"being OK with imperfection — in ourselves and others"
November 3, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

 
Interesting read. Buzzfeed isn't purely junk after all.
posted by ECarrell at 10:41 AM on November 3, 2014


*wince of pained recognition*

This is a good piece.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:46 AM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I feel like it's not always acknowledged that kids can be really unpleasant because they basically think their smallest whim is more important than your most urgent need. It's like having a really terrible boss at a vitally important job that you can't quit. Talk about stress!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:56 AM on November 3, 2014 [21 favorites]


I would’ve silently tone-policed

Wait, so thinking that it's not cool (understandable, but not cool) to scream at children is "tone-policing"? Tone is communication. Your tone is more important than anything you say, especially when addressing a child. Jesus.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:58 AM on November 3, 2014


I think that as long as you're not being a total ass (like the parent at the traffic light), you're going to be okay even in bad interactions. Virtually all of my worst moments as a parent come when my kids are honestly not behaving, so even though I'm failing at the moment, at least it's reinforcing good behavior. Not sure if that makes sense.
posted by saintjoe at 11:04 AM on November 3, 2014


Once you have kids you will never look at that parent in the supermarket with screaming kids quite the same, because you know the day they are having.
posted by Artw at 11:12 AM on November 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Once you have kids you will never look at that parent in the supermarket with screaming kids quite the same, because you know the day they are having.

And it's not like there are no terrible parents out there. There are definitely bad parents. But a good parent having a bad day and a bad parent can't be distinguished with 5 minutes of observation. So who knows.
posted by GuyZero at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Artw, it is very much a "But for the grace of God go I" feeling for me, and I sometimes try to sneak in a distracting smile to break the kid out of it if they are especially young.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:21 AM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Virtually all of my worst moments as a parent come when my kids are honestly not behaving, so even though I'm failing at the moment, at least it's reinforcing good behavior.

Truth, provided that you're keeping your perspective about Not Behaving. Misbehaving is relative. My kid's super-good, to the point that it's uncomfortable. Part of development is taking calculated risks, including things that are fun but slightly illicit. My daughter almost never takes those risks. Which in turn conditions her father to expect that she will never misbehave. The reasons I've corrected my daughter or made my impatience visible have, the majority of the time, been more about me and my day than, say, my daughter turning washing her hands into a slightly-protracted game.

I certainly wasn't blessed with the natural temperament to be a good parent, but it is of paramount importance to me that I am one. For that reason, I believe very strongly that part of being a good parent is being a self-aware parent. This essay really spoke to me and I'm thankful to the OP for sharing it. I found this passage particularly insightful:
We are anxious about any number of things — debt, health, our children’s development or grades or behavior, our relationships with their fathers — and we have wiped and fed and shod and spent our last disposable penny on them, to ensure that they look loved and well-tended. Usually, they are, but it comes at a psychic cost. It costs us our calmness; we are expending more of it than we are replenishing.
Everybody who's found themselves reacting to their kid more coldly than the transgression warranted can see the truth in that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:28 AM on November 3, 2014 [19 favorites]


I feel like it's not always acknowledged that kids can be really unpleasant because they basically think their smallest whim is more important than your most urgent need. It's like having a really terrible boss at a vitally important job that you can't quit. Talk about stress!

I don't have kids of my own but have done a lot of childcare, and I agree completely. Children are stressful and often intentionally so, trying to provoke a reaction and they very quickly learn what buttons are the most effective to push. That said, though, I'm ok with "tone policing" that it's not that great to curse at and yell at your children. Kids do plenty of thoughtless and shitty things, but the power imbalance is still there and it just isn't right to turn the full force of adult anger towards them.

(This is also why it's important for parents to have aunts and uncles and grandparents and friends to help share the load. It can be a fun treat for the kid to spend time with a different adult on even a regular day, and when things get super overwhelming for the parent it's critical to have people who can provide a bit of respite care. Some friends of ours were having an emotionally exhausting week a while back and it worked well for everyone (including us, who got some very welcome Kid Time) to have their kids stay with us for a couple of nights, for example.)
posted by Dip Flash at 11:41 AM on November 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Once you have kids you will never look at that parent in the supermarket with screaming kids quite the same, because you know the day they are having.

