A Facebook friend recently posted about an incident that happened after dropping her daughter off at school. On her way home she found a one-year-old playing in a busy street without an adult in sight. She called 911 and took the child to her home for safety, and eventually the mother was located and came to pick him up. As she said in her post, unfortunate incidents can certainly happen to anyone, but what concerned her most was that when the mom came to pick up her child, she wasn’t remotely upset, apologetic or appreciative. If anything, she acted mildly annoyed.
The incident was upsetting to be sure, and I can’t help but worry about that little guy who appears to have a mom who is pretty neglectful, or at least alarmingly clueless. But as a parent myself who tends to worry constantly about how every single parenting decision I make will affect my son, it’s weirdly comforting to be reminded that I’m actually doing just fine. Granted, that’s a pretty low bar (if anything short of leaving your baby to wander the streets makes you a good parent), but it does help put things in perspective.
There’s such an overload of information out there about all the things you should do for your child’s development that it’s easy to focus on all the things you think you’re doing wrong, and overlook the very many things that you’re doing right. The types of worries I’ve had since I became a mom are so ridiculous that it’s kind of embarrassing to even admit to them…
If I skip books before a bedtime or naptime, am I shortchanging my son’s intellectual development?
Omg he seriously won’t eat ANY vegetables. Is he going to get one of those pirate diseases like scurvy?
Will my kid never make it into a good college if I’m not doing the Montessori-inspired activities that Pinterest is telling me to do?
[When he wasn’t yet in daycare] Am I stunting his social development since he’s always with me?
[When he started daycare] Am I going to give him abandonment issues and subject him to all kinds of weird toddler illnesses? (I mean seriously, what the hell is foot and mouth disease?? )
Are we depriving him by not buying him enough toys?
[Now that he has a TON of toys] Are we going to make him spoiled and entitled?
Yeah I know, makes me sound like a crazy person. To be clear, these things aren’t exactly keeping me up at night. But they are all worries that have honestly crossed my mind at some point during my son’s two years of life.
Meanwhile, this other mom literally has no idea that her one-year-old is hanging out in the actual street. Hearing things like this, as truly awful as they are, snaps me back into reality. While I’m worried about the finer points of parenting, there are moms and dads out there who aren’t even handling the basics.
I’ve never met the woman, but somehow I just can’t imagine that she’s spending a lot of time on parenting blogs, weighing the benefits and drawbacks of the Ferber sleep method. I suspect she didn’t struggle with whether to start her baby with rice cereal or pureed fruit when she first introduced solid foods. I don’t think she worries about the possible impact of screen time on attention issues later in childhood. That’s the real irony – that most of us who are stressing about our parenting choices are actually doing a pretty damn good job, and plenty of those who are genuinely neglectful parents aren’t remotely worried about how they’re doing.
I’ve expressed this sentiment before, but there are a million different ways to be a good parent. If our approach to parenting is rooted in unconditional love, introducing appropriate boundaries, instilling values, and doing everything we can to keep our kids healthy and safe, chances are we’re doing okay! This is a reminder to myself as much as a reminder to other new parents out there: relax, your kid is going to turn out just fine.