By Alicia Harper, REDBOOK
There are times when seemingly well-meaning parents provide unsolicited advice to me about the way that I take care of Aiden.
"Put a hat on that little boy; he must be freezing!"
"Isn't he too big for you to lift him up?"
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Then, there are times when other parents aren't as well-meaning. In fact, they don't provide me with advice at all. Instead, they seem to be judging, well, everything: my parenting style, me, Aiden-everything.
Aiden and I were at the playground one spring afternoon. He was going through his one-day-he's-Dr. Jekyll-the-next-day-he's-Mr. Hyde terrible two's phase. To say that it was a challenging phase for me is an understatement. The counselor in me took a child-centered approach to Aiden's behavior in an attempt to get both of us safely and sanely through this phase. I lowered my expectations, ignored his tantrums, and applauded his appropriate behavior. I was doing the best that I could as both a young mother and a single one.
There was a lady sitting next to us at the playground and when she saw Aiden, she smiled and said, "Hello." Aiden was not in the mood to speak to strangers, but apparently he was in the mood to stick out his tongue at strangers. Which is exactly what he did, to a stranger. Sigh.
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I tried to get him to say "hello" by modeling it for him, but that did not work. This time, he blew a raspberry in the woman's direction. She was shocked. I was mortified. I tried to tell Aiden that it was "not nice" and to get him to apologize, but he didn't. So I apologized to the lady on his behalf. Simple enough, right? I thought that would be the end of our conversation, but it wasn't. The lady, who was understandably not pleased with Aiden's behavior (although, I'm not sure why she would take it personally anyway...he was two!), proceeded to tell me, "He's so rude. He needs a beating." Come again?!
When I responded with a, "I try to talk to him about his behavior," her response was to shake her head and say, "That's why he's so disrespectful...babies raising babies."
I was silenced. I was shamed. Not only was this lady judging my parenting style, but she was judging me-Aiden. I couldn't even muster up the courage to respond to her. I just walked away feeling shocked, sad, and angry. The nerve of this lady to assume that I didn't know what I was doing simply because I was a younger mom… who refuses spank her child!
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But that was then; now, I'm stronger. Whenever another parent seems to judge my parenting style (or me or Aiden), I am no longer silenced. I have a voice and I use it well. Now, my response is always to say, "Well, we're all just doing the best that we can." Because I wholeheartedly believe that, as parents, we're all just doing the best that we can with what we have. And to me, that's enough.
Alicia Harper, M.A., Ed.M. is a single mother, freelance writer, blogger, and recent graduate of Columbia University who's now a mental health therapist. Her life is filled with all things pink, except for the one bit of blue-her rambunctious 4-year-old son. Together they make a great pair, and Alicia chronicles the trials and triumphs of being a young, single mother living in NYC at Mommy Delicious. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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