Hmm... I always see a lot of empathy in those situations from parents and non-parents alike. The other week, I was in a huge supermarket line, and there was a clearly unhappy toddler toward the front. The lady behind me tapped her foot and huffed in frustration until her friend pulled her aside and said, Hey, it's just a kid who's having a bad day. Let it go.

So if you're a parent in that situation (or you have a baby with you on the plane or a kid having a meltdown at Denny's), know that most of us -- parents and non-parents -- honestly do understand and feel for you.
posted by mochapickle at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Since I'm heading into my mid-thirties single, never married, and not looking, I'm often made party to conversations with the rather astonishing array of people who feel qualified to remark upon my apparent lack of broodiness with disapprobation: Why, they always ask me, don't I want to have children? Everyone wants to have children, children are relentlessly and unavoidably magical, and raising them improves your life to an unfathomable degree, one that I will never experience if I (an exceedingly fertile woman) continue to stubbornly refuse to fulfill my inborn role as mother.

The actual reasons are that pregnancy and childbirth remind me way too much of Aliens and I have a very strong, decades-long aversion to infants, but since admitting that you don't really like babies tends to make people think you're some kind of monster, I usually just shrug and say, "Eh, it's not for me." But this is the reason I really want to use now, after RTFA:
People say you parent the way you were parented — and to some primal degree, that will always be true.
My parents hated me. They probably still do, I don't know, and don't care. They were and are just sad people who took their sadness, resentment, bitterness, and anger out on their children. And the hardest emotional work I've had to do as an adult has involved cultivating blind and radical empathy for them and all of their misery. The experiences I had in childhood became very simple with this realization: Misery loves company.

People are often very quick to insist that they, like all other parents, are just doing the best they can, warts and all. I'm similarly quick to bite my tongue in recognition of the fact that no, not all of them actually are. I know no one wants to look in the mirror and say, "Wow, I was/am a bad parent," but I feel like it would be nice if we as a society could provide some kind of safe space for people who might be inclined to admit as much without immediately jumping to taking their family away or telling them they're an irredeemable sociopath for not loving their kids. Because as it stands, "bad parent" is the sort of label that fractures a person's psyche. So even bad parents will tell themselves and others that they're good. And then no one gets help.

Almost every time my mom pulled some literally insane bullshit on me, she'd turn some sort of internal switch, repackage the insanity as a series of increasingly frantic demands that I tell her what a wonderful parent she is, and then use my half-hearted not-worth-fighting-it-inspired monosyllabic grunt or nod as proof of her amazing parenting skills the next time she lost it: "But you said I was a great mom!" She couldn't deal with the reality of her parenting as I actually experienced it, so she flipped the script and rewrote it in a more favorable light. Cultivating blind, radical empathy for her fractured psyche, for her bad parenting, for good and bad parents and children everywhere -- that's the only way out of this. Sometimes I think it's the only way out of anything.
posted by divined by radio at 11:48 AM on November 3, 2014 [31 favorites]


What's the saying? "Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle?"

When I think of how my same-age roommates and I used to snipe at each other, the fallings-out I've had with significant others and best friends -- no wonder I fight with my kids. Not only do we have to live together, but the power imbalance and the imbalance in sheer demandingness on the other side escalate every conflict.

They don't know how to "use their words" yet, and some days it seems like I've forgotten too.

I yelled at them last night when they wouldn't go to bed, and I felt so bad about it that it ended up keeping me awake.

