in the night. And make sure you leave the fan on in her room at night or she'll die of SIDS. Ermagerd your baby's feet are freezing! Put a blanket on that child and turn off that fan!
Then, you have sleep training. The Babywise method, the no-cry method, Ferberizing, the baby whisperer method—heaven forbid you just put your baby in your baby bed. You're not supposed to take your eye off of your baby when you're sleeping, but it's not safe to co-sleep. But co-sleeping is the only way to bond with your baby. (Except for breastfeeding; bonus points if you breastfeed while you co-sleep...but don't co-sleep. Ever.) If you pick your baby up when they cry, they'll basically turn into whiny brats who become needy, co-dependent adults; let them cry it out and Child Protective Services will come aknockin'. Do some combination that leaves you with months of no sleep and you start to go looking for that "Don't Shake the Baby" booklet.
Move on to play-dates. You have to have structure, or kids will develop ADHD. If you have structure, your child will expect you to entertain them every minute of the day. If you play with your kids on the playground, you're a helicopter parent, but if you sit and relax while they play, you're an unattached, selfish lazy mom with an iPhone addiction. Quick, someone call Child Services! My kid tripped over his shoelace on the playground while I was checking Instagram, so it's my fault because I wasn't hovering.
Don't even mention the s word. We're supposed to raise little angels who can feel all the feelings and process their emotions like a licensed shrink, but we can't discipline them. I made the grave mistake of taking all three children inside a grocery store during the witching hour one day because we were out of formula, and my two-year-old pitched a fit because I tried to put him in the buggy while he preferred to run amuck through the aisles. He had a royal meltdown, which in turn caused my infant to wail; meanwhile, my four-year-old sprinted off to play "avalanche" with the mounds of oranges in the produce section. I was that mom, and I desperately wanted to spank my middle child for throwing a tantrum and ask all the people staring would they rather me let my kids, who will one day run the country and decide who gets Social Security and who gets euthanized in old age, be out of control in a grocery store? Yeah, let's let these future government officials and business owners grow up in a world where their parents and everyone else tiptoe around them so we don't "break their spirits." The future is bright, friends.
When your child is school age, you're supposed to spend all your time homeschooling, because your child is incapable from learning his ABCs from anyone other than you, and he will basically become a heathen if he spends his time around public school kids. If you homeschool, your child is going to become an isolated weirdo with social anxiety disorder. But don't send that kid to private school, or he'll become an entitled yuppy. And y'all, let's not even address the teenage years. Jesus, be near.
Listen, being a parent is HARD. It's even harder than it was 30 years ago when I was growing up, even though I know that's hard to believe with all the stories our parents tell. ("I had to carry my four screaming children five miles barefoot in the snow" or something like that...) Must we make an issue over what kind of milk we feed our minions? Can we instead just give that girl a handclap for figuring out how to make her child not be so doggone constipated?
I feel like we all just deserve a hug and possibly a glass of merlot (or a bag of Muddy Buddies, let's be real) if our kids are still all alive at the end of the day. No kidding, I am up to my eyeballs in kids and this week I've seriously doubted my ability to take care of them all. (What exactly is the return policy? Four years if you can find the birth certificate? Kidding, of course. Mostly kidding.) In the last two weeks, I've had one child fall down our wooden basement stairs and get bitten by a tick. Another kid ate holly berries (poisonous, apparently) got into an ant bed, stung by a bee, and blistered by sunburn. My third had a stomach bug. Our guardian angels are working overtime and pulling all-nighters. It's like Liam was serious when he said he couldn't wait to meet Jesus in Heaven. (Not yet, Liam, okay?!)
We live in a city with one of the highest rates of child trafficking. Crime is ridiculous. Kidnappings are commonplace. "Good citizens" are being prosecuted for child molestation. Our country is teetering on the edge of becoming a post-Christianity society. Morality is optional, sometimes boring. But we live in fear that someone will call Child Services if we have some standards for our kids. And do I dare bring up all of the dozens of chemical additives they put in foods nowadays because some food industry CEO decided that Wonder Bread and Spam wasn't addictive enough? (Seriously, for all the grandparents out there, have you read food labels lately? Take a stroll through the grocery store, and maybe it will make sense why we're all so freaked out about giving our kids processed foods now.) Why all the eye-rolling if we want them to be healthy, too? Why does that offend others' delicate senses so much?
I was told I was depriving my child for not letting him have junk food. Um, depriving him of what, exactly? A sugar-induced meltdown and preventable diseases like Type 2 Diabetes? And why is that a conversation we have to have with someone other than our child's other parent? Why does everyone care so much? Just be glad that I care about my kids.
No seriously, show some mercy. And maybe some grace. Or lots of grace. Let's just all realize that we're all doing the best we can with what we have. No more parenting-book nonsense. Let's bring back parent intuition and Holy-Spirit-led decisions, and prayer. Lots of prayer. And then, let's quit second-guessing, defending, and apologizing for our decisions to anyone who is not occupying the Judgment Seat. Let's build up other moms instead of criticizing the source of their milk and eggs. Let's give ourselves a little break and stop using perfection as the standard. It's okay to just be content with knowing that we are doing our best. That is good enough.
And good enough is good enough, thank you very much. You moms are doing a fabulous job!