“I almost decided to work in childcare,” she said, “but then I decided I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut if I saw someone, I mean a parent, doing something wrong.” I watched her take a few more snips, and I was fairly confident that I was watching her doing something right with my hair. I decided it was better not to argue with a woman with a pair of scissor in her hand, but inwardly, I smiled.
This young woman had meandered to the subject while talking about her child – about six from what I could gather, but it wasn’t just the scissors that kept my mouth shut when she expounded on her theories on chid rearing. To be sure, I have plenty of my own, and I didn’t agree with all of hers. But, with one child with moving into the teenage years and another child whose body needs to follow his spirit into the stratosphere on a regular basis, there’s only one belief I firmly hold. It’s the idea that, with a few extreme exceptions, there’s no wrong way to parent, and that there is an infinite number of right ways to get a kid from cradle to college. Ultimately, I think those right ways are just different strategies, and often, it’s the infinitely unique personalities of the kids that determine which ones we use.
My twelve-year-old, Thing1, was always our easy child – even before we had a Thing2. He had a few weeks of constant screaming while we got the hang of breastfeeding, and I’ve had to carry him out of a restaurant here and there, but he’s always been a serious (read, quiet) kid. Thing2 is not quite so quiet. My social butterfly and a wriggling bundle of Prozac, his never-ending supply of energy creates different challenges. But the tables are turning.
Thing1 is approaching adolescence. His brain is achieving independence. His discovery that his parents are mortal and even fallible results in increasingly frequent challenges of our judgement and authority. I know this is a good and natural thing. I know they’re supposed to start thinking for themselves, but navigating this latest phase of his life and our parenthood has made me realize that we’ll never be experts at this job. We’ll still be in training when Thing2 hits this phase, posing a completely different battery of challenges, and that’s just fine with me.
I’ve always thought the best jobs aren’t necessarily the ones that pay the most but that offer the most challenges and that teach the most. Watching our kids grow, testing us and forcing us to evolve, I know that, not only will we never be experts, but I doubt I’d ever be able to tell another mother, who loves her child as much as I love mine but in a different way, that her parenting style is wrong.
The reality is that the hairdresser and I each want the best future for our children. We may take different paths to get them there, and we’ll certainly take away different memories and lessons from our journeys, but ultimately love will guide both of us. And that’s all good.
Do you think there’s too much criticizing of mothers in our popular culture these days?