Over the weekend, someone on my Facebook page (20,000 Likes!) told me that because I use the cry-it-out method, I’d broken my son’s trust in me, and another said I was cruel and heartless. These were people I’ve never met, who have never met my son, who have never been privy to my relationship with my son, and who have no earthly idea what actually went down, how my son reacted, or what the circumstances were.
I don’t get offended very often or by very much. But being told by complete strangers that I am damaging my relationship with one of my kids and that I don’t care about his well-being because they don’t agree with the way I sleep-train? That got me.
Judge me for crying it out. Judge me for letting my kids watch too much TV, for giving them too many toys, for co-sleeping, or calling them assholes on my blog, or vaccinating them, or using my phone when I’m with them at the playground. I don’t care. Some of that is probably valid.
But don’t question my love for my sons!
We judge each other’s politics, personal hygiene, fashion sense, taste in music, romantic decisions, how we take our coffee, and holding such absurd ideas as Batman is a better superhero than Superman. Judging others is human nature. We simply can’t help comparing ourselves to everyone else and usually feeling like our way is the best way or that their way is wrong.
Parenting is no different except for the fact that it’s worse. Once children are involved, everyone feels invested. They are, after all, our greatest natural resource.
Every mom and dad reading this parents a little differently, which makes sense, because we are all individuals, and each one of our children is a totally unique individual as well. (Forget snowflakes; people are far more different than snowflakes! Snow only has one color, and doesn’t have any thoughts on why Bernie Sanders would make a better president than Marco Rubio.)
There is no universal method for raising kids right, and as a result, it’s common to encounter someone who is raising their kids differently than you’re raising yours. And it’s common to wonder why they’re not doing it the way you are. After all, your kids are perfect, right? Why wouldn’t everyone else want to have perfect kids too? They should do what you do!
I’m no different, obviously, despite my best efforts. I’m an opinionated guy to begin with, but I try my best to stay out of other people’s parenting decisions (except when it comes to vaccinating and allergies and guns.) Because, guess what? I’m human too.
Judging other people is simply part of the deal. It’s baked into our DNA. We can try to overcome it, and in our best moments, maybe we do. But even if we don’t express them out loud, we still have plenty of opinions on how other parents do things and why they shouldn’t do them, despite rarely, if ever, having the full story. Which is fine, I’m not Jesus. Jesus wasn’t even Jesus. Nobody is immune.
What isn’t fine is allowing yourself to judge someone’s motivations. What isn’t fine is assuming that the parent you saw yelling at their kid, or ignoring a tantrum, or accidentally leaving their kid locked in a hot car, doesn’t love their children.
The failure isn’t in assuming your way is better or that another parent doesn’t know what they’re doing. The failure is in the assumption that another parent doesn’t care or is somehow doing something intentionally harmful. Unless you have hard evidence—something a lot more damning than what the Manitowoc County police came up with—you have to allow for the probability that whatever that crazy parent is doing, they’re doing it because they love their kids and they think it’s best for them.
There are countless differences in parenting, from circumstances and culture to methods and techniques. The one constant, the one unassailable truth, the one thing that always deserves the benefit of the doubt, is that we all love our kids. It’s that everything we do, no matter how foreign to you or how wrongheaded it may appear, we do for them.
I may not have a lot in common with you. I may not have a lot in common with how you parent. But the one thing I’m pretty sure you do share with me? It is why you parent. You parent because you love your children, and I would never presume otherwise.
Neither should you.