Three's A'loud

A handy guide on when to tell other parents that they are raising their kids the wrong way

Rewind to 1992 and little Santjie Meyer (my primary school-alias) has to complete her first school assignment. The first step was to page through 378 issues of grandma’s old Huisgenote to find the handy weekly school-project pages with information and pictures on everything from the life-cycle of the house fly to the American civil war. When I found the subject in question, I proceeded to cut out the pictures and handy graphs from the magazine and stick them on coloured board. (Preferably a huge A1 board in red, but if it had to be A4, every page was a different colour.) Even the title of the project was a painstaking exercise in creative-cutting – finding the right letters and glueing them one by one to create a perfect heading. A few captions were added in coloured pens, my name written in ink on the bottom right hand corner and Bob’s your uncle. The pride when you present your colourful assignment in front of the class…

Fast forward to 2016. These days projects are printed, nothing is handwritten and don’t you dare cut out any pictures by hand. Everything is copied and pasted on word, properly centred and professional captions inserted already (often by the kids themselves. In general their computer skills are far superior to their parents’). The last page will be a comprehensive list of sources including web pages, blogs and wiki-whatever. It’s a thing of beauty, don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not advocating the return of glued pictures from magazines, but I do think teachers had much more fun grading projects in those days.

So back to the world of information at our fingertips… when completing above mentioned project, our kids don’t have to rely on grandma’s old magazine collection anymore. These days we have access to the magic of google. We can type any question – and I mean any question – into a search engine and receive pages upon pages of information. There will be pages of valuable research done by industry experts. There will be pages with scientific graphs calculated by mathematicians. There will be pages with excerpts from respected publications done by professors and doctors in a particular field. And of course, inevitably, because this is the internet, there will be the plethora of blogs and facebook entries with absolutely no factual base. These pages often only contain opinions, random thought-processes (not unlike the article you are currently reading!) and have very little to do with facts and statistics. Will you read oom Klaas from Phalaborwa’s tweet about his opinion on the youth of today? Sure. Will you allow your child to quote oom Klaas from Phalaborwa in his project? Probably not.

The same rule applies to any parent needing parenting advise. If you were expecting a family 20 years ago you knew you only had to buy “What to expect when you’re expecting” because that was the be all and end all of parenting guides. You were sorted. All your questions answered in one fell swoop. Not anymore. Now you can google any question, however obscure, and you will get a list of suggested pages with a huge assortment of answers. Some of them slightly more reputable than others. If you ask a question on social media you will get many different opinions. People giving you their feedback, suggestions and opinions. This is great. People being able to say whatever they want is a great thing. When you think about it, these comments are exactly the same as the conversations we have with our aunt Mildred around the dining room table.

Then why, dear readers of mine, why on earth do we get so worked up about it. why would you call someone a ***** ignorant ***** just because he does not agree with your view on breastfeeding?!? Or schooling. Or the appropriate punishment for a naughty 4-year-old. How does their beliefs influence your life? When Aunt Mildred at the family Christmas lunch waffles on about how the only solution to teething problems is a pinch of cayenne pepper in the left nostril we nod and smile and nudge each other under the table. But when a mother on a facebook page shares her view of breastfeeding in public we unleash a veritable avalanche of antagonism against her. Because heaven forbid her opinion is different from yours. Perish the thought that she might have a different way of doing things than you do.

I have to admit that I also sometimes catch myself getting worked up about people’s questions and answers regarding matters of pregnancy and parenting. But then I shake my head and mooooooooove along. Because honestly, the agitation is simply not worth it. It will not change my life in any way. And even more honestly: I realised a long time ago that I am nowhere near being a perfect parent. I try to teach my kids healthy eating habits but if they nag too much I throw them with a pack of potato chips and chase them out of the house to give me some peace. I do my best to maintain a set routine regarding bath time and bedtimes but if they are watching a movie at 20h15 and not killing each other at that exact moment in time I will leave them for another half hour rather than listen to the moaning when I tell them to go to bed. At the best of times I am figuring it out as I go along so who am I to tell others how to live their lives and raise their kids? We all have different backgrounds that hugely influence the way we approach the future. Taking this into account I won’t dare tell you how and when to judge others, however I gladly share my handy checklist of when I unleash my own judgement on unsuspecting fellow parents:

  • Do they come from the same country/province/town as me?
  • Are they the same age as I am?
  • Do they have the same average income as I do?
  • Do they have the same family structure as I do?
  • Are they from the same culture as me?
  • Are they of the same religion as I am?
  • Did I overcome the same obstacles in life as they have?
  • Do their beliefs influence my daily life and the lives of my children in any way, shape or form?

If I answer no to even one of these questions, I gladly accept that quite possibly I have absolutely no right to judge. And if I ever answer yes to every one of these questions, guess what… chances are I still have no right to judge. Seriously, spare yourself the stress and drama. If you have to vent, vent to your better half or your mom or your fern. Venting to your spouse is like winking and kicking your sister under the table at that family dinner where Aunt Mildred is carrying on. Writing long scathing replies on social media is like pouring the gravy over her head and stabbing your fork into her arm. Not cool.

Social media has changed the way we communicate and changed the way we learn. Although our fellow parents’ personal views can be very helpful in our own struggle to find the right answer, the more important thing is to trust your instincts first and if still in doubt, maybe consult a professional.

Parenting is difficult enough. Let’s stop pouring gravy over each other and rather pass the dessert.

This article was first published on Master of Quills


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