As an ex-parenting magazine editor and now parenting blogger, I’ve taken a bit of parenting criticism, much like we all do, actually. There was that time I got told off for giving an iPad to my son when he was two (and yes, he did read books and climb jungle gyms, too).
And then there was that time I got called by someone who wrote to the magazine, irate that I had my son circumcised, even though it was according to the law of Judaism. I was called a “butcher” and threatened with my nails being ripped off, one by one, to see how it would feel to be circumcised. I’m not sure how the two are connected – I’m pretty sure my son felt more pain when I didn’t buy him that dump truck that he wanted so badly from the toy shop when he was three, than when his foreskin was cut off. The dump truck tears lasted for about 20 minutes, and the circumcision cries for about nine seconds.
I was also told that I wasn’t a real mom because I had a C-section, which is weird, because my toddler says “Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy” about eleventy and twelve times a day. I also carry around guilt like a mother, so I’m not sure where this dude (yes, a dude) came up with this mom/fake mom business.
“My kids have manners, they’re kind, and they seem to be making their way well into the world.”
One time someone commented on an Instagram photo of my barefoot son that I was a negligent mom because he had no shoes on, and did I not know about the dangers that lurked beneath him. I looked everywhere on that comment for a smiley emoji to suggest that the comment was in fact a joke, but alas, it was nowhere.
More recently, I went for a mani and pedi, and I schlepped my toddler along because my husband looked like he needed a break. He’d been up since 5:30am building puzzles with her, feeding her dry FutureLife cereal, and making play-play food out of Play-Doh. I also wanted to take her because she loves having her nails painted. It’s something I’ve neither encouraged nor discouraged, but ever since she discovered my bag (it’s actually more like a sack) of Essie and OPI polishes, she’s been fascinated and loves a good polish on her nails.
I can’t think of a reason why not to paint her nails and while parents of toddlers will do a lot of things to avoid a tantrum, I couldn’t come up with a viable justification to not give in. She enjoys it and I see no short-term or long-term ill effects as a result.
However, after posting some InstaStories of Rebecca choosing her favourite shade of pink and some glitter to go on top, several people felt quite strongly about it. “She’s too young”, I was told. “You’re making her grow up too quickly, and forcing her into the beauty industry”, another advised me (even though I didn’t actually ask for advice).
Someone asked if my son had ever been to the nail salon, and why was I making my daughter have her nails done just because she’s a girl. To this, I replied that my son prefers me to do his nails at home because I have a great colour selection, and that it didn’t occur to me that my daughter likes a mani simply because she’s a girl, but rather because she likes a mani!
Considering how much of a people pleaser I often am, it’s a surprise to me that I care so little about how people see me as a parent, whether it’s a stranger or someone I know a bit. What matters to me is: a) what I think of myself, though this is often clouded with guilt and insecurity, so not always a good gauge; b) what my husband thinks of my parenting, and c) what my kids think of me as their mom.
My kids have manners, they’re kind, and they seem to be making their way well into the world. My son doesn’t seem to be a bully, my daughter doesn’t pull dogs’ tails or bite her classmates, and they voluntarily tell me they love me, i.e. without the threats of Fortnite and My Little Pony being taken away.
This is enough for me. Not everyone will agree with my “sunroof” birth or my belief that barefoot is often just fine, and if I felt inadequate every time someone didn’t agree with my way, then I’d be on a therapist’s couch regularly, and needing approval and high-fives ALL THE TIME.
Until someone comes at me with science about why nail polish is bad for the psyche of an almost three-year-old, or why iPad usage well balanced with everything else is harmful to my son’s social and cognitive development, then let’s talk. For now, though, I think I’m almost nailing this parenting gig…