I've noticed a growing trend: parent shaming.
You've seen it, right? I remember a few months ago a picture came out of David Beckham's four year old daughter using a pacifier and people lost their minds. Or Ryan Reynolds (seriously who doesn't like Ryan Reynolds) when a picture came out of him with his baby in a baby carrier and he was widely criticized for the way he was holding her.
I was in the grocery store not too long ago with the kids and was approached by a women who went on to tell me she read an article that said it wasn't a good idea to have babies in their strollers with the top closed (which was how Gemma was sleeping in the stroller at that moment). She told me that there's a chance they could suffocate. OK first off there is a vent on the hood that allows air in and they actually don't close all the way BUT C'MON!
It's even subtle things like the passive aggressive comments from boomers (yes, I'm lovingly calling you out) about how young kids are all going to be lazy and entitled because of how much they sit in front of screens...while you are sitting right there allowing them some screen time (which is basically a dig at you, you terrible parent).
We ALL love our children and do everything we can to keep them safe and allow them to thrive. We should always start there when talking to each other, shouldn't we? Shaming each other as parents is a road to nowhere and automatically puts people on the defense. Whether it is about spanking, eating gluten, the amount of screen time, or being a Dodgers fan - I truly believe that most parents are doing the best they can with what they have and know. The internet can be a cruel place and I hope that Daring to Dad is a space where open and loving dialogue can happen.
Listen, I am 100% certain that my kids are going to go to therapy someday and unearth ways that my influence on them did harm. With this in mind, I have to let go of any pursuit of perfection in both myself and others. I learned A TON from my parents, but I'm also going to choose to do certain things differently. Having those conversations with them about what has to happen without shame (which, by the way, is different than self-reflection or conviction).
I also believe we should be open to learning and course-correcting when we learn new things. It's never too late to adopt a new style of parenting or shift an approach to discipline. In fact, I think it's healthy for our kids to see us do so. While it's never easy to admit that maybe we were wrong in a certain approach, the alternative is to continue a practice that might do even more damage. Change takes humility and that's not something that comes natural to me.
So let's be gentle to each other. Because life can be hard.
I see you out there, struggling to keep your head above water at work, home, and within yourself. I feel you out there, worrying about paying for childcare, fall clothes, and the looming cost of the holiday season. I hear you out there, trying to pass along your values to a generation whose world will be completely foreign to us.
Wherever you are at, fellow Dad, you're doing great. Parenting is hard enough. Let's root for each other.