Let me just sum up this post right now in case you are a little low on time. Some parents suck while others are awesome. That’s it. You can continue scrolling facebook now. If you want to read more, you are obviously terribly intelligent. Let me explain to you why I am fired up today. Today was one of those days were just about every parent I ran into was a really bad parent. Wow, Snarky, that’s awfully judgmental of you. No. No it’s not. It’s not judgmental because it’s just true. I really do wish, for the sake of three of those children, that I was just being judgmental.
First, let me tell you that I have worked with a lot of families over the years. I would have to say that, over the years, I have worked with hundreds of children on a full time, long term basis (As in more than teaching Sunday school or babysitting for a few hours). When you spend a lot of time with a child, you get to know their family pretty well. Even if you don’t see or talk to the family much. Children, specifically young children, love to talk about their families and will tell their teachers everything. Unsolicited. Yes, I mean everything. Even the things you would prefer they didn’t tell. ESPECIALLY the things you wish they didn’t tell. I have heard everything from “My dog has a bloody butt. It means she’s ready to get puppies in her.” to “My daddy said ‘sh*t’ last night. That’s what you say when you break a glass.” to “My mommy did NOT make it to the potty in time yesterday.” to “Daddy has a floozy!” They have shared it with the entire class. At sharing time. Believe me, even if you rarely say more than “hello” to him/her, your child’s preschool teacher probably knows you better than your BFF, hairdresser, and nosy neighbor combined.
All that to say that I have worked with a lot of different children and gotten to know a lot of different families really well. Probably far better than they have ever realized. I quickly discovered that there are two kinds of parents. There are good parents and their are bad parents. As far as I can tell, only one thing separates good parents and bad parents. Good parents actually like their children. That is it. Good parents like their children. It seems so simple. Of course, ALL parents like their children. I have news for you. All parents DO NOT like their children. As a matter of fact, I seem to be running into more and more parents who seriously DO NOT like their own children, and it breaks my heart.
I’m not talking about all of the time. I’m a parent; I get it. Children are loud. Children can make you crabby. There are times where I have not really liked my own child very much. However, if, for the most part, you can say that you like your child, you are an awesome parent. Let me give you an example. At the grocery store today I saw two families. Each family had a child who was roughly three years old. Both three year olds were singing. Loudly. The little boy had two parents with him. The father looked like he had just spent the day doing a lot of manual labor. He had work boots on, cut off shorts and a shirt that were covered in paint or concrete and a tired look on his face. The mother had on sweats that were a little too tight and an equally tired look on her face. As long as their day appeared to have been, these two actually seemed to be enjoying the sound of their son’s loud off key song. They smiled at him and encouraged him, much to the annoyance of the other shoppers. It was beautiful.
The little girl’s mom was dressed a little nicer. Her hair was well cut and she had on nice shoes. She was thin and in full makeup. I lost count of how many times she yelled at her daughter. I heard “Lilly, just shut up!” from almost everywhere in the store. It was a much harsher sound than Lilly’s singing. Finally Lilly stopped singing and started crying. The mother threatened to leave her. I was hoping that the mother was just having an off day and really did like her daughter, but one look at the teenager trailing behind them told me that this probably wasn’t true. The expression on the face of the teenager was that of a shell shocked, caged, feral cat.
