My 1-year-old started walking less than two months ago. She liked walking for about five minutes, but she grew bored with it fast. She prefers running, arms up, screaming, in a full-on E.T. impression. She tears through the world, and I’m constantly having to snatch her up when she gets too close to the road. Last week, she was shrieking with joy down the sidewalk when she tripped on some uneven pavement. She scraped her knee and had a bump on her forehead. At one year, you know your kid’s cries. There’s the cry when she’s tired, the fake cry when she wants my attention, and the gut-wrenching cry when she is in pain.
I could have prevented her fall. I could have kept her on the grass. I could have kept her inside. I could have held her unwilling and independent hand through every step. She wouldn’t be bumped or bruised or bleeding. But she wouldn’t be enjoying the world around her like she should be. Bumps and bruises happen. You get them when you run around like a crate of Pixy Stix in human form. You get them when you’re so overcome with the joy of being a kid that you don’t notice a bump on the ground beneath your unsteady feet.
It feels like we’re getting bombarded lately — rapists and guns and terrorists and gorillas and alligators. The world feels like an increasingly unsafe place. And it’s natural to see tragedy and look for other ways it could have gone. We don’t want to believe that any of these things could ever happen to us or to the ones we love. We are smart. We are safe. We love our families so much and could never contemplate putting them in harm’s way. We’re angry, and we’re looking for a place to direct that anger.
I look at the hate spewing out of some people. The contempt for parents who dared to walk around without their child strapped to them, and the presumption that this “negligence” caused their child’s injury or death. The disgust for parents who already hate themselves more than any self-righteous jerk on the internet could. Not having eyes in the back of your head and eight arms and the ability to see 10 minutes into the future is now a criminal offense. Where did you find the audacity to even have children without these abilities?
We fail to see that the child at the zoo or the child at Disney World could have been any of our children. Our fear turns us into irrational assholes. We are without any memory of a single time we were out with our children and didn’t read a sign carefully or paused to engage in conversation with another adult. We forget that — gasp — we have looked down at our phone instead of using our eyes to track our child’s every move. It could never happen to us because we love our kids.
Ours is a society that decries helicopter parenting, but in the next breath will call CPS if we see a 9-year-old playing in their own yard without their mom and a medical professional standing by. We need to admit something:
We are all shitty parents.
You hover too much.
You don’t watch your kid closely enough.
You turned on the TV.
You used a toddler leash.
You’re only teaching your kids to speak one language.
You’ve got your children in too many activities.
You put too much pressure on them.
You’re coddling them.
You aren’t socializing your baby enough.
You breastfed too long.
You fed your snowflake a GMO!
Today, no matter who you are or how you are raising your children, someone thinks you are doing a shitty job. In 10 years, our children are going to be teens, and they are going to hate us. They will make us aware of this often and as loud as they can. In 20 years, they will all be in therapy, vowing to never do as we did when they have children. In 30 years, they’re going to do everything wrong in another parent’s eyes.
God forbid any of us have an imperfect moment broadcast on national television and dissected by every laptop crusader with the gift of stellar parenting. It’s easy to sneer and ridicule another parent when you have the luxury of being your only judge.