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Bad Parenting: leading us out of the guilt trap

Categories: Bad Parenting, Guilt Inducers

4 comments

I get most of my news from social media.  I’m sure this says something shallow about me, but yeah.  Twitter and Facebook are my sources for What’s Going On In The World (yes, I subscribe to 20,000 feeds in Google Reader but honestly, that’s a LOT of daily pressure that the “mark all as read” button does a lot to relieve).

I do more than just read the 75,000 tweets and the 60 Facebook updates — that’s PER HOUR, folks — that come my way.  Nope, like the good little hunter-gatherer that I am, I also think about what I read.  Put together connections.  Notice trends.  It makes me feel I don’t actually need to step outside my door, because, HELLO, all this action going on via the shiny bright rectangle of a Macbook I stare at 16 hours a day, that’s real life.

[Please insert a huge dose of "this is irony or something" right here.]

So what’s this week’s trend?  I’m so glad you asked.  Bad parenting. Not “bad parenting” as in the scary people who cage their kids or leave them unattended for months while they fly to Africa to meet some guy they knew online (true story), but Bad Parenting as in it’s time to unwind the apron strings and let those kids breathe a little.  They won’t break and they probably won’t need therapy.  Much.

You know the kind I mean?  It’s refreshing, actually.  It hearkens back to a more innocent time, when kids were kids and parents sent them out to play in the morning not expecting to see them back until lunchtime. And it sets the bar low.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it up to here with Attachment Parenting.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, if I had another four kids I’d probably do it all over again with the slings and the co-sleeping and the homemade applesauce and the years and years of breastfeeding.  But there’s a Dark Side to all that, the Guilt Side.  The one that strides manfully into your back yard on a nice summer evening shouting, “Hey kids! It’s time to board the pirate ship!” while you cower under a Bad Mother Blanket of Guilt because after all YOU should be the one out there brandishing a sword and taking prisoners, not Mr. Neighbor Guy.

The bar’s been set too high, and it’s high time we knock it down a bit.  That’s where Bad Parenting comes in. Hey, that cry it out thing?  Starts to sound good when you realize that your evenings could be for adults again.  It’s not easy and it doesn’t work for everyone, but the advice I read is to make a steak, open a bottle of wine, and go out and admire the flowers.  And then, a few nights later when you notice — Hey! We’re alone! And it’s not anywhere close to midnight yet! — thank your inner Bad Parent.

We secretly admire the Bad Parents everywhere, the ones who go off to the Bahamas, kidless, or who make their kids do thankless chores or who show no remorse when missing Junior’s 27th violin recital.  They make it possible for the rest of us to be human, to leave our guilt behind and to enjoy our kids for what they are: small people who will one day grow up and leave us and blame us for everything wrong about their lives.  They’ll do this ANYWAY, so we might as well enjoy ourselves more in the meantime.

So here’s your time to shine: go ahead, spill your proudest Bad Parent moment.  We want to hear.  (And we won’t mock you.  Much.)

[Inspiration for this post from Rachael Brownell (Redsy), Mike Adamick (Cry It Out), and Catherine Connors (Her Bad Mother) via Facebook. Thanks. You guys are rocking the Bad Parent thing.]



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4 comments so far...

  • I have so many already:
    1. If Amelie gets cranky during quiet time and starts to pitch a bitch, I ignore it. She’ll eventually fall asleep and usually, she gets most cranky just before she does as she realizes that, “hey! I’m sleepy and I don’t wanna be!!” I just listen to make sure that it’s not a different, abnormal crying - and keep on with my own nap, chores, whatever.

    2. She stays over at a friend’s house once a month - this month will be twice. We have no family in the area, so anytime her godparents or our friend with the toddler who loves to play with her want her, we gladly drop her off for an overnight. Look, we love her, but it’s this once a month free night that really helps us through.

    3. I don’t usually actively “play” with her. Sure, we play silly games together, sometimes I’ll stack blocks so she can knock them down and I’ll always show her how toys work, but when she’s outside, I just settle at the table and watch her run from one activity to the next without too much interaction from me (except the occasional re-direct or getting up to take something from her).

    I was one of those kids who was promptly kicked out the door in the morning and told to be home for lunch - then kicked out after lunch and told to be home for supper - then kicked out after supper and told to be home by 7 or 8 or whatever. All of us growing up were - and I’m “only” 34. Our parents knew where we were and they were not our playmates. Parents, really, were just a vague and annoying authority figure that seemed to serve one purpose: The No Fun Police.

    I didn’t do much in terms of extra activities because my parents wanted us to just…be. I had swimming lessons, 1 year of ballet and tap (that I hated and that was the end of that), a few years of soccer before the term soccer mom was ever invented (my dad has always been a huge soccer fan and was a coach at a school for the dfeaf for decades) and a few months of gymnastics. But most of my youth was spent outside, whether I liked it or not.

    I would like to be a little more engaged in my daughter’s life than my own parents were - and in a more positive way - but at the same time, I have no qualms about booting Amelie out the door when she’s older and telling her to be home for lunch. And then dinner. And then bedtime. And I’ll tell you now, that over scheduling thing isn’t going to happen. Summer camp, sure. Swimming lessons, a definite must. But all of the other stuff? Meh.

    Frankly, I love watching her play happily with the dog and herself. It tells me that she’s happy, comfortable and feels safe. That’s all I care about.

    Phe  |  June 19th, 2009 at 5:48 am

  • My “bad mother” sins are….
    1) Our 4 yr old daughter asks us to play with her alot. If she wants to play a board game, then yes, we’ll play. But we are not going to sit in her room and play Barbie. She plays by herself really well, she’s got a room FULL of toys, and a CD player. We just have to give her a little push to go entertain herself. Sometimes I feel guilty about it because she is an only child and has no friends in the neighborhood, but whatever. She’s got a great imagination and I want her to use it. Plus she plays with other kids a daycare every day.
    2) Once or twice a month, hubby and I will have several adult beverages, hang out on the deck, and let her watch movies all night. I know its probably way too much TV, but it gives us a nice break on the weekends.
    3) And yeah, we aren’t doing the lessons thing. Maybe swimming, if my hubby can’t teach her. Unless she shows real interest or real talent, I’m not going to spend my evenings/weekends, and what little money we have on running her around to a bunch of classes that she doesn’t need and probably wouldn’t want. She’s really laid back, like we are, and would probably prefer to have our friends over and BBQ.

    Erica  |  June 19th, 2009 at 12:50 pm

  • Phe and Erica, you guys are awesome! I’d love to take about 10 years of my life back and do exactly what you’re doing.

    Karen Murphy  |  June 19th, 2009 at 5:27 pm

  • My almost-three-year-old is GREAT at finding things to occupy herself. Why? Because I really do ignore her quite a bit. I’d much rather read a “grownup” book than be playmate and entertainer. I guess that makes me a bad parent, but hey, I’m fine with that. And when my daughter is a teenager who can amuse herself instead of demanding nonstop entertainment, I will thank myself. A self-sufficient adult woman she will be.

    And I’ll happily pay for her therapy. (We all need it sometime.)

    Robyn  |  June 24th, 2009 at 12:07 am

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