Parenting: Live And Let Live


Early this morning, while I was sipping my first coffee of the day and browsing through my Facebook feed, I came across a thread that made me feel incredibly sad. It was a post about co-sleeping, and one of the first comments was from a woman saying that she believed co-sleeping was fine as long as it was done safely, that she had co-slept with her first child and that she would co-sleep with any future children.

The thing that made me sad was how other moms lambasted this woman, told her that she was uneducated, and said that if she lost a baby, it would be her own fault.

I have no interest in starting another debate about co-sleeping. Quite frankly, I don’t have a strong position about the subject one way or the other. One of my babies slept in a crib, the other co-slept with me. I did what I felt was best for each child, and in both cases, I made safety the paramount concern.

What I do have a strong position about is the idea that the vast majority of parents do what they think is best for their children, most of them research their choices, and most of them do everything they can to keep their kids safe. Unless a mother is being deliberately and blatantly abusive or negligent, she should be allowed to make those choices for her children without worrying about what other people think.

It always fascinates me that a species as diverse as the human race tends to think in such absolute terms, and parents are no exception to this. Many of them tend to believe that there is only one right way of doing things, and it’s their way, and anyone who does things differently is a <insert insulting adjective> parent.

Frankly, I’m tired of it. When will parents just accept that what’s right for them is – well, right for them? The fact that some moms breastfeed their kids until Kindergarten does not give them the right to criticize moms who are unable to breastfeed or who simply choose not to do so. Parents who limit their kids’ screen time should not be accused of being unreasonable, and those who do not should not be branded as lazy. If you let your baby “cry it out”, you are not heartless and mean, and if you pick up your baby whenever he cries, you are not spoiling your child.

Your own personal experience – no matter how tragic – does not entitle you to judge other people. Your child’s autism diagnosis may have come shortly after a vaccination, but you don’t get to accuse pro-vaxers of being uninformed and ignorant. Maybe your formula-fed child developed life-threatening food allergies, but that doesn’t give you the right to tell other formula-feeding moms that breastfeeding would be possible if only they would try harder. If your baby died while co-sleeping, I am truly sorry for your loss, but please don’t go around telling parents who choose to co-sleep that they are potential child-killers.

I’m not suggesting that we all shut up about our beliefs and opinions, or that we stop sharing our experiences. On the contrary – parents who speak out about what they go through can be valuable resources to other parents who are struggling with their choices or looking for information about their options. It’s even OK to be passionate about something that you have a strong opinion about.

Just be respectful about it, that’s all. No blame, no finger-pointing, no judging.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: mariana f. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Teen Series Part 2: “You Don’t Learn Respect, You Earn It”

Last week, I was honoured to have a wonderful guest post on my blog from South African teenager Alex. The post was a candid and honest view of the world from the eyes of a sixteen-year-old. Today, we hear from Alex’ best friend, Victoria Rinfreschi. Vicky is the daughter of a dear friend of mine who seems to have been getting it right when it comes to raising teenagers.

Vicky sent me plenty of words, too many to fit into one post. But I did not want to edit or cut a single word, so Vicky’s post will run in two parts. Here is the first half – uncut and unedited.

My name is Victoria – but I prefer to go by Vicky.

I currently live in Cape Town South Africa, with my parents and my older brother. I’m 16 years old. I’m currently training to be a waitress at my local spur (a South Africa food franchise based on American cuisine). I take maths lit (aka maths for stupid people – no really it’s a waste of life), English, Afrikaans, Tourism, and 2 practical subjects namely Visual Art and Design. I take 2 extra subjects; Sport Science, Italian and an extracurricular; Animation (learning graphic programs and how to animate anything you want).  I’m a qualified level 3 first aider and I write little news articles and draw cartoons for my school’s media portfolio. My parents say I do too much – sometimes I feel I don’t do enough.

When I get out of high school my goal is to study at a graphic collage. I don’t quite yet know what I want to do – but I know my field. The only thing that interests me (and the only reason I go to school) is to draw or express myself creatively in a medium of my choice – be it clay or charcoal/graphite, paint or mixed media, or even just on 3D max, my life revolves around Art.

Okay, so now you know a bit about me. I’m an “artsy-fartys” person, who works too hard, sucks at maths, and takes subjects she finds useless. Good, now that we have that out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. I’m going to write about my personal experience and what l have learnt and know. I’ve had these conversations with my friends on many occasions and I remember the thoughts behind the words. I will touch on what I feel are some of the key mistakes most make – and maybe reading this will help you have that better relationship with your child now , before those adolescent years.

Something that I didn’t mention above is that I’m possibly one of the luckiest teenagers out there. My parents got it right from the start, the Lord knows how they did it – but I certainly don’t.  Working at a family restaurant I constantly see things that shake me. Such as parents leaving their children (ages varied form 3-4 to 7-8) unattended at the restaurant for hours only to return and be upset that they can’t find their kids. Or cursing at their 5 year old telling them that they should go and die because of some arb little reason. You don’t realise it now, but the foundation you lay with your kids from the beginning determines how they will be as teenagers. It infuriates me when parents complain about how their teens are “rebellious” or need to learn respect. Well let me tell you something. YOU DONT LEARN RESPECT- YOU EARN IT! You determine how your children are going to turn out! Every word, every look, every action, imbeds itself in your child for eternity! They might not consciously remember it and you might not either but it’s there, burrowing away at their subconscious and eating away at the relationship you are trying to forge many years later.

I always knew where I stood with my parents. This is key. Everybody craves certainty. We can’t function or grow properly without it! It’s a basic need. It was my certainty that no matter what I said or did – they would ALWAYS love me, they would never take their frustrations out on me and they would ALWAYS (I shall repeat for emphasis) ALWAYS be honest with me. It was this that made it so easy to form such a great bond with my parents and make it what it is today (at the “height” of rebellious actions and puberty). If your child asks a question – no matter what it is, answer it honestly. Believe it or not, we can all tell a lie from a fact and we will question your integrity if you can so easily lie straight to our face. We aren’t going to listen to a hypocrite. Why should we be open and honest with you if you can’t lend us the same curtsy? Besides we won’t be able to trust you – you’re liar. At the end of the day it’s not what’s wrong with your teenagers; it’s what’s wrong with you. As babies we have no say about how you treat us or act around us. But as a young adult we can choose not to take it anymore.

Yes I admit when I grew up I asked some pretty difficult questions; and to be honest I mostly did to test my parents – often I already knew the answer, I just wanted to see if they would tell me the truth. And they never failed me in that respect. Don’t underestimate your child. We know a lot more than adults give us credit for. They always answered me honestly, but they always gave me just enough information that was appropriate for my age at the time.

(Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)