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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Parenting: You're Doing it Wrong, Part III

Sunday, July 18, 2010 By

This is part three of a four-part rant. Read the previous post here.

And then there are the small things that no one articulates; the things that one parent chooses that make another parent uncomfortable. That personal discomfort – despite the fact that they are incapable of logically explaining its basis – is enough for them to judge you a bad parent. It’s like the statement: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” I know women who have stopped returning my telephone calls and e-mails because they disagree with my choices as a parent.
For example, my daughter is anti-clothes – and I get it. It is 101 degrees out there, people, and she’s five years old. So she really likes to run around in nothing but her panties. And I don’t care. If she’s going outside, I ask her to put on a shirt and shorts, but at least a shirt.
People (and some family members) who cannot articulate their thinking – beyond saying “It’s inappropriate” – have repeatedly tried to clothe her, over her very vociferous protests. They shoot me dirty looks and ask me to help them. I do not help them. We are not breaking any laws. And they are stepping into my arena as a parent.
See, they think I do not care. They think I am not paying attention. They think I am making a silly or even a dangerous choice. But they never entertain that their own notions may be inappropriate. Because in this case what they’re doing is sexualizing pre-pubescent children. I think that’s inappropriate. There are psychologists and sociologists who say that we all have it wrong, but that’s an uncomfortable discussion for another day.
Nonetheless, I am a dangerous idiot, according to them. And they do not shirk their supposed responsibility to tell me all about it. I have been chastised. And I have been openly ridiculed.

While I am not an expert, I am also not a dangerous idiot. I do still have my textbooks from Child & Adolescent Psychology classes – and I frequently refer to them when trying to figure out some oddball behavior of my daughter’s. I am Red Cross certified – or was; I’ve let it lapse – in CPR, First Aid, and Babysitting; and I taught swimming lessons for a Red Cross instructor, too. I reported for a parenting magazine for five years, which means that I spoke to both parents and experts on the major parenting issues of the day. I’ve been through “crisis counselor” training at a Georgia university, and I come from a family of educators who have deep academic and experiential knowledge of child behavior, learning and teaching techniques.
In short, I think I’m slightly better prepared than the average parent to tackle the daily and lifelong struggle to raise a moral, ethical, hard-working, polite, mentally stable, merit-oriented and educated girl, in direct contradiction to what pop culture demands that she be – stupid, slutty and attention-whoring.
Yet, despite my best efforts, I am the frequent victim of the Mommy Militia. You know… the ladies who look you and your child up and down like they smell something bad; the ladies who pat their child’s bow-riddled hair to soothe themselves and remind themselves that their child at least looks perfect; the ladies who wear oddly similar uniforms of particular brand names, similar hair cuts and dye jobs, and who visit geographically identical vacation destinations. These robotic women have never heard the phrase “in-group bias” in their lives, but actively seek it out and perpetrate it every day. The kind of women who ask me, “What does your husband do?” And yet they have no concern about what it is that I do.

 And despite the fact that my child rocks, and that I am a little bit awesome, too, a mother crossed the street at July's First Friday to avoid me. Had Emerson been with us, she'd have run delightedly to hug and engage this woman's two children. And the woman would have been cold to her (she's done it before), brushed her off, and hurried on her way. But I was alone. And she avoided me because she does not approve of me.

Well, I have one thing to say to that woman.

Read the next part tomorrow...


  1. I'm with you all the way, and looking forward to hearing the rest!