Ours for the Leaving

A balmy 75 degrees. Finally a beautiful day. After being cooped up inside for what seemed like an eternity, this change from the frigged, windy winter weather was more than welcomed. I buckled our oldest son, seven months at the time, into the stroller, tucked a blanket around his body, and off we headed on an adventure. He smiled and squealed at everyone we passed, and I was sure that a little walk around this beautiful, sunny, warm world was just what we both needed to lift our spirits.

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Not long after our walk began, we came across two women who took interest in my blue-eyed boy, although not with the same exchange of pleasantries and adorations I had become accustomed to over the last seven months.

“What on earth are you doing out here with JUST a blanket? That poor boy is going to catch cold! He needs a coat. Are you his mother?”

As they walked away obviously disgusted with my happy, smiling son’s lack of winter clothes on that (75 degree, warm and beautiful) day, I was completely crushed. What I had thought would be a fun bonding experience with my son turned into a glimpse of one of the harsh realities in the world of parenting.

Seven years and four kids later, I have learned that everyone has an opinion about how you should raise your children. And occasionally, despite your very best efforts to do things the right way, one of those “everyones” decides that you need to know exactly what you are doing wrong.

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After seven years and four kids, I’ve also learned another truth: I’m really, really lousy at accepting criticism.

Being a parent, I am completely convinced, is one of the most humbling experiences a person can ever have.

Let your child cry it out. Get your child the minute he cries. Co-sleeping is a wonderful experience for everyone involved. Don’t you dare co-sleep, studies show that’s a bad idea. Feed them rice cereal at 4 months. Wait, feed them avocados at 6 months. Heck, babies don’t need anything but milk until they’re one. Time outs or spankings or counting to three. Breast or bottle, public or private, cloth or disposable. Epidural or natural. It even begins before the baby arrives!

Out of the 7.125 billion people on Earth, not a single one of us are the same. Not a single one of us thinks exactly the same way, has the same idiosyncrasies, concerns, priorities, or personalities, and, that being the fantastic and wonderful case that it is, not a single one of us will parent exactly the same. Nor should we.

Sometimes those comments, right or wrong, can really sting. As moms, the way we parent becomes a part of us. We love our children, we want them to grow into good, kind, loving, normal human beings, and we feel like we are trying our hardest to do what’s best for them. Sometimes those comments are meant to be malicious, to be offensive, and sometimes they just aren’t. But always, always it is our decision how we will take them.

“Certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.” — David A. Bednar

That sting of my first encounter with the realities of opposing opinions in parenting is gone. Looking back, it seems almost silly that I took offense at the opinion of those two women. But sometimes other opinions do sting, and sometimes I have to remind myself that offense is mine for the leaving…If I choose.

Dear mothers, let’s remember that we are all doing our best. Let’s help each other, love each other, and above all encourage each other. And, when something must be said, let’s do our very best to be tactful and kind.

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And dear mothers, when someone tells you something that stings, try not to take offense. Remember all that you do right, and, if needed make some changes. Because, chances are, you really and truly are doing wonderfully.

“May I say to mothers collectively, you are magnificent.” Jeffery R. Holland

In a world where taking offense is so often our first line of defense, I hope that we can instead choose to learn from each encounter and move forward. Oh my, what an incredibly difficult thing to learn! But today, today I’m going to try.

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