I wonder how long it takes to get over the social anxiety of being a parent. You know how you’re not supposed to bring up sex, politics, and religion at the dinner table? Well, I’m pretty sure parenting is all of those three taboo subjects wrapped up in the hyper, misbehaving, flesh-coloured parcel of your offspring. And once you have one, they’re always at your dinner table.
People often get paranoid about their parenting around other parents but I think it’s just as difficult, if not more so, in front of people who are not parents. At least with other parents, no matter how confident they are (or appear to be) about their parenting style, at least you know they’ve made a mistake somewhere along the way (even if they’re not confident enough to admit it). When you’re not a parent, you haven’t made a mistake, and so it’s presumably much easier to be the “ideal” parent.
I know I am doing better with this. But sometimes I get to the end of the day and I go over what I’ve done and I regret. And if we’ve been out with other people, occasionally that regret gets compounded. Like this: “I should’ve have done this. I bet so-and-so thought I should have done this. Yep. Should have done that. They were probably all thinking that. *Wait.* What if they were thinking I shouldn’t have done that?! What if they thought I was harping? Maybe I should have just shut up. Maybe I made a bigger scene than I needed to. Maybe they thought I was over-parenting, when all the time I thought they were thinking I was under-parenting. I WILL NEVER GET THIS RIGHT!”
And that last exasperated line is the only bit of truth in my entire thought process. Because I don’t know what other people are thinking. And even if they are thinking something, they do not know my family the way I do, so they have no right to tell me what is right or wrong in a certain situation. They don’t know all of the teeny, miniscule things which affect how and why our family behaves as it does.
And neither do I.
I will never get it perfectly right. Some days I will over-parent. Some days I will under-parent. Some days (like this week) I will parent in an acetaminophen-induced fog while laying in bed for four days with strep throat.
But I love my kids and I owe it to them to raise them out of that love rather than out of anxiety over what others think. Or rather, what I think others think.
I find it hard not to go from that liberating thought to a “screw all the rest of you if you judge my parenting!” stance. It’s really hard living under the weight of perceived judgment, even if it is really only perceived and not actually there.
But even if it is there… I owe it to my kids to raise them out of love and not out of anxiety over what others think.
There. That’s my lesson for the day. And that may very well be what lesson I need to learn again tomorrow.