I try to tell myself that I can't expect myself to always be perfect. As long as I'm regretting those temper tantrums of my own, and not trying to justify them as some kind of matter of policy, we'll probably be okay.
posted by OnceUponATime at 11:48 AM on November 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Parenting can be so hard. I've seen some pretty crappy parents, but I've also seen some wonderful ones. Now I get to see my son learn to be a parent. Biting my tongue and sitting on my hands some of the time, but also loving seeing his tender side being given free rein.
posted by theora55 at 12:02 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's some point at which children need to develop a little empathy for the people who care for them, and that normally and naturally happens as a normally patient and understanding parent loses their patience or a little bit of their temper. Lecturing or punishing a colicky baby is clearly too much too soon, but cutting off a spoiled thirty year old pothead's allowance is too little, too late.

Most of it happens in between those, in little dribs and drabs from parents on hour five of relentless "WHY?" questioning, when they've been awakened at 3AM with some inane, non-urgent request, or when they grab a kid's arm a little too hard to keep them from running into traffic. If you don't always respond in some perfect, patient, textbook parenting style, that's OK. Your kid needs to learn that you're human, too.

And the parents who feel guiltiest about those types of interactions are usually the ones who have the least to feel guilty about.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:10 PM on November 3, 2014 [13 favorites]


I try to tell myself that I can't expect myself to always be perfect. As long as I'm regretting those temper tantrums of my own, and not trying to justify them as some kind of matter of policy, we'll probably be okay.

If it's just something that slips out occasionally and due to an obvious stimulus, there's an actual part of a long lesson lesson there for the kid-- their parents (and by extension outsiders) are human too. Kids push, you react, they modify, and it's over; clear narrative, no lasting effect assuming your response isn't way out of line or prolonged.

Children come into this world thoroughly egocentric, and the road to realizing that other people are individuals and not just part of the environment is over a decade long. Those "Oops! I pushed too much," interactions are part of that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:26 PM on November 3, 2014


That parent who was swearing could, very possibly, be my wife, who is an awesome mother and great with the kids. They know when she "loses it" and are exceptionally well-behaved, self-regulating kids. I crap you negative. If the author learned something about herself by comparing herself to the other mom, or by sympathizing with the child in the other car, great. She is making a whole bunch of assumptions and concern trolling/judging that other mom and that's just not cool with me.

She can piss off. Parenting is hard work, and contrary to what she considers appropriate, that other mom could be awesome too. Yeah, we can all do better, but really, I don't care to have this woman's perspective be the benchmark for good parenting. It's obnoxious.
posted by Chuffy at 12:31 PM on November 3, 2014


...the time stretches wherein mothers are expected to groom and dress and feed and lull and entertain and coo and gently correct and educate their children without much help and without complaint...

*boggles*

Oh, wow, I had no idea! I need to talk to my wife about this tonight -- apparently, we're doing it totally wrong!
posted by gurple at 1:10 PM on November 3, 2014


If the author learned something about herself by comparing herself to the other mom, or by sympathizing with the child in the other car, great. She is making a whole bunch of assumptions and concern trolling/judging that other mom and that's just not cool with me.

I disagree. Flavoring your displeasure with "fucking" escalates to a place that's never appropriate. As discussed, sometimes the exchange is about the parent's irritability and not the kid's actions. However, flagrant hostility makes ones motives unambiguous and inappropriately abrasive. It's not the end of the world that it happened, but the parent in the anecdote needs to learn how to keep that final step suppressed. Assuming it's occasionally inevitable, you must make do with just a snap and leave aggression out of it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:31 PM on November 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


She can piss off. Parenting is hard work, and contrary to what she considers appropriate, that other mom could be awesome too. Yeah, we can all do better, but really, I don't care to have this woman's perspective be the benchmark for good parenting. It's obnoxious.

Are you sure you clicked the same article the rest of us did? She's saying exactly what you said about your wife. Maybe you should look into reading the entire thing?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:05 PM on November 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Are you sure you clicked the same article the rest of us did? She's saying exactly what you said about your wife. Maybe you should look into reading the entire thing?

I reread my comment and realized that it was off-base, but was too late to edit/delete it. Live and learn. I would take the "she can piss off" comment out, and I am not sure I would take the rest out. It seems to me that she was clearly suggesting that the mother in the other car was doing something that she wouldn't, and it was some sort of weakness or breakdown. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. I wasn't there, but even so, it is obnoxious to suggest alternative ways for the other mom to deal with her child.

