Are you a bad parent? Chances are most folks reading this will either simply scoff at the question, or they will answer with a resounding "no" (with the exception of my friend Karin, who responded to the question asking "Where should I start?").
OK, question number two: Do you think that you have ever parented in a way that other parents might have judged you as a bad parent? Hmmm, that one's a little tougher. Especially considering how we, as parents, are so judgmental of one another.
Here's one that might be a little easier to answer truthfully: Do you feel that you are generally a good parent who makes the right decisions by your children, but admittedly have had a parenting moment or two of which you are not proud? I suspect that many might still be embarrassed to admit it, but they probably fall into this category.
The truth is that no parent is perfect. And if you plan to argue this point with me, please don't. You will not convince me. And if you truly believe that you are a perfect parent, you are probably far from it. Some people think that I am a perfectionist and that I demand perfection of others. Not true. Perfection is elusive. Perfection is impossible. And if you truly spend your time obsessing over being a perfect parent, well then you've failed being perfect simply by obsessing over it.
Having been a kid yourself does not make you an expert on how to be a good parent. And if you are the type that professes that you are great parent because you've never made the same mistakes your parents made, well bully for you. Guess what: You've probably made plenty of your own gaffes to make up for it.
Now that I'm done with the there-are-no-perfect-parents lecture, let's get to some of that judgmental stuff, at which, I mentioned, we as parents excel.
Recently, I heard of a mom blogger who decided to allow her young son to dress in a Halloween costume presumably intended for girls. This mom indicated that her son, a big Scooby-Doo fan, decided that he wanted to dress as Daphne for Halloween. If you live under a rock and do not know what a Daphne-costume looks like, suffice to say that with a purple dress, pink tights, and a matching headband attached to long flowing red hair, this is clearly a feminine outfit. Mom blogged about how her son's costume prompted some very negative reactions, not from other pre-schoolers, but from their overtly judgmental and confrontational mothers. Seriously? Are we so condemnatory and self-righteous these days that these buttinskies apparently felt it was their duty, if not their right, to confront this mother about her child's gender-bending Halloween costume? Would their reactions have been the same if they saw my daughter dressing up this year as a football player? The cross-dressing boy's mom was not being a bad parent. But the busy-bodies at her kid's preschool thought she was and apparently told her so.
I was listening to a talk radio program today as they discussed childhood obesity and a Yale report that blamed the problem on fast food restaurants advertising to kids. What started out as a meaningful discussion on parental responsibility as it pertains to kids' lifestyle and nutrition choices turned into a denunciation of a culture whereby many mothers work "and never cook meals anymore."
Well that didn't take long. It seems so trendy, the most self-righteous suggesting that we are all going to hell because as a society we no longer live like the Cleavers. Newsflash to all of you sanctimonious haters: Just because mothers decide to work outside of the home, whether out of necessity or choice, does not make them bad parents.
With that said, I have had some of those bad parenting moments of which I am not proud. I recall one time when I took my 12 month old on a 45-minute trip not realizing until I got to my destination that I forgot to buckle her in her car seat. That was a mistake over which I tormented for quite some time. There were other times when I was late for school meetings or assemblies, or I neglected to volunteer for my kids' parties or trips. While I may have felt guilt, I have learned to recognize that life happens and good parenting does not require flawless parenting.
Parenting is a tremendously difficult job. Anyone who is a parent knows this. And no books or manuals can teach you, or guide you, or prepare you to deal with the most complex job that ever existed. You can endeavor to be the best. But I suspect that good parenting comes from learning from your mistakes and striving to make the best decisions regarding the way you rear your children. I guess the best you can do is hope and pray that your children turn out to be good, productive adults. And you can hope that they look back and appreciate the job that you did.