Parenting: You’re Doing it Right.
You thought I was going to say you’re doing it wrong, didn’t you? Because that is what we hear most often.
I went to counseling today. Not for myself, but for one of my kids. I’ve never been to a counselor before but my kid is struggling with things that I cannot help her with. It didn’t feel like admitting defeat, or being helpless (my own preconceived notions about taking my child to a counselor). It felt like the logical thing to do when I didn’t have the resources or information to deal with a situation. I didn’t take her tonsils out myself because I’m not a surgeon, I called someone who does it for a living.
Overall, it was really helpful and I’m glad I went. We will go again.
But there was one moment during the session that I just can’t shake. It was just me and baby daddy, and we’re explaining to this nice lady what a sweet and lively child we co-parent, and she starts talking about discipline (we weren’t there to talk about discipline) and she said:
“The very worst thing you could do for a child is to spank them.”
She keeps talking about how under no circumstances is there a reason to spank or yell at your child, unaware of how eerily quiet the room got and how stiff my back became. The most defiant part of me wants to whisper “you haven’t met my kids yet,” but I don’t.
Here’s the thing. I’m not a huge fan of spanking for discipline. I’ve yet to meet anyone that will say “what I really like to do is spank my kids!” But have I done it? YES! I’ve spanked my kids. Their dad has spanked them, their step dad has spanked them, their grandma and grandpa have spanked them. Their aunts and uncles have likely spanked them and if they haven’t then they probably should have. Hell, the neighbors might have spanked them and if they did I would tell my kids they are lucky because when MY neighbor spanked me she used a wooden spoon. (Ok, I’ll probably draw the line at my neighbors.)
All I kept thinking was THAT is the worse thing I could do to my child?
Here I am, sharing a couch with the father of my children, both of us taking the time to come talk about our daughter because we love her that much. And the sharing of the couch isn’t uncomfortable because we are friends. We talk about our kids, we make sure they know that we care about each other, even though we’re not together. We spend time all together as a family, we share meals and memories. We cheer obnoxiously at every single one of their games/concerts/meets/rehearsals. We dedicate most of our time and energy to make sure that their days are spent learning and laughing. I can think of some things that seem worse than the few spankings they’ve received.
It might be debatable about whether or not parenting is the hardest job in the world, but I would put all my money on the fact that it is the most scrutinized job in the world.
I came home to my crazy children, one of which had covered 75% of her face with lipgloss. I won’t let her wear makeup (because she is five) so she smeared watermelon lip-smackers on her eyelids and cheeks. Last week she rubbed it in her armpits after I wouldn’t let her wear deodorant. The eight year old had a complete meltdown and told me I was a horrible person when I wouldn’t let her leave the house wearing a T-shirt and tights. But when they both got in the car without a complaint and buckled their seat-belts without being asked, I told them they were awesome kids.
They do 90% of everything wrong. Every single day. But guess what I focus on when I place a little star on a chart for them, or whatever form of positive reinforcement I’m using at that moment?
The things they do right.
It made me think, as parents we focus on the good in our children, but all we hear about ourselves is what we’re doing wrong. Even though we do the majority of things RIGHT.
If I could I would make a star chart for every parent out there. Goals met are rewarded with wine and chocolate.
You out there that fed your child THREE meals today, you just earned a star! They weren’t organic, all natural, vegan meals? That’s OK. Because you pulled it together enough to provide them with the calories they need to survive. You are doing it right.
You out there who got your child to bed tonight, you just earned a star! Who cares if they are sleeping in their bed, your bed, in the dog’s bed or in the hallway. They will rest their bodies and refuel for another day. You are doing it right.
You out there who disciplined your child today, you ALSO get a star! Maybe you spoke to them calmly and asked them to sit in the middle of their bed for some “think about it time” like my counselor recommends. Maybe you told them you will feed them vegan meals again if they don’t cooperate. Maybe, just maybe, you even had to spank them today. You are still doing it right. You are waking up, day after day, to be the best parent that you can be. You might not be doing everything right. Nobody is. But you are doing some things right. Every single day. That is what matters most. That is what we, and everyone else scrutinizing, should be focusing on.
We all deserve some big, fat, shiny stars for that. Spankings to those who disagree.