If you think that I am saying that two parent families make better parents, I can assure you I’m not. While a household with two adults in it may have the potential to make parenting a little less stressful, it does not make the parents like their kids any more. Take Carter, for example. Carter’s parents hired me to care for him at times when he wasn’t in school and couldn’t be sedated. Sedated? Yes. Carter, I was told, had severe emotional disorders and probably ADD. They had gone through a LOT of doctors to get this diagnosis, but this doctor would only give them so many sedatives every month and they preferred to use them at night when they had to be around him. Carter’s parents didn’t like him. At all. I tried to convince him that they did like him, but it was a hard sell. Especially when his parents announced that Carter was going to have plastic surgery because his parents were worried that other kids would pick on him because of his looks. Carter was not disfigured, or even weird looking. He was a pretty cute kid, actually. After his face was altered, I made sure to keep Carter out of his house full time for the rest of the summer. I would return him at the end of the day so exhausted that he would just go right to bed. His parents almost never saw him, and as a result he rarely was sedated that summer. I would also like to mention that I never once saw anything even resembling an inappropriate expression of emotions. He was a pretty calm, sweet, intelligent kid. I saw Carter’s mother a few years later. She informed me that there had been a horrible car accident that left Carter severely brain damaged. She actually said that it was a blessing because she didn’t have to deal with him any more. I punched her in the face. Not really. Just in my mind.
I’m not saying that wealthy parents are bad parents either. Sebastien’s mom didn’t have him until she was well established in a very high paying job. She was a doctor, and appeared to be very well paid. I could tell that she was a fantastic parent because Sebastien was extremely thoughtful and an overall happy kid. I loved watching her spend time with him (and I couldn’t believe how MUCH time she spent with him, being a doctor and all). When she was with him she would always make eye contact and actively listen to him. I could also tell that she was not just doing this because his teacher was watching. Teachers can tell. First of all, 90% of the population is not that good of an actor. Second of all, parents who are faking it for the teacher’s sake get so overly animated that even their own kid gives them funny looks.
So, I tell a lot of stories, but how do you know for sure if you’re a good parent? Those of you who don’t have children may think this is a silly question. It’s not. This is a question that every single parent has asked themselves. The good parents ask it just about every day. So, there’s number one.
1. Good parents doubt themselves. Regularly. Like, almost every day. If you weren’t a good parent, you wouldn’t care how well you were parenting. Unless you were trying to impress other people but we’ll just assume you are above that.
2. Good parents like to spend time with their kids. Not ALL the time. That would make you a crazy parent. A good parent may not be able to spend much time with their children, but just the fact that you WANT to spend time with your child makes you a good parent.
3. Good parents view their children as fellow human beings. Not a curse that you have to endure for 18 years. You may, sometimes, view your child as a monster. You are still a good parent.
4. Good parents want the best for their child. Not the best chocolate, save that for mommy time, but if you generally want good things for your child, you are a good parent.
5. Good parents don’t go out of their way to hurt their child. I’m not talking about accidentally bumping into your child or even spanking (you can have that debate in the comments section if you feel like wasting some time, because seriously, you are not changing anyone’s opinion over an internet debate.). I’m talking about parents who go out of their way to hurt their child, physically or through words. This is called abuse. If you avoid abusing your child, you are a good parent.
If you could read that list without getting extremely angry at me, you are probably a pretty good parent. Let me tell you about one of my favorite parents, just to end things on a good note.
Diane was Jason’s mom. Actually, she wasn’t. Diane was married to Jason’s dad. Jason’s mom left when Jason was a toddler. According to Jason’s dad, Jason’s biological mom was not a good parent. Jason’s mom couldn’t pass the “don’t hurt your child on purpose” part of my test. I have to applaud her for at least giving up parental rights when she realized that parenting was not for her. This story is not about her. It is about Diane. Diane didn’t have Jason call her “Mom”. He called her “My Diane”. Diane said she was worried that Jason might have negative memories associated with “Mom” and she didn’t want him to think she would ever treat him badly. Jason would make “Diane” cards on Mother’s day. He would tell stories about “My Diane took me for a bike ride just because I’m neat-o and she likes me!” Those are stories I love to hear. While Jason had been horribly abused for the first two years of his life, Diane had chosen to love a child who’s own mother did not even like him. I firmly believe that it was this love that turned Jason into the confident, caring child he was when I met him.
I could tell you a lot of other stories about good parents and bad parents. I only chose the ones I did because they are all almost twenty years old so hopefully, if you know someone in these stories, you won’t recognize them. And yes, I did change all of the names. Except Diane, because she rocks!
You rock too!