Parenting – It’s a Verb

I just read Frank Bruni’s op-ed column “A Childless Bystander’s Baffled Hymn.”

It’s easy for a childless person such as Mr. Bruni to judge. He doesn’t have to parent a kid 24/7 like those of us with children. Like many before him, he takes umbrage with using the word parent as the verb “parenting.” I enjoy words and the evolution of them. Language isn’t a static thing and, personally, I think the word “parenting” is much softer-sounding than “rearing.”

Aside from the fact that Mr. Bruni is a little hard on us poor parents who are just trying to get it right, his column was funny. We do focus on our children in ways that probably aren’t that healthy for them or for us. And, as he points out, just because a person is a celebrity, that person isn’t necessarily a child-development expert as well. I once saw Madonna interviewed about motherhood on Oprah, and she said some crazy stuff. But everyone, especially Oprah, was enthralled with her advice as if she actually were the Madonna.

Mr. Bruni writes:

As the Me Generation spawned generations of mini-me’s, our rigorous self-fascination expanded to include the whole brood and philosophies about its proper care and feeding.

Sometimes parents don’t have much of a sense of humor about being parents. Before you get all mad on me, I know it’s an important job and, yes, I do wish more people took it seriously – or at least had some rudimentary training in it. If I didn’t believe that parents needed some help and support in parenting, then I wouldn’t be editing a parenting publication. So, yes, I do think learning a little something about child development and parenting is important.

But, ultimately, I think Mr. Bruni hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that we parents should cut ourselves some slack because we really don’t have the control that we think we have. No matter what we do, there are no guarantees. What he doesn’t understand is that’s exactly why we can’t cut ourselves some slack.

Thank you, Mr. Bruni, for telling us to relax, but what you can’t know is the all-encompassing love that we have for our children. It’s that piece that makes us act a little crazy at times. Mr. Bruni, you can’t understand the bone-chilling terror we parents have in knowing that we really don’t have much control. Sometimes all we have is trying too hard, praising too much, disciplining too little. Sometimes we just want to believe that all that we do really does make a difference. And sometimes all we have is hope.

Have you had childless people give you advice or criticism about how you parent your children? What did they say, and how did you handle it?

Categories: Editor’s Blog