Opinion Columns & Blogs

A love letter to parents of very young children

It seems like Americans are becoming less tolerant of the family structure and, in particular, small children. Although our culture is generally passive aggressive, people seem to be very free with parenting advice and looks of scorn toward what they perceive as misbehaving children.

Oh, admit it; you’ve been there — standing in a grocery line listening to a screaming baby and thinking, “Why doesn’t somebody shut that kid up?”

If you are reading this and do not have kids, then let me be the one to tell you: Despite carefully planned outings and repetitive behavioral conversations, even the best parents end up in situations with misbehaving children who have artfully waited until the worst possible time to announce to the world that they are “poopy.”

Or even worse, you are a parent, and think “I would never allow my kids to act that way.” In which case I would like you to go back to your Stepford home and stop reading this right now.

Either you have a nanny and a cleaning lady or your kids are grown and you have just blocked the entire memory of their toddler phase.

I am here on behalf of those on the other side. The side that is forced into dragging their screaming child through the grocery store, because they just worked an eight-hour shift and the daycare closes at 6, but “oh crap” they are out of diapers and milk.

I get it; most people are not going to understand why parents don’t just keep those annoying children at home.

“Statistically speaking, women in the United States are bearing fewer children,” says James Wetzel, former assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He notes that the average family size is smaller than it has ever been, and the average number of children a fertile woman is expected to produce has been below the replacement level since 1972.

So it makes sense that with fewer children in the world, there is less understanding of how children, by nature, are.

To make matters worse, there are about as many theories on the proper way to raise a child as there are to cook an egg. From Rousseau, Piaget, Ferber, Dr. Spock and Dr. Seuss to Oprah and Dr. Phil, chances are you are doing something wrong by someone else’s standards. And there is no shortage of people who seem to be ready to tell you about it.

My dear parents, I know that you love your children and struggle every day to make the best of hard decisions. And I don’t think you should be imprisoned in your own home or suffer random shaming in public because of it.

So the next time you notice someone giving you that dreaded look of scorn, just smile back at their hard-boiled soul with your own look. The one that says you like your eggs with Sriracha sauce, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Summer D. Bishop is a superhero mother of two who moonlights by day as a government attorney in Tacoma.