“I would NEVER…”
Of all the phrases I wish we parents…heck, people in general…would stop using, this one tops the list.
Back in the day, when I worked for Children’s Aid, I heard this from clients all the time: “You don’t get it because you don’t have kids. You haven’t been in my shoes. You can’t possibly understand. How can you tell me what to do?” SO annoying, amiright?”
I would nod sympathetically and patiently explain yet again that I completely understood their misgivings, but although I might not have children of my own, I had a lot of experience and training, not to mention a university degree in child development and specialized training in child welfare and assessment.
If I had a time machine, I would go back and apologize to all those clients and give the smug little university grad I was a smack upside the head because I Just. Didn’t. Get. It.
I didn’t. I couldn’t. And it doesn’t just apply to parenthood, although that seems to be the area most people feel they are experts at…if not at parenting their own kids, at least at parenting yours. Sometimes it seems like becoming a parent makes you public property, with every choice up for debate in open forum, in a way that not many other choices are. I rarely see blog posts taking a hard line on the relative benefits of private courier versus government post, or sourcing home insurance through a broker versus direct-buy.
In fact, it starts way before you become a parent. Even the decision whether or not to have children is debatable. “Actually, I don’t plan to have children.” “Oh, you won’t always feel that way.”
When it comes to parenting, unless you are hurting or endangering your child, you’re doing it right. There might be ways that work better for others, and there might be choices that your child makes necessary. There might be tips and advice from which you would benefit, and if you know someone in that situation, a little, “Have you tried…?” “I’ve heard of people…” or, “Something that helped me was…” can go a long way.
But very, very rarely does a situation arise in which saying, “I. Would. Never.” will not result in you eventually either having to eat your words or defend an indefensible position.
Here is a by no means exhaustive list of all the things I (once upon a time) would never:
…yell at my kids.
Ha! That lasted all of 5 minutes. This morning.
…spank my child.
Dodged a bullet there, because I never actually said it. Someone tried to get me to agree with them on that once and I said no way – sure, that was the plan, but could I guarantee that I would never, ever find myself in a situation when a swat on the bottom would be sorely tempting? Nope. And has it happened? Yep.
…give in to a tantrum.
Oh, all the freaking time. I usually manage to couch it in, “Maybe if you tried saying please,” or what have you, but I don’t kid myself. When I’ve put my foot down about something, the kid throws a wobbler, and I get them to ask nicely and then give them the thing I said no to originally? Yeah, I caved.
…judge another parent.
Let she who has not sinned cast the first, “Ohmygoodnesshaveyouseenhowhiskidacts…?”
…feed my kids junk food.
Ask Ben about his life’s absolute, greatest achievement to date and dollars to…er…donuts…he’ll tell you rapturously about the glorious week in which he ate pizza Every. Single. Day.
…drive without my kids buckled in properly.
On purpose, or by accident? Either way, let’s just say I’m not proud, but it’s happened.
…use TV as a babysitter.
As a babysitter…as a sedative…as a substitute for Ritalin…I have a kid who never, ever stops. Ever. TV is the only thing that slows his brain down enough for his body…and mine…to take a break.
…have a third child.
After Molly was born, I said to everyone who would listen two was IT. Stamped it, no erasies. Now? Who knows what the future holds.
…be a stay-at-home mom.
This one was almost a dealbreaker for Ian and my blossoming relationship. He had a career-MOM, I had a CAREER-mom, and we could NOT agree on which was the way to go. My plan was to go straight back to school and then work after I had Ben until I suddenly realized that I didn’t WANT to. Sadly, my alma mater can count one fewer doctorate among its alumnae, but on the bright side, I’m incredibly happy with my life choices!
…terminate a pregnancy.
My personal brand of pro-choice always came with the caveat, “I wouldn’t never do it, but…” until I found myself facing the one situation in which I would.
…be a short-order cook to avoid mealtime meltdowns.
I did EVERYTHING right, and boy was I ever smug about my 1 year-old who would happily eat whatever I put in front of him. I wasn’t quite as smug when he became a 2 year-old who could vomit on command to protest the utter indignity of being fed carrots.
Molly, this morning: “Mommy, do you know that you never share your blanket? That’s kind of mean.” Me: “Zzzzzz.”
…become a dance mom.
*Hangs head in shame*
…buy a Katy Perry or a Taylor Swift album.
It was for the kids, I swear!