"I disagree. Flavoring your displeasure with "fucking" escalates to a place that's never appropriate. As discussed, sometimes the exchange is about the parent's irritability and not the kid's actions. However, flagrant hostility makes ones motives unambiguous and inappropriately abrasive. It's not the end of the world that it happened, but the parent in the anecdote needs to learn how to keep that final step suppressed. Assuming it's occasionally inevitable, you must make do with just a snap and leave aggression out of it."

I still think she is concern trolling and understand that people can disagree with swearing - I don't like it when my wife does it, but I think my kids have actually learned a different lesson from it...it's a form of communication and what you think about its affect on them is your business, not mine (ours). What the parent in the anecdote needs to learn isn't your business, or the author's, either. It's OK to disagree, I disagree with you.
posted by Chuffy at 3:04 PM on November 3, 2014


I do think that the woman in the other car was being disrespectful and rude to the kid by cussing at and belittling him/her, especially since it was apparently for something as irrelevant as the kid not wiping their mouth. Sure sometimes people lose their temper, everybody's human etc etc etc, but I don't actually think it's too much to ask that an adult have the self-control not to be that extremely disrespectful to whoever happens to be around her, regardless of whether she's having a bad day or the person is being irritating or whatever else happens to be pissing her off right then. It's great to express anger and all but there's no need to be so mean and rude about it.

I don't think that a person has to be horribly condemned or marked forever as a Bad Person for losing her temper, it's something that everyone is going to do sometime to some extent, but I do think that cussing at and belittling someone for not properly wiping their own face is legitimately a slip-up and not just something to be glossed over as "different strokes for different folks" and subject to zero judgement whatsoever.

I don't have children, and am not trying to make some larger point about the Role of Cussing and Anger in Childrearing. I don't even think this *is* about childrearing, though, because I don't think it's just children who shouldn't be talked to that way, I don't think anybody should. Thinking back, I guess I felt that way even as a kid, though. Maybe other people don't get so offended when someone starts escalating a fight (like the woman in the car was doing with the kid, in this article)?

I got hit from time to time growing up and since I wasn't actually physically afraid of my parents in general what would really get to me about it wasn't the literal physical pain of getting hit or spanked but the indignity of it. I remember one time my dad hit me when I was maybe three or five and just feeling the pain in my arm sort of blossom from where he'd hit me and thinking "how dare he" and then flipping out at him in a blind rage. I actually don't even remember how that ended, just how overwhelmingly angry I was. Another time both my parents had me in the bedroom and were trying to spank me or something and I was so pissed off by it I was just thinking to myself basically, "is this the best you've got?" and nursing this cold simmering anger at them. It would have been different if I'd actually been physically afraid of them, but since I wasn't, my wounded pride was a lot more important to me than anything else -- and it *was* extremely important to me. I don't plan on hitting my (hypothetical) kids or even yelling at them, both because I think it's inappropriate/disrespectful and because I think that fighting full-throttle like that with a strong-willed child is just a no-win situation for the adult. You're either going to lose your authority by being undignified and showing the limits of your power or you're going to lose your kid's trust by being frightening or harsh.

I think that talking to someone in an aggressive, adversarial, belittling way like the woman in this story was talking to the kid is just straight up rude regardless of whether the person is a child or an adult, though if you're being rude to someone at your mercy/in your care, that's even meaner and less appropriate than if you're talking like that to someone who can fight back or at least get away from you. I have done a lot of childcare, but I think that the experience that I've had that's more analogous to what the writer is talking about is, I've spent *a lot* of time with loved ones who need care because of age/illness and who can be extremely difficult to care for because of the limitations brought on by that age/illness. And I have been obnoxious and callous sometimes, because I'm a person and not perfect and have emotions. But I have never and can't imagine that I will ever say something like "Ugh! Why is your mouth so fucking dirty?" to them. Who am I to talk like that to somebody?

