I'm utterly disgusted by the responses of people who want to judge the parent who lost her 6-year old daughter in the horrible attack in Aurora. I've seen comment after comment that the child should never have been there, that the mother was negligent, that she was probably a bad mom overall, etc. etc. etc.
That anyone would jump up to kick this still-grieving mother is absolutely inhumane and illustrates something that's been bugging me for a while now. See, this isn't the first case of judgement I've seen. In fact, there's a whole section for this kind of thing on STFU, Parents. They're called "sanctimommies."
There seems to be an epidemic of women (you never seem to see the men jumping on board here) who think they know exactly how to raise a child. They have the perfect, magical formula for how to make a perfect, talented, successful, kind, creative adult who will be the pride and joy of the world and crap rainbows. Mostly, I'm guessing these are people who have a younger child, because they have yet to be bitch-slapped with the coldest, hardest reality of parenting.
Your child is not a slick little machine that simply takes the input you give and kicks it back out.
Raising our kids is not typing on a keyboard, where you hit the "f" key and the letter "f" appears on the screen and, in like fashion, you pen your magnum opus on their malleable life. They are not a mirror, simply reflecting back what you put in front of it. Most of all, they are not your project to get right so that everyone can look at you and applaud the good job you've done.
Kids are, brace yourselves, short and immature human beings. (Teens are tall and immature human beings, btw.) They have their own personality, their own opinions, their own preferences. Play all the Baby Mozart you want, sparky. That kid may prefer Metallica. Like it or not.
The scary spinoff of believing that kids simply the sum of our input is that we begin to think that 1) we are completely responsible for who they become and 2) we can and MUST make this perfect. We can't afford a mistake, there is only one way to do it, and if we screw it up our child will be damaged FOR LIFE!!!
Of course, in order to convince ourselves of our sheer perfection of parenting, there are only two options. One is to go through every possible decision point in advance and create a game plan from the next 30 years. This way is time-consuming, and forces us to logically consider each decision point... and then we would see our own crazy inconsistencies and how freaking impossible this idea is and go have a brewski while the kids draw on the wall because we just gave up. The other, far easier and efficient way, is to judge the actions of other parents as they unfold around us. We figure out our position on fatty foods when we see someone giving their kid a Big Mac and think "oh, hell no!" We discern proper programming when we see someone's kid wearing a Halo shirt and think "for shame!" And being around someone we don't like just gives us a million new positions, because anything that stupid b*&% does has GOT to be wrong!
Here's the reality of the situation... you can do everything right, and your kid could still end up in a gutter on drugs. Strike that, it's impossible to do everything right... but you could have the best batting average on the Earth and still see your kid fail miserably. Talk to the mom who approved every outfit and kept little Suzie home from all those dances with their disgusting music about sex, only to help Suzie deliver her first baby at 15 years old. Talk to the parent who ensured that little Jake wouldn't even touch a toy gun and raised him strict vegan, only to watch him drive off in a camo truck with a gun rack to go get him a buck.
Oh yeah, and what's the right outcome anyway??? CEO? President? Model? Actress? Singer? Librarian? When we're asked we just say rosy things like "I just want him to reach his full potential" or "I just want him to be happy and a good person." Well, how on Earth would not letting him drink soda make him a good person? Forcing a kid to take violin won't make her reach her full potential if her true talents lie elsewhere.
We decide based on ourselves. We make it about us, even though it is really most decidedly not. We raise our kid on health food because WE value health. We teach our kids the viola because WE value musical talent. I'll admit it, I put my kids in activities because I regret not being more "involved" when I was a kid. I want TJ to study a sport and stick with it because I dropped out of every damned sport I took and I wish I hadn't. I want him to take banjo lessons because I <3 bluegrass music. I desperately want to put Mera in dance or gymnastics. Why? Because I wish I had studied them! I want Geri to take piano. Why? Well, I think she loves it first and foremost, but in my heart of hearts I always wanted to take piano but never did. I dress my girls up carefully, being persnickety about hair and clothes because I was picked on for my hair and clothes in school. I look at my old pics now and think "Oh great God in heaven, why was I wearing THAT?" or "mom really shouldn't have cut my bangs if she couldn't cut them straight!" and I want to save my girls from looking back and thinking something similar.
In our fevered rush to make our kids perfect based upon what we value and what we regret, we forget that no matter WHAT we do, they will someday look back and think "what the hell was mom THINKING?" They may even HATE us for what we didn't let them do!
Oh, and forget the fact that we are not their only source of input. We aren't even the greatest source of input. Sure, we can claim supremacy up until kindergarten, maybe through first grade, but after that we get dethroned. Very early in life, the opinion of the parents becomes second to that of the peers. And when they're teens, all we have to do is voice an opinion to ensure they do the exact opposite. I can tell TJ already thinks I'm lame sometimes, and he's 6. Hell, Mera rolls her eyes at me and she's 2. Even Geri is in on the act, and she's only been home for 8 months. And she's blind, she can't even SEE how stupid my outfit is!
The reality is this... there's a huge grey area in parenting. Lots of things fall into the category of "not what I'd do, but not abuse or neglect and not my damned business." TV programming? I don't have a TV. I think Teletubbies is for potheads. Don't even get me started on that Boomba show. Spongebob is also for getting stoned. But if you have a TV and keep it on Nick Jr all damned day, have at. My older sister hates Caillou. It's one of the most innocuous shows on the planet, but she says the parents never go to work and it bugs her. She values hard work, not bald Canadian kids with independently wealthy parents. And you know what? That's FINE. Hopefully her daughter won't ever see the show at Grandma's and come home asking to watch it every day on Teevo. Then I'll laugh because she's my sister and I get to do that and it makes me feel better about what my kid just did.
Food? My kids eat mac and cheese. Daily. We have our reasons. Don't like it? Go home and give your kid a carrot stick. It'll make you feel better. But if you want to raise your kids on organic lettuce and egg whites HAVE AT. I'm sure he'll be fine... until he goes to school and sees those cookies in his friend's lunchbox. Then you'll have troubles of your own and you will be too busy dealing with a snack mutiny to be worried about my kid's food. Because you might find that little darling has a monster sweet tooth that you lack.
Bottom line, butt out. Stop judging each other and crap that falls in the noise level. The sad thing is how many abused, neglected and abandoned kids are out there and we're so busy raising Cain about whether you should use time-outs or time-ins that we stand idly by and do nothing.
And above all, put yourself in each others' shoes. You're doing your level best. How do you feel when someone says you're wrong and implies you are ruining your kid? Or slams you on some stupid message board calling you a bad parent? You wouldn't like it, so don't do it to someone else. Especially someone who is GRIEVING.
Because I think we all can agree that we don't want to raise our kids to be callous, insensitive pricks.