It’s not my call how you choose to raise your kids, until how you’re raising your kids affects how I’m raising mine.
I preach this mantra often when I have an opinion raging inside me surrounding the myriad of parenting issues and tactics in the news each week. In the past, I’ve opined strongly about how you ‘should’ raise your kids, but now I try to live and let live, until your terrible parenting choices affect mine.
I wrote a piece for Babble recently about the time Zacharie went off on a flight on his own at the end of summer to visit his grandparents. I thought I had written a melancholy story of the heart pangs parents feel as our kids grow up too fast. I wrote about how the anxiety I felt watching him leave on the plane was not fear for his safety, per se, but more about the realization this was just another step towards his inevitable independence.
You’d think I’d had allowed him to fly the plane, not just ride in it.
I don’t get to tell you how to raise your kids, until your choices affect how I’m raising mine. That’s the only rule in competitive parenting (and it is competitive). So me allowing my son to fly alone doesn’t affect you, you don’t get an opinion according to “the rules.” Call me out, however, and I have no qualms outing your ignorance and declaring you’re the terrible parent in the equation.
Here we go:
Stacy Brown, of Leicester, UK received the most upvotes in her scolding.
She got some facts wrong, however. Zacharie’s flight from Calgary to Vancouver was direct and lasted only an hour. That might be “across the country” where she’s from, but here it’s not a long flight. And she’s right about not walking home from school, but that’s because there’s a crazy road he has to cross with nutty drivers. We did let him go solo last week, though.
Donna Pitzorella has older kids, which makes her opinion even more terrible.
My sister was flying from Vancouver to Montreal on her own when she was 6, some 35 years ago. Donna’s probably not fully up on the rules for unaccompanied minors on flights. UM protocol dictates the dropping off parent must remain at the gate until the flight departs. Zacharie’s plane was nearly 40 minutes late leaving, I was with him the entire time until he boarded and sat in the gate until the plane pushed back.
Christy Lynn Mastantuono doesn’t think we should judge each other’s parenting practices. I agree. And then she went and judged others for judging her for being a terrible parent. Whoops.
To be fair, the comment stream wasn’t filled completely with terrible parents. Caroline Beaton is a flight attendant and dropped a truth bomb on the haters.
I appreciated that light in the darkness of the Facebook trolls, because it was the truth. Zacharie was treated like a king on his flight and if I could afford it, we’d send him off on his own to visit his grands more often.
But there was a particular thread of darkness to the criticisms that got me upset more than most. Truth be told, I mostly laughed off the criticisms recognizing them as coming from the terrible parents in the sphere, but a specific theme emerged from some who called me a terrible parent because they fear the world is a terrible place.
Comments like the one from Jeannette Marie Hogue. She’s not only a grandparent, she’s a preschool teacher. She’s the kind of person who should be sharing with our kids the concepts of love, trust, and self-confidence. Instead, she’s preaching fear to her children in school and at home.
Shaunte Cline is afraid of the world too.
Erin McGuire Greisch went at me with terrible grammar guns ablazing to explain to me how ‘crazy’ I must be to trust “strangers” (aka professionals whom millions of strangers trust everyday to fly from A to B).
That kind of fearful thinking doesn’t just hurt my feelings, it hurts all of us. It hurts our chances to build a strong community.
We could learn a lot from kids in Japan, where they are routinely sent off on their own from a young age. In fact, there’s a popular television show that has been airing for 25+ yrs that takes hidden cameras following their kids out on their first errands for the family. Check out this clip of Hajimete no Otsukai (translated it’s My First Errand):
This parenting practice is a success in Japan because kids learn to lean on their community. They’re not taught to fear their neighbours, they learn to lean on them for help. Look at how the butcher and baker treats the kids on their errands – with a smile and support.
“[Japanese] kids learn early on that, ideally, any member of the community can be called on to serve or help others,” says Dwayne Dixon, a cultural anthropologist who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Japanese youth.
“Plenty of kids across the world are self-sufficient,” Dixon observes in a Business Insider piece on this Japanese parenting style. “But the thing that I suspect Westerners are intrigued by [in Japan] is the sense of trust and cooperation that occurs, often unspoken or unsolicited.”
That’s wonderful, and it is the exact opposite of what Christina Zieler believes.
Can you believe she would call me out for teaching my kids to trust instead of fear? Call me out for allowing my kids to grow up and learn how to look after themselves? Call me out for giving my son independence and a week away with his cousin and grandparents?
I want to trust my neighbours to step in a help my kids if they need it. And I do. I don’t teach my kids stranger danger, I teach them self-sufficiency skills. When we get separated in crowds, I don’t want them to be afraid they will be ‘taken,’ I want them to have the confidence to ask a stranger for help.
At a hockey game last week I let Zacharie use the bathroom alone (there I go being a terrible parent again), and he came out a different door and walked the wrong way around the concourse away from me. Recognizing he wasn’t where he should be, he shouted for me. I heard him on the 4th yell, just as he was walking up to a security guard to ask for help.
That’s a parenting win. My kid wasn’t in a puddle crying and afraid, he took charge of the situation and solved it. Keep your kids under your wings and they’ll never learn those skills.
But despite all that I was branded a terrible parent.
Listen, if how I’m raising my kids has no effect on how you’re raising your kids, you have no right to call me crazy, drop expletives, or rage against my decision. It doesn’t affect you. Frankly, this is why and how the Mommy Wars start, and we need fewer people starting wars and more people building community, support, and trust.
So dial back the judgment and CTFD lest you get labelled as a terrible parent.