Parents don’t get a day off

Stand back dears, I’m going to have one hell of a moan now.

Fifty years ago, the best parenting advice you were likely to get was spare the rod and spoil the child. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I prefer my baloney on bread, thank you, and therefore do not subscribe to such notions.

Today , the wise lil nugget most often dispensed goes something like this: “Don’t worry, don’t feel guilty, you’re doing the best you can”.

Which is fine. Because most of us are (although sometimes I really, really wonder about the percentage).  However. The problem with this advice is that the wrong people ALSO take it. The people who naturally assume they’re the world’s best parents because they never spared the ol’ rod, or the ones who know they’re crap but can’t be bothered to do better, or those who have never even wondered how they’re doing,  all seize upon this counsel like the 11th commandment and use it as an excuse to act surprised when things go wrong.

Watching families and listening to their stories, even watching the news, it’s plain to see that the world is full of the results of parents not doing their best. And bad parents come from all walks of life – stupid people are stupid people. There are bad mothers, fathers, single ones, married ones, rich, poor, religious and not. Kak Parents Anonymous truly is an equal opportunity employer.  

I watched a TV show this weekend about a woman who called the cops on her teenage daughter when she refused to obey her mother. Ugly Jerry Springer scenes of mother-biting ensued. 

I totally get that some kids are out of control and shock treatment is sometimes needed. But things don’t get that bad overnight, surely? Unless there was some serious mental illness type situation, there must have been years of incidents, years of mom letting it happen in little ways every day. She sat on her hands and cried to the cops “I’m doing my best, but she doesn’t let me discipline her!” 

Oh my hat, you can’t be serious. I turned it off before she started blaming Satan, the media or MSG. All this lady had to do was pay a little attention from the time the girl was a toddler and they wouldn’t be where they are now. Am I sounding terribly judgemental? I suspect I am, but jeez, it’s hard not be sometimes, isn’t it?

To me, doing your best isn’t making your universe revolve around your children, or letting them believe that it does. It’s not as simple as the proportions of home-cooked veggies to McDonalds. It’s not about following a professional parenting plan to the letter. It’s nothing to do with perfectly behaved Stepford kiddies.

Also, it’s no guarantee that things won’t go wrong, or that your children won’t make bad choices somewhere along the way.  

In my head, doing my best means this: looking into the eyes of the little (or not so little) people whose well-being has been entrusted to me and asking myself – “How is this person REALLY doing?”  And if the answer is not-so-good, for whatever reason, doing my best means NOT GIVING UP, until I’ve found a way to make it better. And that means, first of all, looking at how I’ve contributed to where we are.

Then my job is simple: fix me where I need to and find help where I need to.

I refuse to be the lady who sat on her hands and whined “I can’t, it’s too hard!” My job is to say I can, I will, I am.

Do you agree with Tracy? Is giving up ever an option?

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