I guess what I'm saying is that I think that being disrespectful to and belittling others is wrong, even among family. It's something that probably everyone is going to do at some point, and not something to outright condemn a person for, but that doesn't mean it's OK, either. It's great to be expressive and all, but once you start assaulting someone's pride you're crossing a line -- and even kids do have pride to assault.
posted by rue72 at 4:51 PM on November 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Look, what "that mom" did in the car was a shitty thing to do to a kid. I'm a parent and I've done equally shitty things to my kids on occasion. I've sworn. I've thrown things. I've stormed out of the room. I've made them cry, really cry. It's bad for them. It hurts them.

But Jesus, we live in a family. Families are hard. Really hard. It was hard when I was the kid and it's hard now that the shoe is on the other foot and I'm the "responsible adult". I am ashamed of the times I've been a bad parent but I am a flawed human being. My wife is a flawed human being. My kids are flawed human beings. You all reading this are flawed human beings. When you do a shitty thing, don't let yourself off the hook but don't think that you are uniquely flawed. It's in all of us. What's the line from Philip Larkin? "The fuck you up, your mum and dad/They may not mean to but they do"

My mum hit me once. I remember it to this day because I think it only happened the one time. She just lost her temper with me. And she was a great mum who gave and gave and gave to each of us in the family and I miss her to this day and owe her so much. But she was flawed too. This awesome mum fucked up too.

So, let's all take a deep breath and let it out slowly and hesitate to judge each other and learn to let our own transgressions go eventually. Model the forgiveness towards others and towards yourself that you want your kids to learn to exercise. It's a hard life and none of us are getting out alive.
posted by kaymac at 5:24 PM on November 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe the kid is going through one of those phases where they refuse to wash themselves and she spent her entire evening last night trying to goad and cajole them into bathing and brushing their teeth, and now maybe they're on their way home from a parent teacher meeting where she was accused of neglect because her kid is showing up to school dirty, and she just looked in the rearview mirror to see that the kid had gotten food all over their face and hadn't even bothered to wipe it off despite being perfectly capable.

Parents often spend nearly every waking hour caring for their children, and many of the hours they should be sleeping as well. For years and years. And children are rude, demanding, and unreasonable, to varying degrees. They're not born with a whole lot of empathy, and they're usually pretty old before they even begin to think of their parents as anything more than someone whose job is to cater to them.

Yes, this is all normal, and it's important to respect and nurture children and understand that their lack of empathy isn't a fault, but for someone who is devoting their entire life to raising that child and taking care of their every need, it can be exhausting and frustrating feeling as though you're constantly fighting with someone just to get them to accept your care. It is absolutely nothing like the experience one might have with an adult, or with limited interactions with children. Even in the best of circumstances, with the best behaved children, it can be mentally and physically draining at times. And almost every truly involved parent has lost it from time to time.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:28 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's where family and friends come in. A stranger can't judge outside of an extreme like publically beating a child. Is it one tired overcome parent or someone who continually harangues and derides their kid? You can't tell without the time and involvement, and even then, what goes on behind closed doors with a frightened child is even harder to see. More public sympathy and more support for parents to talk about problems would be great.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:18 PM on November 3, 2014


Louis CK... "What did that shitty kid do to that poor woman?"
posted by jcruelty at 11:55 AM on November 4, 2014


Everyone wants to have children, children are relentlessly and unavoidably magical,

honestly, 'relentlessly and unavoidably magical' is not a bad description of kids.
posted by zipadee at 2:17 PM on November 4, 2014


Although part of me wants to agree how I was a troublesome kid growing up at least according my mother's memories yet the one part which stood to me is how I always felt I was some inconvenience.

Yes, it could be cultural or even generational differences at work yet it's a tiring feeling you know to feel like you're always in the way even if you happen to be 13 years old and can't control outside factors.

I got a sense as a parent they had much more control over their children than vice versa but they often forget how negative behaviors can have lasting effects after 5 minutes of rage are over.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 4:59 PM on November 4, 2014


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