The “You’re a Bad Parent” Lecture

Have you ever been approached by someone or overhead comments on your parenting?

My family and I went away for Memorial Day weekend. We decided it would be fun to ride bikes where we were. We picked our bikes from the local bike shop and got ready to go. My youngest son was struggling to keep his balance on his bike. He’s outgrown his smaller bike, but doesn’t feel confident on an adult bike. We had the kids practice in a parking lot to build their confidence. After a while we decided we were ready for our ride, which would take us through a small town and back to where we were staying. We had driven our car to pick up the bikes we were renting. My husband was going to drive back to where we were staying and we’d meet him there later.

I should have known the ride might not go as planned when my oldest son refused to lead the way. He was adamant that I had to lead. I think he thought he would get too far ahead, go the wrong way, and get lost. “Easy,” I told him, “just don’t go too fast, and stop periodically to make sure I’m still behind you.” “No,” he insisted, “you have to go first.” I expressed my concern about being able to keep an eye on his younger brother, who was doing better on his bike, but still not out of the woods (I had just watched him narrowly miss hitting a parked Tesla – gulp). My husband was gone with the car, and we had a several miles ahead of us.

I went first, reluctantly. I didn’t make it a block before I heard my oldest yelling, “Mom! Mom!” I turned around thinking my youngest was having a hard time getting started. Instead I saw what happened. He’d hit a parked car. Thankfully he hit it at an incredibly slow speed, but it scared him — and the driver who was sitting inside. 😦 I made my way back to the car. My son was sobbing — hitting the car had scared him but then having the driver approach him sent him over the edge. I told my son it was okay and that this can happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my car sideswiped by a cyclist, (accidentally of course), in my downtown area. The driver realized my son was young so quickly redirected their anger at me. I started by asking if they were okay. I asked if they thought any damage had been done to their car and what I could do to help. I don’t think the driver was hoping I was to try to remedy the situation, because after doing so, and apologizing profusely, she started down the path of questioning my ability to parent. I don’t think she said ‘what kind of mother let’s her child ride his bike where he can hit a parked car’ but it was close enough. She clearly was upset about what happened and didn’t seem content on letting me leave until she’d said what she wanted. I listened. She wasn’t going to give me any wisdom or insights into how to better parent. But she could get me to review my actions, take accountability for my role, and I could let her feel heard. When she was done with her lecture I asked if there was anything else I could do to make this right and that prompted another tongue lashing. I learned my lesson and when she finished next I just said, “Okay.” And walked back to where my kids were. I called my husband to come back and pick up his bike since he was too upset to go on, and once he did, my older son and I went on our bike ride.

Having a stranger be genuinely upset with you is a terrible feeling. Have a stranger upset with you over your parenting is a whole other level of awful — they can strike a nerve and call you on some truth (I had already been concerned about my younger son on his bike — I should have stood firm(er) on my oldest son leading), or just try to public shame you revealing how little about the situation and your parenting they actually understand.

I was grateful the exchange was behind us and everyone was okay. We were able to work with my youngest son the remainder of the weekend to build his confidence with the bigger bike. We still have a ways to go, but are making good progress.

How do you handle situations where people judge your parenting choices?

 

 

Please, Oscar, #AskHerMore

What is your favorite part of watching the Oscars? The red carpet? The emcee’s monologue? The winner’s speeches? Or something else?

I have always been drawn to the ‘fashion’ side of the Oscars and seeing who won more than anything else. I never really appreciated how much the fashion part of the telecast limited what women had to offer until several actresses bravely shined a light on it and started the campaign–ask her more (#AskHerMore). Up until the campaign, the questions were always around whose dress, shoes, and jewelry the woman was wearing, and in rare moments, who did her hair. In retrospect, it’s so superficial. I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before. The ask her more movement is pushing for the media to inquire about the woman herself, her performance, what motivated her, her feelings and what’s important to her about her craft. That’s a very different conversation.

In a world, where outside beauty seems to trump inward beauty in the media, if we don’t rally against it, it will continue to be the case. Before having children, I confided in a friend that I was scared to have a girl, because I didn’t want them to have to deal with all the stuff that comes with it–self-image, self-confidence, worrying constantly about how you look, constantly feeling judged and never being good enough, and all the negative fall out that can result from that. I know this happens for boys as well, but think it has been more subtle for males and front-and-center for women still. Of course, if I had had a girl, I would have been thrilled. It would have forced me to think about how I would help her combat all the negativity so many women have to work through. I do have a niece who is strong and confident. She blows me away with her knowledge and attitude.  She shared with me recently that she liked a particular book because it had a strong female character in the lead role. I was so proud.

For those of you with daughters, sisters, aunts, female cousins, and mothers, what do you wish people knew about them? What questions do you wish they would ask to learn more about her–not what she wears, or how she looks, but what makes her uniquely her?