I happened to make a comment about parenting recently. A woman in the room looked at me and said sarcastically “Well you have raised so many children, I guess you know how to do it best.”
Yeah, it stung, and it seemed to be the kind of comment that had some venom behind it. The people pleaser side of me wondered what I had done that made this person have anger towards me and feel the need to say that (Had I been arrogant? Had I been thoughtless?), particularly since it was a casual discussion and I hadn’t even made a comment that in my eyes required the background of deep parenting skills (or in my mind was particularly controversial.) I said that I don’t understand why a parent wouldn’t fight to spend more time with their children.
In fact, I think not having children particularly qualifies me to make that statement. I understand that being a parent is a privilege denied to many….and yeah, I don’t understand why you would be granted that privilege, accept that responsibility, and not do the work it takes to intimately get to know the person you are raising. Too many kids today are virtually raising themselves because their parents have “more important” things to garner their attention. Many kids don’t have anyone in their life that is focusing on who they really are and who they are becoming and that cares enough to be involved and guide them toward good things.
My slightly defensive response was “True, but I have probably spent more time with children than most parents.” We changed the subject and I avoided that person for the rest of the day. Quite honestly it changed the way I felt about her, and I haven’t decided whether that is appropriate or not. Probably not since I don’t believe we should base our relationships with people on one comment (because I myself have made many an insensitive comment in my time.) So I will go through the process of forgiving and try to forget it. But I haven’t quite gotten there yet. Since then I have thought more about it (a lot….because I tend to obsess over such things) and I decided I have something else to say on the subject.
Having a baby does not make you a parent. Most people would agree with that. But I would go a bit further and say that raising a child, or even a house full of children, does not mean you are an expert at parenting. Even if they turned out well! Even if we would agree that having them turn out well meets the criteria to say you an expert at raising your own children, it does not give you an expertise that is necessarily transferable to other children.
Parenting is not a science, and not even an art. It’s probably more of a gamble than anything else. You can make good bets along the way, even make the best statistical move at every given moment, but still that child can grow up to be a person with major issues. You’re raising a person, one with a mind of their own. A sinner, with the choice to go in whatever direction they choose, or even just sit there and do nothing with their life.
The paradox to this is that you can’t say it doesn’t matter what you do and throw your hands up in the air. You have to try. There is no job more important than parenting….and there is nothing a person can do that will more directly impact the world than how they raise their child. That is why I don’t understand people who don’t expend much of their energy to the task. And why I don’t understand why people are not on their knees talking to God about it every single day of their child’s life. And that is why I stand by my statement. I don’t understand why a parent wouldn’t fight to spend more time with their children. Because you know, I was not granted the privilege of having children of my own, but I have probably paid attention to yours. They need and deserve your best. It makes a difference in who they are and who they are going to be. And it is your responsibility…. and your privilege…. to know them, their strengths and their weaknesses, and teach them how to live life well. Are these other things that grab your attention really more important?
Thank you Kim. What a powerful and timely commentary for me. As the troubled daughter of a troubled mother I have just this week been doing some insightful reading and your blog article enhanced the learning process. So much food for thought. I agree with your point of view completely. Although in my case I chose for emotional and medical reasons not to have children.