We Are Obnoxious Parents
If I could give new parents one piece of advice it’d be this: Shut up. In our quest to fulfill the modern perfect parent mold of sportsmanship awards and never-distressed children, we have become our own worst, overhyped, over-gratifying enemies.
Today at Story Time in the Park, Julia and I were part of a seemingly lovely scene with green lawn, shimmering lake and several dozen darling children all there to enjoy the librarian’s reading of stories, singing of songs and general kid-tastic activities. Yet, even in this fully stimulating environment – complete with birds chirping, dogs barking, kids yelling, librarian reading, music playing – the parents around me felt the need to add more. Instead of letting the story teller do her job and, well, tell the story, parents added their own commentary; repeated phrases and pointed out unnecessary details to their already borderline-overwhelmed kids. It was no surprise when meltdowns began. The only surprise was watching parents react to their children’s meltdowns with further inundation of words, “What’s wrong, honey? What’s the matter? How do you feel? Do you want to go home? Don’t you like the story? Don’t you want to sing with Mommy? The itsty-bitsy spider…” Holy cow. I almost had a meltdown.
It seems that interactive parenting has become so synonymous with good parenting that any moment of parental quiet or observation or standing on the sidelines is seen as failure. To prove you love your kid, you must REALLY love your kid; all the time, everywhere in the most obvious, overbearing and quite honestly, obnoxious way possible.
Rather than giving our children room to figure it out for themselves, we’re throwing the answers smack at their head. Rather than letting them come to us when they need us, we’re hovering, helicoptering and tripping over them to show them/us/others that we care.
And, yet, even as I write this with self-righteous hard-pound typing, I know that I am a part of it all. I know that despite what I fundamentally believe about participation awards and the long-term repercussions of overenthusiasm, I still succumb to some unspoken pressure to prove my good mommy worth with undo praise. By virtue of not congratulating my daughter on each blade of grass she picks or each literal step she takes, I may be at risk of damaging her. I’m not quite sure how. But if all other kids get a sticker for doing just normal kid stuff, why shouldn’t mine?
In order to calm down our children we must learn to calm down ourselves. In order to quiet their lives, let them enjoy peace and grow up confident, we – I – must learn to shut up, sit down and feel good doing it.