Parenting Isn’t Hard

Parenting isn’t hard.

Well, okay, sometimes it’s hard.

Sometimes it’s hard to contain all this love that I feel for my child, and I’m worried I’m just going to snatch him up and squeeze him to bits in a fit of overly-emotional love-smush.

Sometimes it’s hard to fathom the future and that someday there will be a 6 year old, an 11 year old, a 17 year old living here, and someday a 25 year old not living here, living out in the world instead where I can’t watch over him.

Sometimes it’s hard to love him so deeply and yet not be able to take his hurts away. I am sometimes bowed in this powerlessness.

Sometimes it’s hard to realize that I am his whole world right now and that his trust is vast and complete. I tremble before this power.

Okay then.

Sometimes I participate in a discussion about someone in public being mean to their child. By “being mean” I mean spanking, slapping, grabbing, yanking, dragging, yelling, name-calling, belittling, punishing and so forth. And there’s always someone in these discussions ready to declare that “parenting is hard” and we should therefore cut the parent some slack. And I just reject this wholeheartedly. It is not hard to not treat people like shit. Children are small, dependent people, and we should be doubly sure not to treat them like shit.

Parenting is the very act of caring for these smaller people. It should not be synonymous with treating them in abusive ways.

Say I’m in a McDonald’s. In a booth near me is what appears to be a romantically involved man and woman enjoying a meal together. Near the end of the meal, the woman accidentally knocks her soda over and it spills over the table and floor. The man leaps to his feet and yells, “Oh my god! I told you to be careful with that!” He grabs her by the arm and drags her out of the booth. “That’s the last time you get to have a medium drink!” He shoves her off to the side while he starts to clean up. “Go stand by the door, we’re going home right now.” After an initial little gasp at the spilled drink, the woman remains silent, body slack, eyes averted.

I would be horrified to witness this scene. I would worry about the verbal lashing, and I would worry about the physical aspects. Probably most people would be concerned on some level. However, when I witnessed that scene with, instead of a woman, a 10 year old child, no one batted an eye. It doesn’t even stand out. Doesn’t register. Some might even consider it “good discipline”.

But, it’s not. It’s just abusive. We would not say about the man, “Well, relationships are hard. He’s probably just having a bad day. Cut him some slack.”

On a “bad day”, I might grumble at Joshua. I might be a little curt, a little snippy. I would not pull his body around, hit him, yell at him, say belittling things at him, or order him about. We have a loving relationship together that doesn’t include those kinds of actions. Likewise, parenting is between parent and child but is still supposed to be a loving relationship together. People who are mean and abusive to children don’t have a parenting problem. They have an abuse problem.

Except it becomes a parenting problem when there are people running around saying “parenting is hard” as a way to excuse the abuse of children. I’ll bet there are people who aren’t actually assholes trying to be mean to their kids because they think that’s what parenting is. I’d like to put a stop to that.

Parenting is supposed to be a loving relationship between parent and child, and it should look like one, and that shouldn’t be hard.