Parent Cannibals – How We Forever Fail

I let my toddler Eliza sleep in my bed last night even though my wife and I committed to building better sleep habits with her. Today I let her have my cell phone for 30 minutes of videos so she wouldn’t wake up her napping mother and I could knock out a shower. Later, after 25 minutes of reading books on the potty, I was impatient, rushed Eliza, and put her back in her diaper. She filled the diaper within minutes and I missed the opportunity. I bought groceries for a nice Sunday dinner but Eliza ate hot dogs and a sweet potato because the golf tournament on TV was getting really good. Everly (6 weeks) was working through some tummy discomfort and screaming her head off in my ear; I broke down earlier than usual and passed her off to my wife. I could make this post stretch for page after page with my parenting mistakes, shortcomings, and underwhelming moments from just the past 24 hours. I could go back a week and stretch this into a novel. Detailing a full month’s worth of transgressions might take me beyond retirement age.

Do my imperfections (to put it kindly) prevent me from rolling my eyes when I see a kid on his leash while his mom shoots selfies? Of course not. How about judgmental expressions on my face when I see a toddler doing crocodile death turns in a manic tantrum on the floor of Target? Yep, I subconsciously give those (assuming it’s not my own toddler—then it’s good parenting to let her throw the fit J). How can that celebrity raise their kid like that? I know better. I shake my head with derision when I hear parenting horror stories in the news…come on people, it’s not that hard. Catching the irony in all of this?

I’m going to work under the assumption that I am not the only parent out there who has strung together a few poor parenting moments over the last few days, months, or years. I’m also going to assume that there are others who tend to view their parenting skills in a ‘more favorable light’ than the skills of other parents they encounter regularly. Why is that? I believe (or I hope) that we all have some standard of self-awareness that allows us to recognize at least some fault in our own parenting, yet this awareness does nothing to curb our own judgmental thoughts and words towards other parents.

This is a very strange phenomenon. Parenthood is this strange paradox where one can actually feel a certain camaraderie with the 2 billion other members of this exclusive community at some times, and at others, completely disregard other tribe members with judgment. I have had so many moments in public where I give out an empathetic wink or nod of support to another father dragging a flailing maniac through a store, yet I’ve had just as many occurrences staring at someone in silent judgment. Oops.  It means something special when a stranger throws out a word of encouragement while I’m trying to survive a grocery run with the little ones.  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the encouragement, other times it’s death stares.  Thanks for those, by the way.

This is parental cannibalization, where we often feast on each other’s flaws and mistakes while failing to acknowledge our own. We judge others to validate our own methods and skills and lack the self-awareness to understand how ridiculous we look while smirking at another struggling parent. I don’t care if there’s a billion people on Earth who have had kids; if you and I both have kids, we have a special bond whether we’ve met or not.  Parenthood is the most intense journey in the world…it makes sense to have as many people by your side as possible.  So have some grace, extend some kindness, and empathize a bit with other parents, especially strangers; and if you don’t, I’m probably going to judge you for it 🙂

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