There's a certain anonymity about the internet that gives us the permission to be bold, to say things we might not say in real life and to judge others with reckless abandon because somehow they aren't real people on the receiving end of all of our freedom of expression. Maybe before you left the maternity ward with your little bundle of joy you already figured it all out or maybe somewhere along the way you decided that your way was the best, most perfect way to parent and if others didn't agree, they could just drink the hater-aid you're shoving down their throat and then they'd magically join the cult of perfect parenting and we could all agree that there is one perfect way to parent.
If that were true don't you think someone would have written the manual by now? We could agree on doctrine and settle into our nice cushy roles as moms and dads and put this job on autopilot. Maybe we'd even outsource it entirely if we knew every single person we encountered knew the perfect way to parent. There really would be no need to do it ourselves.
Maybe we could round up the kids and send them to a communal compound where they could receive the adequate training, proper nutrition, exceptional education and of course learn the doctrine of perfect parenting so that one day when they're old enough to have children of their own they too can join the ranks of this cult.
I'm blown away at our ability to read someone's life experience and flip it to be better or worse, less than or more than our own experiences. While reading an article on The Huffington Post meant to inspire parents to put their parenting problems in perspective within a global context, the comments struck me hard. I thought, "Can't we all just stop drinking the hater-aid?"
Look at that picture! There's reason to judge this mom based on this one snapshot in time. Let's disregard the message entirely and focus instead on her audacity to comment on her faith or debate the merits of co-sleeping vs. putting a baby in a crib in their own room. Let's all go on and on about what makes one a perfect parent because we've all got this. We're perfect and we have absolutely nothing to learn from one another.
If this sounds harsh, it's because it is. It's harsh to see how hard we cling to this notion that there is such a thing as being a perfect parent. Put that cup of hater-aid down right now and step away from the shrine of your own experience.
Parenthood is about two things - 1. Loving your child more than yourself and 2. Trial and error - lots of it. What works for us may not work for someone else. It doesn't mean we're right and they're wrong. Why must we always seek to prove or justify the choices we've made raising our kids? Is it because we see our kids as the ultimate reflection of ourselves? If they are happy and successful, then so are we.
I think the real reason we take the first swig of that tempting juice is that we're all freaking terrified that we're screwing up. Will the one person who has it all figured out please step forward? We aren't born knowing how to be a parent, just like kids aren't born with instructions hardwired in their brains to make all the right choices. We're learning this parenting thing together, with their little hands in ours. Sometimes we're leading them, but many times they're leading us.
We're learning what they need, how to cope, how to nurture, how to teach and how to mold them into the people they will become. Our insecurity is palpable. Every decision we make is so heavy, so important that we can't deal. We have to drink the hater-aid. We have to believe that our way is right, that our path is the one and only or else it all falls apart and we go back to crying in the closet while our kids are sleeping. If we aren't confident we're doing it the right way, what assurance can we give our kids?
I don't know about you, but I hope to give my children empathy for a parent who is trying, but will ultimately fail them at some point. I hope that they learn to hear my apologies as proof that I am NOT a perfect parent, because I'm not a perfect person. What I need them to know is that I'll never give up on them and that they will never be failures to me because love covers a multitude of sins. I hope that one day they know that they taught me much more about who I am and who I want to be then I could ever hope to teach them.
So I implore you, don't drink the hater-aid. Use the internet to build a community of parenthood built on respect for each other because we're all doing the very best we can and not a cult built on a premise that doesn't exist. None of us have it figured out, not even a little.
This post originally appeared on The No Drama Mama.