Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why do we need validation from other people about our own parenting skills?

Contrary to what most teachers will declare publicly, we do have favorite students. Before I had my own kids, I had already been teaching for 9 years, and I always fantasized that one day, my kid would be the Secret Favorite Student. I had students whose families I wanted to be "just like." These parents would attend my class activities, come to my Parents' Nights, and I would think: That's how I'm going to be when I'm a parent. I will be one of the ones the teachers silently praise and think: "That's how you raise a great kid."

And then, my oldest went to pre-k, and he started to go through some interesting phases. There was the "Making The Teacher Repeat Herself A Million Times Phase." There was the "I Will Question Everything The Teacher Says Because I Think I Know More Than She Does" phase. And the "I'd Much Rather Roll Around On The Carpet When The Teacher Tells Me To Sit Quietly For Circle Time" phase.  And, my personal favorite: the "Let's Gang Up On That Kid In The Playground And Punch Him For No Reason" phase.

I would drop him off in the morning and one of the very proper morning-duty teachers would stiffly greet him, "Good morning, Ben." I wasn't sure if I imagined the pinched facial expression that accompanied the greeting, but I was pretty sure I could detect dread and judgment in her voice. I remember the morning she complained that the day before, he'd refused to clean up his area, and she'd had to explain to him "very clearly" that he was, in fact, going to pick up because she said so. (Let me note here that I agree with her's just that I always got the feeling that she didn't think we were trying to enforce that at home.)

That very same teacher gave a Parents Workshop one evening on behavior and discipline. I attended, of course, not only because it seemed that, just maybe, I did not know everything there was to know after all, but also because I was afraid she (and the rest of the staff) would certainly search the sign-up list for our names and snub their noses if ours weren't there: "See? That's why their kid behaves that way..."  Maybe my husband was right when he insisted to me later that there was no way she was talking specifically about our kid the entire hour (hmmm...maybe THIS is where my son gets his It's-All-About-Me Attitude?), but there were two times when she specifically pointed out some of Ben's "personality traits." One of those times, she even nodded at me, and said the words: "Like in your case, with Ben." So yeah, I wasn't completely, totally, irrationally paranoid.

Fast forward 3 years and one more kid...
Yesterday, Hubby and I attended our littlest one's end-of-year party. We were standing there, taking pictures of him eating a cupcake shaped like a graduation hat, and thinking about how quickly the years went by...Both of our boys had grown up and gotten ready for kindergarten at this sweet, little school, and now it was time to go. After 4 years, we would no longer be taking a little boy to "Purple Door" every day for morning drop off. Where had the years gone? Where had our baby boys gone? And what would we do without the teachers from this little place, who had cared for our boys and taught them their ABC's?

This same teacher must have overheard us, because she walked over and said, "So, this is it, huh? The ending?" Hubby and I responded with melancholic yes's.

"You know," she said, "I've always been very impressed with the two of you."

WHAT? Surely, I had misunderstood?

"I was always so impressed," she continued, "by your parenting...the time you two always dedicate to your boys...the way you've raised them. In fact, I told my daughter that when she has kids, THIS is how I want her to be..."

I was so stunned and so moved, I could barely utter a thank you.

All that time, I had been so worried about what someone else was thinking of my parenting. I was sure that she thought we weren't doing a "good enough" job. And all along she was, in fact, watching and judging, but I was completely wrong in my assumption. Maybe my concern of what she thought had a whole lot more to do with what I was thinking of our parenting (and our kid) back then, than it did about her. But still, why did I care back then?

And why do I still care? Why did it feel so good to hear her say that yesterday? Why should anyone else's opinion serve as proof that we're good parents?

After I left, I cried the whole way to work. I'm not even sure why. I felt so raw, already, this aware of the passing of aware that Life is happening. All the time. And we just shuffle around, trying to do our best. Trying to do everything that needs to be done every day, to be the Best Wife/Friend/Daughter/Teacher/Mother/Self, and to take it all in and savor it as we do so. To really feel life.


  1. We need that external validation because we are human...and because we even though we know we are doing the very best we can do, as parents of independent, little people, we are winging it.

    If it makes you feel any better, I still almost cry (and mine is EIGHTEEN!) when someone compliments my parenting.

  2. Hugs for you and your boys. All you really need to listen to is your heart and I promise, it is enough. And if you still need the validation, you are doing a good job. Because nobody knows your kid like you. NOBODY.

  3. We need that validation because even Supermums are human and sometimes the certainty that we are absolutely doing the right thing by our babba's needs endorsing by those who strike us as in the know...


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