Wow! Had I ever met such a mean girl?! I was hardly in the room for five minutes before she ran up and snatched a balloon out of a child’s hands. Moments later she sauntered up to a puzzle I was working on with others, grabbed the pieces we just finished, and threw them into the air. This … followed by hitting a young man, giving me the “stink eye”, throwing crayons in the air, and finally, destroying the puzzle once again. The clincher? This meanie was barely three years old and raced about with a binky in her mouth.
“She’s doing so well, today,” I heard at least two of the nursery workers say. Really?! I clearly had missed some major drama, because I thought today was terrible. When I asked about her situation, someone said, “Her mom is very sweet, but has a lot going on. She said that she just doesn’t want to deal with the daughter.”
Hmmm. My first response was anger because I had watched several other kids negatively impacted by one child’s behavior. Also, I worried … could the mother not see that her problems are only going to multiply as her daughter gets older?
Later, I began to think how this mother reminds me of part of my own journey. Could it be that the truer statement about her parenting is not that she doesn’t want to deal with her daughter but rather, “I don’t know HOW to deal with her?”
This experience caught me short. It reminded me of similar, questionable parenting situations where I caught myself asking, “Don’t they know better?” The truth is that they may not. While the notion of “it takes a village to raise a child” makes me cringe, there is some merit to the idea that we need one another. My mom and dad raised four of us with the benefit of having my Grandmother live near by. There were also four neighbors who looked out for us as if we were their own. (And boy, did we know it when we were found out for punching a kid on the bus or sneaking down to the store without permission.)
Today is a world of many one parent homes or two parent, two income homes. Parents are busy and fragmented. Strangers live on our blocks and if grandparents aren’t the ones actually raising the children, they all too often aren’t accessible at all. Of course, not all parenting situations are so bleak, but let’s be honest … parenting has always been hard; it’s even more convoluted in the current culture. However, rather than condemn and judge, our time is better spent looking for an open door into a frazzled young parent’s life. Offer friendship. Wait for it (the friendship, that is). Then, offer advice.
Imagining that you have the ear of a frazzled parent such as the one of the little monster in the first paragraph, what would be your best parenting tidbit? What mistake would not want someone else to repeat? How about something that worked for you with an unruly toddler? There are certainly lots of parenting books that can answer these questions, but I think you, parents in the trenches, have wisdom beyond the scholars and specialists, so bring it on.