Before I had kids, I made all sorts of judgments about the parents I saw around me. I am a teacher, so I was always conferencing with and questioning the motives of my students’ parents. It seemed inevitable. I couldn’t believe the choices they seemed to knowingly be making. How could they let their kids talk to them that way? Why couldn’t they control them? Why were they over-programming their kids? Why were they under-programming their kids? I imagined all of the things I would do differently. Couldn’t they see that they weren’t doing things right?
I am now a parent. I have two young children. I am still a teacher, but parenting has changed the way I look at not only the other parents I see, but also at the kids I teach. There are so many choices we all make each day, but trying to understand each other should be the first one.
Probably the most important thing that I have learned through this exhausting, yet wonderful process of motherhood, is that support from my community is sometimes the only thing that makes a difference. I cannot do this job without other parents. I cannot get through a day without asking questions and telling stories, and laughing and swearing and just drawing in and drawing from my community of parents.
This summer, I sat at the baby pool with my 3-year-old son and watched a young mother with her toddler. I knew the anxious look on her face. I recognized my own expression from 5 years ago as I sat alone at the same baby pool hoping someone would welcome me into the fold. I didn’t know how to ask to be included. I didn’t know how to ask for help. Was this all supposed to just come naturally, as it seemed to for others? How would I know if I was doing it wrong? It turned out to be a very lonely summer. So, when I saw this young mom, I moved closer to her in the pool. I smiled. I asked her questions. She was new to town, and I gave her my number. I texted her when I got home and told her that she could ask me any question about the town or the schools or anything at all. I would help her any way I could. Though I wasn’t new to town when I sat in that baby pool 5 years ago, I was new to mommyhood, and I wish someone had done the same for me.
We need to remember that parenting can feel like a minefield. And no one should be left to figure it out by him/herself. I have developed my community, but it took time. I have found the other parents in my sphere with whom I can laugh as we all just barely survive, but not everyone has, and when they do what they must, and cast into the void that is the internet, they do so at their own risk. There is so much criticism, so much negativity.
So let’s all use www.yellowbrick.me to make the choice to extend the support I did to my young friend at the baby pool. Let us truly be a community of peers. Let us remember that parenting is the hardest and most important job of them all, and that we have all stepped on a mine at one time or another. I’ll show you my scars, if you show me yours!
Featured photo by Calonius, Erik, Photographer (NARA record: 8464439) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons