We need to make better choices, if not for ourselves, than for our children

My daughter deserves better than a world on fire

Photo by Steve Gale on Unsplash

Earlier this week, I sat down to write a blog post for our local paper’s parenting section. The topic I’d given myself to write about — and the topic that had been approved by my editor — was “judging other people’s parenting choices.”

When I suggested this topic months ago, I had fully intended to write a largely superficial article about why we shouldn’t judge other people’s choices.

You can imagine what that article would have sounded like. I would have talked about giving each other grace during these hard times and how we all have the right to different opinions, etc.

But given the state of the world — and my increasing impatience with it — I’m going to take a different approach.

Instead, I’m arguing we should judge other people’s choices, including their parenting choices, because it is our choices that demonstrate our character and because the way we raise our children will shape the future.

Now, I’m not saying we should judge other parents for small differences of opinion over breastfeeding or bottles, nap schedules and things like that. To each their own there.

But I do think there are choices that are open to judgement and comment, because we do not live in a vacuum and the children we are raising will one day be unleashed on the world. What we teach them will help determine whether their impact will be positive or negative.

And in this way, we desperately need to make better choices.

We need to do better — as parents, as people and as a society. We need to be making better choices for our children. We need to be better role models for our children. We need to see, admit and confront the problems of today so we can fix them and not hand them over to our kids one day.

Think about it. What have the children growing up today been witnessing? What are they seeing when they turn on the news? How are the adults behaving?

The adults are screaming. They are breaking into buildings. They are lying. They are threatening violence. They are denying science, facts and truth. They are killing people — through overt violence and callous indifference to a proven health threat. They are demonstrating over and over again that they do not care about anyone but themselves.

Enough already.

My child — all children — deserve better than this.

My daughter has been alive nine months, just nine months, and in that short time, she has had to live through the worst pandemic in a century and an attempted government coup. That’s more than I’d had to endure in the 33 years I had leading up to her birth.

What are we going to put these kids through next? As parents, what else are we willing to let our children endure? What choices or behaviors are we going to ignore because we don’t want to have uncomfortable conversations, don’t want to seem confrontational or because we are afraid of how people will respond?

Maybe we need to stop caring about whether we seem confrontational and care more about doing the right thing, even — or most especially — if it is hard.

The way I see it, all of the myriad responsibilities of parenting boil down to two simple things: 1) we have to be kind to our children and 2) we have to teach our children to be kind to themselves and others.

Political differences aside, I think most of us should be able to agree we haven’t witnessed a lot of kindness lately. It is not kind to lie. It is not kind to be violent. It is not kind to decide that just because something doesn’t matter to you that it doesn’t matter to anyone else (like a pandemic that has killed almost 400,000 Americans, for instance).

And here is the part that seems especially hard for Midwesterners, because many of us were taught it is more important to be “polite” than it is to do what is right: it is not kind to keep silent when those around you make choices that hurt others.

To create a safer and better life for our kids, it’s our responsibility to make judgements about what is best for them and their futures. If the choices of some of the people in our lives don’t align with that, I think we can judge them on that and hopefully confront them on it too.

As a parent — and as simply, people — I think that’s sort of our job.

I’m a freelance writer and editor. I’ve written nonfiction children’s books, bar reviews, health care communications and more: https://ashleystrehlehartman.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store