I once wrote a post entitled “The Secret to Happy Parenting“, in which I suggested that you’ll be happier if you stopped caring what other people think of your parenting. (From that post: “I’m not suggesting you stop caring about your kid. I’m saying you need to stop caring about everyone else but your kid.”)
It sounds good. Being able to inoculate yourself against all the haters is definitely a great way to improve your peace of mind. The problem is your kids are still around! And as annoying and stressful as judgmental people can be, no one is as annoying and stressful as your kids themselves.
I was wrong. The secret to happy parenting isn’t to stop caring about everyone and everything else but your kids, the secret is to stop caring about your kids at all.
The secret to happy parenting is “The Parenting Shrug.”
Remember when I told you that parents are overrated? It’s true. You know it’s true. Kids survived quest-for-fire cavemen parents, kids survived he-has-a-cold-let’s-put-leeches-on-him dark ages parents, kids even survived cigarette-smoking, nonstop-drinking, sexist, racist “Mad Men” parents! Kids are survivors.
Parents are the ones that don’t make it.
Kids don’t get stressed. They think they do, and in some rare cases when someone bullies them – or worse – they actually do get a little stressed. But for the most part, the kids are gonna be alright. It’s the parents we need to start worrying about. It’s the parents who are going gray, drinking too much, having heart attacks, because of their kids.
It’s time to stop caring about our kids so much, and to start looking out for ourselves! It’s time to start parenting with the occasional shrug. Your kids can take it.
Our kids are important, sure, but in the grand scheme of things they’re not that important! Few of them will turn out to be anything more than mediocre. There are only so many Einsteins and Hitlers to be had, and no matter what parenting technique you employ, I’m gonna go ahead and assume yours will neither be that great nor that terrible. (No offense.)
Stress begets stress, in yourself and in your kids. Not only does most of this parenting shit hardly end up affecting them, the constant worrying about it ends up making you miserable!
The allergy piece I wrote a ways back was pretty well-received, but a handful of dissenters suggested that instead of protecting kids from potentially life-threatening foods, we should run with the “survival of the fittest” theory. Yes, these are the same assholes with bumper stickers that say “Let God Sort ‘Em Out!”, but they make a good point. Not when it comes to willfully allowing our children to die (or other people’s children, since that’s invariably who they mean) – that’s fucking crazy – but in the sense that letting go a little bit is a good idea.
So do it. Let it go. DO THE PARENTING SHRUG!
Be a “Mad Men” parent! Be a mom/dad who has some extra wine in the afternoon and tosses on a movie for the kids and heats them some shitty chicken nuggets. Your parents did it, back when there weren’t countless blogs and websites and TV shows shouting that every move they made was wrong except this one, no that one, no this one!
“Car seat? *shrug* Nah, just roll around in the back of the station wagon.”
“No, I have no idea what’s in a Twinkie. *shrug* Do you want it or not?”
“Bike helmet? What’s a bike helmet? *shrug* Just go play.”
“Nonstop gunfire but no one ever gets hurt? *shrug* Sure, you can watch “The A-Team” so long as you leave me alone for an hour.”
Our parents lived by the parenting shrug, and lookie, lookie here: they managed to keep you alive long enough for you to have kids of your own. And guess what? Your kids will survive too. I promise.
Go ahead and give yourself a break. Employ “the parenting shrug” every once in a while. You deserve it! You can’t be on every second of every day, and your kids are going to be fine.
Well, some of them won’t be, but that’s just percentages. Don’t beat yourself up about it.