Although I don’t really know if this is true, you are probably doing a fine job of parenting. Unless, of course, you’re not a parent and you’re just reading this because you know me. But otherwise, you’re probably doing fine. The thing is, there’s no real way to tell if we’re doing alright. And there’s certainly no way for those outside of your family to be absolutely sure that you’re not wacko. We probably won’t know if we’ve succeeded until our kids are 40 and we’re watching them parent their own kids and we think, wow I’m not not sure I would have bought little Jenny that stripper pole for “exercise”.
Our culture tends to over-encourage parents by pretending that we’re all o.k. and whatever you decide/believe/do is right for you. As though there are no absolutes or best practices when it comes to relationships. There may be a wide spectrum of ideas, but there are some absolutes. Trust, for instance, is a pretty key component of any relationship worth having no matter who is involved.
My best example of the “love is all you need” mentality from today is this article about Beyonce and Jay-Z’s new baby. In it, one of the other children of destiny calls Beyonce a “wonderful mom.” Now, I’m sure she’s a lovely person and all, but isn’t that kid like a week old? How could she be a wonderful mom already? As long as the baby is fed and cleaned, you’ve reached motherhood perfection with a week-old baby. Which puts you right on par with cats. When your child is a newborn, as long as you haven’t abandoned your family or resorted to abuse you’ve pretty much got it nailed. Why comment on her ability as a mom? Just say the baby is precious and let’s move on.
This whole I’m-okay-you’re-okay crap in our culture is why it is also a news story that Paula Deen has type 2 diabetes. Of COURSE she has diabetes. Have you seen what that woman has been eating/cooking for the last decade? And that’s just what was on television. There are obviously consequences for putting two sticks of butter and 4 cups of sugar in every dish you make even if they’re vegetables. Likewise, there are consequences for allowing your child to have a cell phone at 8, a Facebook page at 12, and a brand new car at 16. These consequences aren’t necessarily all bad. Paula, I’m sure, is quite happy that her fat-based cooking has made church pot-lucks everywhere tastier while also making her lots of money. And while your kid can call you from elementary school if she needs to be picked up late, she will also have opinions on the best apps for tweens and stunted spelling due to text-speak.
I realize that most of us want to be told we’re doing a good job because our culture also offers unrealistic expectations of motherhood. We are taught that we should be Martha Stewart at home (without the jail time), Hillary Clinton at work (without the philandering husband), and some combination of the “Sex and the City” girls with our spouses (without the angst and sexual over-sharing). But who cares what everyone else is doing? You will raise the best kids possible with the following three steps:
1. Love them enough to be willing for them to be mad at you
2. Respect them enough to see the moment from their point of view, and
3. Teach them some actual morals and values. In our household we’ve focused on integrity, faithfulness, generosity, independence, and a sense of adventure.
People with those qualities are people I want to know. They are people I want in charge of my community. They are people with whom I want to go on vacation. Which is good, because I have to take my children on vacation with me.
The details will work themselves out. Or not. Despite my best efforts I could wind up pulling a granddaughter off the stripper pole anyway.