…start a blog.
Well…that escalated quickly.
Parenting is hard, and everyone is different – parents, non-parents, and kids – and all of that will affect your choices. When you say, “I would never,” you set yourself up for failure when that one situation comes along that forces you to reevaluate. When you say, “Right now my plan is,” you recognize that everyone’s truth is different and you allow yourself room for growth too.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have convictions. I’m just saying it’s a big sandbox, so let’s try to play nice.
I’m with Next life, NO Kids making a #Mommitment to end the Mommy Wars. Are you in?
Do you have any, “I would nevers”? What have you said in the past that you have let go of?
Ha! I have LOTS of “I would NEVER”s! So many that I could write my OWN post. But I am too lazy for all that. So instead, I will share yours! 🙂
lol — aw, c’mon – spill ’em!!
I too had a long list of, I would NVER’s. And then I had children and well, you know what happens. Thanks for a wonderful post and joining in on a wonderful campaign.
That made me realize something (a hopefully soon-to-be mum if this baby makes it). It’s late, so this probably isn’t as earth-shattering as it seems. But isn’t the attitude of “you don’t get it because you don’t have kids” COMPLETELY contradictory to “Here, let me tell you how to parent”? One one hand, you’re telling a childless person she has no right to an opinion about children. On the other hand, you’re telling a someone else now that she has a child, she has a right to an opinion, but it’s wrong.
On the receiving end, you’re screwed either way, people will tell you you’re wrong whether you have kids or not. Sounds like a power trip to me. (Mind you I can imagine that people pre-having-children like me, might be a little unrealistic sometimes.)
On another note, do you think that having preconceptions of “I will probably” is just as bad as “I would NEVER?” For example, thinking back to what I remember of my mum raising us, I will probably smack my child occasionally, I will probably put them in a harness (I like the idea in theory), and I will probably give them tastes of alcohol if requested at a relatively early age, etc. but I know that many other parents wouldn’t. It feels that it’s not my place to make such decisions for my niece, for example.
I definitely think there is a vast amount of space in the spectrum between “You don’t get it because you don’t have kids” and “I know everything because I have kids.” There are people who will never understand, with or without their own kids, that they don’t know jack-all about how to parent yours or mine and there are people who with or without kids will always understand that everyone’s situation is different…and I think that’s the part I wasn’t understanding when I was a young cocky CAS worker telling people that there was one very obvious right way to do things and that now that they knew what it was (because I had told them) it should be easy to follow through.
I think you’re right about the power trip – “I would nevers” make it easy to act, and to judge, and to feel superior – until you hit that situation that forces you to reexamine and suddenly that house of cards comes crumbling down. There are certain parenting philosophies that are full of “I would nevers” and sometimes I feel like the more “I would nevers” you have, the more defensive you wind up having to be (and the more people you’ll find trying arguing with you and being defensive themselves) – it’s got to be exhausting!
Your last paragraph hits the nail right on the head – I think “I will probablys” are part of knowing who you are – and in terms of having kids, it’s a good idea to get on the same page as much as possible about those probablys as a couple before you find yourself in the situation! The crucial distinction is that “I will probably” leaves the door slightly open – you’re saying, “Give my upbringing and my own beliefs, I will probably XYZ, but I recognize that it’s not the only way to do things and I give myself the freedom to change my mind if the situation warrants.”
I loved this read! So true, so true! The many things I vowed not to do when “I” had kids and the many parents I judged through the years! Man, did I learn my lesson (to say the least). Great post! =)
Oh yes. In fact if I had nickel for each one of my I Will Nevers I could buy my old smug self some more yoga pants! You know, the ones I swore I would NEVER live in after I had children!!
Lol – Yoga pants, or as I like to call them, business casual.
Love this–ALL of it. SO many things I’ve said too. The cooking, the spanking, the dance mom ( she says, as she is soon to call the local little dance studio to sign up the toddler……).
Let me warn you – Dance Momming is totally addictive. The costumes! The makeup! The hair!! Next stop Toddlers and Tiaras…
I have a ton of “I would nevers” from insignificant stuff like “I’d never let my car get wrecked when I have kids” to “I’d never vote Republican.” Some, however *cough* do stick. 😉
I totally get where you’re coming from. Tea Party all the way!!! =)
Oh man. My list of ‘I would nevers’ is TOO long. Let’s just say, I hear ya, sista. I hear ya. 😉 xo