I no longer have a Facebook page, so this blog is going to become more bloggy in the future. In spurts, because I just don’t see the point in sharing most of what I would share on Facebook (hence, my removal of self from that virtual world and all social media). I do feel the need to share this particular observation/thought, though.
I currently live in The South. I am from The South and am quite comfortable with certain Southern expectations, as they are typically the expectations of all “civilized” hordes of people: Use your manners and show consideration for others. (In fact, the point of manners is to show consideration for others. They can also be used as a form of artificial hierarchy, but I reject that usage, in general.)
I love manners. I even own a card deck for teaching children manners. Good manners, in my opinion, are the backbone to a graceful society. They are an easy tool for creating ease in our social, often superficial interactions with one another, and they can help keep less superficial moments from becoming traumas to overcome. I can easily imagine how the world would look if more of us showed a baseline level of consideration for others, beginning with basic manners.
However, that’s not the world we live in.
In reality, we are surrounded by people who find rudeness and lack of consideration (from ingratitude to name-calling to outright violence) funny and entertaining. This makes parenting quite challenging at times. Sure, I can keep my child from watching a cartoon that glorifies (or at least gives ample screen time to) blatant rude behaviors and pointless murder, but I can’t always keep my child from interacting with (and gleaning from) YOUR child after your child has internalized problematic messages from tv shows and movies.
We don’t often think of media as “the public”, but it most certainly is. Whenever we subject our children to random people about whom we know very little, we have entered into the public sphere. And, the public isn’t really where I want my child learning her values and figuring out which of her characteristics she should fully embody (aka character development). The public is where we go to practice our skills, not learn them. Ideally, we learn in the home and then take what we learn at home out into the world and use that knowledge to forge connections and make an impact.
All too often, it feels like I’m having to resist being impacted upon more than making an impact myself. Especially where my child is concerned.
The other day, I went to a pop-up food market. I told my child to sit down and wait for me to return after wandering around the room to see what was offered. An adult at the doorway suggested that I bring my child with me. I said no, and she insisted that my child pick something out for herself. I had to stop moving forward and give this uninvited guest into my life a moment of my undivided attention. Looking her in her eyes, I told her that my child would not be coming into the space with me and that she would sit right where she was. My child is old enough to do that and she was happily engaged with a mobile device. The woman backed off.
I, however, was a bit perplexed. Why in the world would a random person assume that my child needs a voice in what she eats? Haven’t we seen the results of that? We have parents with 2-year-olds and older who “won’t eat” anything but chicken nuggets and french fries. We have children with mouths full of cavities and the correction of cavities. We have children who are obese and we are, allegedly, alarmed by this fact.
So…why does “the public” think my child should have a say in what she eats?
Now, this was only one incident, but it’s certainly not the first time (nor will it be the last) that a random person decided to try to interfere with my parenting. It seems that the village (because it takes one to raise a child) is only willing to intervene in ways where they can have all of the voice and none of the responsibility. I am the one who has to survive a sugar-addled child, pay for dental work, stress over poor eating habits, etc. I have yet to see “the public” try to encourage more of a child-centered approach to parenting in the name of more veggies, where food is concerned. Generally, we are maneuvering offers of unsolicited candy and other so-called snacks.
My child eats a very healthy diet. She did even prior to our awareness around her many food allergies. I have witnessed many people express shock (happy or general) that she loves vegetables. But, this didn’t happen in a vacuum. She also loves sweets, but she knows that they are not always an option. These days, with her food allergies, they aren’t an option at all. As a result, fruit tastes sweeter to her than candy. She has told me so. And, we know it’s certainly healthier, so I have no complaints.
Often, when I gaze out upon “the public”, I see well-meaning people who just aren’t thinking very clearly. There are so many instances in parenting where people are more of a hindrance than not to “parenting well”. This often fickle, maladjusted “public” wants to subject our children to a world of entertaining poor judgment and bad behavior while expecting those same children to behave wonderfully. What happened to our collective acknowledgment of “garbage in, garbage out”? There have always been versions of the sentiment, but these days we act as if you can expose (aka inundate) children with just about anything and they behave perfectly, anyway, and are completely happy and healthy.
When has that ever been accepted as truth, outside of this modern age?
Personally, I will keep deciding for myself what food is brought into our home, what kind of entertainment my child is subjected to, and even what is considered entertainment versus malignant indoctrination. “The public”, as far as I can tell, is a sketchy lot and any issues my child ends up having (because we all end up with issues) I want to be due to my intentional practices. I don’t want her future therapy sessions to be rooted in unintentional negligence due to a lack of assuredness within her mother.
Of course, “the public” aka society will impact my child. I do not raise her in a bubble. But, we do exercise our right to boundaries. I do recognize a parental authority that is rooted in parental responsibility. And, I will act like it.
It will be a blessedly wonderful day when the rest of the world acknowledges that we don’t really need its input to parent our children. Unless, of course, we ask for it.
Perhaps I’ll take to wearing a shirt that reads “NO SOLICITORS” when out and about. That might be more comprehensible to most folks than a “MIND YOUR MANNERS” shirt. Same meaning, though, when you think about it.