Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Politics, religion and parenting

Want to start a fight on the Yahoo Answers board? Ask what the best way is to get a baby to sleep. Or when to stop breastfeeding. Or whether circumcision is a good idea. Inquire about the best way to discipline an unruly 3 year old. Invite opinions about immunizations for children or the relative risk/benefits of homeschooling. And then don your flame-proof suit. It is about to get ugly.

People are passionate about parenting, and why wouldn't they be? How we raise our kids in integrally related to how we live our lives. Our beliefs and values, political views and religious perspectives get all wrapped up in our parenting choices, and so when someone challenges them, it gets right under our skin. Saying that our choice is wrong is akin to saying that we are wrong to our very core. Our backs get up, we feel threatened, and the accusations fly. This way is weak, that way is heartless. This way is controlling, that way is irresponsible. Everyone wants to prove, to themselves or others, that their choices are the best, if not the only, way of bringing up babies. Everyone wants to be right.

Some people need to "be right" because they are doing what their parents did. If they entertain the idea that the methods are not right, then they have to deal with their own emotions about being raised that very same way. Conversely, other people need to "be right" because they are doing things differently from their parents. They need to believe they have corrected the mistakes that their parents made in raising them, because that is how they can make peace with them.

Ideas and ideals. For the most part, we learn them from our families of origin first, and then accept or reject them as we learn about alternatives through our interactions with the rest of the world. Once we have arrived at what we believe to be true, we start to form into groups with like-minded people, and play the us-vs-them game. And so play out the big three: politics, religion and parenting. We are such a tolerant people... until somebody stands up and says that what they are doing is right.

We can sometimes get around conflict in these areas by talking about 'what is right for me' or 'what works for our family'. This can defuse tempers and smooth over disagreements, letting people get past issues by 'agreeing to disagree'. However, dealing with issues in this way can quietly send the message that all choices are equal. If we really believed that, there wouldn't have been any conflict. Pretending that we think they are equal is inauthentic.

So what is the answer? Never talk about parenting with your friends? Or talk about it, and brow beat everyone you know into agreeing with you? Maybe we should all start anonymously mailing research articles that support our perspectives to our friends and family...

I can't tell you what to do. What would be the point? I may as well tell you what church to attend or which politician to support. But I have come to a place where I don't need to. I am content to just vote with my life. Keeping an open mind to new research and to other people's ideas and experiences, I can only determine what I believe to be best, and act in line with those beliefs.

In the end, I believe that I am making the parenting choices that are best for my kids and I respect other mom's rights to do the same. Let's leave the flame throwing to the message board trolls.


Queen Bee said...

well said, Lisa!

Colleen said...

Preach on, girlfriend. Couldn't have said it better, and believe me, I've tried!

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