I used to care a whole lot about EVERYTHING. And I mean, everything. I was quite a terrorist, if you ask Husband and my firstborn. I used to care what people thought about me and my parenting choices. I used to care about what my kids looked like, because, of course, they always had to be dressed impeccably — in the right shoes and the right shirts and the right pants, with their hair combed just so, because people needed to know we were killing it as parents of six. I used to care about getting places on time and how we looked walking the streets of our city and what my kids’ behavior said about me.
I know better now.
My kids are their own people, and while I’m the shepherd who guides them in their journeys, they are not exact replicas of me (nor would I want them to be. I’m far from perfect, too.).
What I have realized in my years of parenting is that I often care too much about what the people think. So I’ve resolved to stop caring. Here are the top things I will stop caring about:
1. I don’t care what you think about how many children swarm around me and call me Mama.
We get a whole lot of stares when we’re out in public, and we’re out in public a lot, because we like doing things together as a family. And I get it. We have a lot of kids, and they’re all boys. We’re quite a sight to see, honestly. I’ve started telling myself that people are staring at us because they’ve never seen boys so well behaved. But every now and then, someone walks up to shatter that perception, because the judgement is practically dripping from their eyes, and if it wasn’t dripping from their eyes, I would find it pretty quickly in the tone they use to say these words: “These all yours?” We’ll politely say, yes, they all belong to us. “My God,” they’ll say. “Ever heard of birth control?” or something along those no-filter lines, at which point we’ll walk away, because our kids deserve better than that. They really are good boys, and they don’t need to know how ugly the world can be just yet.
So I’ve stopped caring about what people think of my choice to have half a dozen kids. You can think what you want. You can think I’m ruining the planet because I’m contributing to overpopulation. You can think I’m irresponsible and selfish in this irresponsible and selfish choice. You can think it’s just a waste of space in our society. You can think I’m crazy or ignorant or unschooled or back woods or ridiculously ridiculous. I don’t even care.
2. I don’t care if you could never imagine yourself doing what I do on a daily basis.
Recently I read an essay urging the moms of the Internet to stop being so sensitive to the things that people say to them. Maybe it’s true that sometimes we get a little sensitive about the things people say. But I like to think that I can always tell when people mean well and when they don’t. There’s something in the eyes. I’ve always been good at reading the eyes, because I was a political reporter for a while, and I got really good at spotting the liars and the judgmental and the hostile. There’s always something in the eyes.
The ones who mean well, there’s a lot more forgiveness and grace for them, in my book. Go ahead. You can joke with me about how I have a basketball team with a sub or how I must have been going for a girl or how there are so many of them, everywhere, you can’t get away from them because I can see in your eyes that you mean well and you’re actually quite delighted.
But the ones who don’t mean well, they should just stop talking.
It’s often that we will hear from people, “I don’t know how you do it.” Mostly it’s said out of admiration, but every now and then, there’s a crazed person who makes a beeline for our family when we’re crossing the Alamo Plaza in the great city of San Antonio, just so they can say, “I can’t imagine having that many kids,” and look at our kids like they’re some kind of monsters who will take over the planet and eat the brains of all the much-more-capable-and-desirable adults.
Call me crazy, but I’m not a big fan of my boys standing in front of a person who makes them feel like there’s something wrong with who they inherently are, just because there are six of them. The oldest is getting old enough to pick up on this scorn. But you know what? I don’t care anymore if you think you could never imagine yourself doing laundry for six kids every week or teaching six kids every day or feeding six kids every hour. I don’t care if you think I was a nutcase for choosing this kind of life for myself. I don’t care. Shut your mouth and move along. This is family time. Not let’s-see-what-a-stranger-thinks-about-all-these-children time, despite what you may think.
3. I don’t care if the way my kids are dressed makes them look like orphans.
My kids dress themselves. That means many times, they don’t have matching shoes or they’re wearing one flip flop and one tennis shoe, because their solution for “I can’t find my other Iron Man tennis shoe” is to leave one tennis shoe on and let the other foot carry green flip flop. They have holes in their jeans, because they walk on their knees half the time. They have unbrushed hair, because they can’t be bothered to put a comb through their tangles, and I’m too busy feeding a baby or cleaning up another glass of spilled milk or hugging a 4-year-old. They have smudges on their faces, because they’re like magnets for dirt.
All of this doesn’t mean we don’t take good care of them. It just means kids get to dress however they want (with gentle suggestions from Mama and Daddy) and deal with the consequences of their choices. Like shorts in 40-degree weather.
So I don’t care what other people think about what my kids look like. I don’t care if you think we’re not taking care of them or if you wonder whether we’re those crazy people who don’t bathe our kids every day (we don’t). I don’t care if you think I’m a negligent mother (I’m not) or if you think I have no style (not much) or if you think they just get to run around like hoodlums outside (yeah, mostly).
4. I don’t care what you think my kids’ behavior says about me.
It’s amazing to me how much people forget about the day in, day out battles of raising children. I’ve heard already-raised-their-kids parents rake younger parents over the coals, because their kids never had a tantrum, and even if they did, it was only once, because blah blah blah. Whatever.
So my kid had a tantrum. Stop giving me the stink-eye. So my kid won’t stop whining and it’s super annoying. So my kid didn’t want to leave the park and kicked some of the mulch, and it got in his twin brother’s eye. Yeah, that’s not allowed, but you know what? It happens. Emotions can’t always be controlled perfectly. And just because I understand that doesn’t mean he’s not gong to deal with the consequences of his actions, but it does mean that I’m going to first empathize with my kid about how hard it is to leave a park when we’re having fun. Mind your own business and let me take care of it.
I don’t care if you think I’m too strict. I don’t care if you think I’m too lenient. I don’t care if you think I’m probably not the best one for this job. I don’t care. I’ll parent my kids however I want to parent them, because I’m the one who knows them best. I know their tendencies and their struggles and their pitfalls, and, most of all, I know their hearts. You don’t, in your one glance my way.
I don’t care what other people think about us anymore. I don’t care if you hate families and despise children, because you think they have nothing to offer the world. I know who we are, and I know who my kids are, and I know how much value they have to offer, and I know that they will one day change this world they’re living in.
That makes me glad I have six of them to raise.
A version of this essay first appeared on Crash Test Parents. Follow Rachel on Twitter and Facebook. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families