Parenting is Not “One Size Fits All”

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for awhile now, and for good reason – I don’t have time to write for pleasure.  In the midst of a finance group project, preparing for a class discussion that I have to lead, and various readings that never seem to end, I am taking the time because something is weighing on my mind.

We all have opinions.  Some strong, some weak, some conforming, and others that are just way out there.  As parents, we have even more opinions.  Stronger opinions.  Soap boxes to stand on and lectures to preach.  Because as parents, we recognize that our children are our world.  Everything we do, say, think and feel always has our children at the very heart.  And that’s okay, because they are our children, and they are our world.

We need to recognize, however, that while our children are OUR world, they are not the world to the rest of the world.

I just ran a quick search through Amazon books with the keyword “parenting”, and this is the result:

194,639 results for Books : Parenting

Nearly 200,000 books on parenting.  Those are 200,000 differing opinions on how to parent a child.  Obviously there is no user manual for raising a child and what works for one family doesn’t work for another.  As parents, our first instinct always seems to be a defensive one – attack attack attack any opinion that differs from our own.  Of course, since we know what is best for our child, we somehow translate that into knowing what is best for every child.

And we are so incredibly wrong to do that.

I am choosing to send my daughter to public school when she is 5.  We are lucky and happen to live in an amazing, well educated city with amazing public schools.  We are even luckier to live in one of the best school districts in that city.  I am absolutely 100% confident that Lulu will thrive during her public schooling.

But you know what?  Not everyone is as lucky as we are.  Public schools are grossly underfunded.  Some urban area public schools can be a frightening prospect to face as a parent.  Some children have special needs and don’t or can’t conform to the public school standard.  If Lu had special needs or we lived in an area with a less than stellar school system, I would absolutely consider alternatives.  Private schools and homeschooling are always options.  And even if someone lives in an area with amazing public schools, and they still choose to send their child to private school or homeschool, who am I to judge that decision?  Those parents know what is best for their family, not me.  All I can do is make the best decision for MY child and family.

(To throw a shout out to my SIL – my homeschooled nieces are smarter, funnier, more compassionate, and more well rounded than most adults I know.)

When we become parents, we join this amazing club.  A club of late nights, worries, no sleep, stress, messes, smiles, hugs, joy, happiness, accomplishment, and unconditional love.  Public school vs. homeschool, disposable vs. cloth, SAHM vs. working mom, organic vs. whatever you can afford, breast vs. bottle… these are not one size fits all categories.  I might not agree with the decisions you have decided to make as a parent, but to be quite honest – it’s none of my business.

We are all a part of this amazing, special club where our greatest reward is the love of another human being.  We need to support each other, because we need each other.  We need to listen, understand, learn and sympathize with each other.  Judgement is a nasty thing that only perpetuates nastiness.  Instead of belittling the mom who homeschools, why not ask her why she has chosen to homeschool.  I bet she has a really good reason.  I bet the mom who uses disposable diapers, who feeds her baby formula, or who puts her child in daycare to work full-time has a really good reason too.

Meaningful conversations are scarce these days.  Let’s bring open-minded discussion back.