It wasn’t so long ago that I posted a picture on social media of my son in his car seat with loosened straps, and a fellow mother confronted me about it. We were parked outside of our home, and I was in the process of getting him out of the minivan when he stopped me in my tracks by doing something totally cute and completely Kodak-worthy.
To no surprise, it didn’t take long before my phone dinged with a private message from a mother reading: “Hey babe! I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but your son’s straps aren’t quite as tight as they should be. I know what it’s like to buckle multiple kids all at once and getting distracted in the process. I just wanted to send you a friendly heads up.” *insert some kind of smiling face emoji*
I could’ve been snarky with her and stated that we were parked, and that next time, she should try minding her own motherhood, but guess what? I didn’t. I didn’t allow myself to feel offended by her words. I didn’t chastise her for possibly insinuating that I was incapable of following simple car seat safety rules. And above all, I didn’t feel the need to defend myself as a parent.
I did, however, thank her for taking the time to shoot me a reminder before we both went about our day. Because even though my son wasn’t in a moving vehicle with loose straps like this mom likely assumed he was, she still cared enough about the safety of my own child to put herself out on the line and speak up. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I don’t ever want to discourage.
During a time when mothers are judged, or feel judged, for nearly everything, this mom took a chance. She reached out to me on a touchy subject, and because I didn’t attack her for it, she will more than likely feel confident enough to do it again when/if the situation calls for it. Only next time, she might have this same conversation with a parent who has been distracted and is driving around with a child that’s not safely strapped in.
In the process of holding my own tongue, the ripple-effect might just be that I, too, help save a life, and honestly, that alone is worth it.
We always hear that it takes a village to raise a family, but let’s be honest, mothers (me included) take “advice” (what we see as a correction or a direct insult to our parenting) personally. It’s not our fault — society has conditioned us into feeling this way.
In reality though, we all mess up, whether it’s easily visible on social media or not. While fighting for perfection, we’ve forgotten that we are in this thing together. We’ve turned motherhood into a power struggle, teeter-tottering one parent over another. We’ve failed to realize that not everything is meant to make parents feel ugly inside, because not every parent is well-informed on all things car seat safety, safe sleep, or recalled baby products…. and these are the things parents need to know.
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to our children, because catastrophic accidents can happen in a moment.
If I’m doing something that could potentially harm one of my children as a parent, please, kindly tell me about it. I’d rather be humbled for a minute than left to grieve over something that was preventable for a lifetime. I’ll take the awkwardness that comes from admitting I’ve screwed up over the agony that would come from something horrible happening to one of my children and wondering why nobody cared enough to simply speak up and say something.
There’s this quote I love that goes something like this: “Protect all children, even if they aren’t yours.” Of course, there is a right and a wrong way to address safety concerns among fellow parents, and I’ve learned that firsthand.
My middle daughter died from SIDS three years ago, and since then, I’ve made it my mission to spread awareness about the risk factors that can cause such a death. From experience, I know that when you insert yourself into the equation of confrontation, perhaps by saying something like, “I accidentally did this too,” it breaks the ice of feeling like one mother or father finds themselves superior over the other.
I don’t judge parents for mistakes, because I am a parent myself who makes mistakes. If something is said by another mom or dad that is meant in a judgmental manner, well… that says more about them than it does about me.
Still, even with my carefully worded phrases and my good intentions, I’m not always the most well-liked mother of the crowd when I inform others of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ regulations for safe sleep, and really, that’s okay with me.
At least I care enough to try. I’d rather be hated by many than to see one child die a preventable death that I potentially saw coming.
We can’t possibly know it all individually, but with the help of many, we can come close to trying. There’s nothing wrong with not having the knowledge of all things motherhood, but there is everything wrong with boasting in such an ignorant state.
Instead of looking at safety advice from others by way of a victim’s point of view, let’s start to perceive it as one mother looking after another.
We all screw up and succeed in parenting in our own ways, but any attempt to keep a child safe is a win… and I wish more people ought to see it this way.