Monday, February 9, 2015

The heated debates aka why do we think we know what's best for others

There’s been a lot of postings on social media and commentary on the news lately about vaccines and vaccinating your children. I see postings from my friends with the captions, “Idiots vaccinate your damn children!” and “I wouldn’t let my kids near anyone who chooses not to vaccinate.” It’s a heated debate and I truly believe trying to sway someone’s opinion on the subject is akin to trying to change someone’s religion. You can’t post articles from Huffington Post and Fox News online and expect anyone to read it and change their mind there on the spot. What I’m glad to see happening is conversations about what’s best for our children and studies that help those that may not have information understand so that they might make informed decisions. What I disagree with is the parent shaming going on here and the bullying I happening behind the mask of social media.

Let me share with you a story. When I first found out I was pregnant I went to the Planned Parenthood in Stapleton to have an ultrasound. I had just taken a positive pregnancy test and wasn’t sure what to do with that information (what’s next? How can I confirm this?!) so I made an appointment for an ultrasound. The Planned Parenthood in Stapleton is the only one in Denver that does ultrasounds but it also performs abortions. I was warned by the lady on the phone when I made the appointment but had never witnessed these protestors for myself. The building itself is surround by huge walls and bushes and the protestors park themselves outside of the walls with signs bearing images of aborted fetuses and have bloody baby dolls hanging from strings. I pulled into the parking lot, thankful to be away from these people when I hear a man with a bull horn yelling at me. I looked up and this man was on a ladder on the other side of the fence shouting at me how I was going to hell and how horrible of a person I was. Here I am, going inside to get an ultrasound to determine the validity of my pregnancy and there’s a man screaming at me things too horrible to mention. I was treated to the same treatment when I was leaving as well as protestors getting inches from my car as I was leaving. My point is, that I was going into this clinic for a reason that had nothing to do with abortions (which I fully support a woman’s right to choose) and yet I was being harassed and bullied for the assumption that because I was there I must have been doing something perceived as morally wrong.

So, it goes without saying it pains me to see bullying on social media (where it’s the worst to me, other parents don’t tend to talk about this stuff on the playground) when at the core of things we are all trying to do our best as parents. I don’t think anyone has ever been persuaded by another group on an opposing side of an issue by intimidation or aggravation and the greatest battles on our American soil will tell you that much. There's quite a bit of demeaning conversations going around that assume that because someone makes certain choices it's because they aren't educated to choose otherwise. I chose, for example, to not have an epidural because I believed it was the best decision for myself and my baby. Does this mean that I should shame other woman who've had elected drugs or C-sections? Why should a woman who chooses to have a home birth be treated any different than one who chooses a hospital? From the time of conception we are constantly striving as mothers and parents to pick and choose based on research, beliefs and personal experience.
I believe most of us strive to teach our children that bullying is wrong yet why is it we find ourselves doing this towards one another?
What I’m glad to see is dialogue between parents because I don’t think there’s enough of that. I don’t think there’s enough listening or sharing for the fear that we’ll be judged on our decisions as parents. Some of the greatest conversations for me, have come from my sharing with others on the decisions I have made with Charlotte that sometimes eat me up to my very core. I'm not looking for anyone else to align or agree with me so much as I want others to listen. I find it helpful to be reassured I'm not alone in my fears or dreams. As the saying goes, when we talk we only regurgitate what we've studied but when we listen we're open to learning something new.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know what the hell I’m doing most times. As Charlotte inches further into toddlerhood I find myself sailing uncharted waters with her as the ocean tossing and clashing with my boat. I’ve had two distinct instances where I’ve yelled at her….like lost-my-temper-yelled-like-I’d-yell-at-my-dog situations which just may have ended with me handling her more roughly than I should have. I’ve swatted at her bottom and it makes me sick and teary eyed even now to think of it although I know she’ll never remember. Every day I have choices to make for her and they all will, in some way, shape and mold who she is and becomes. If I pray with her will she seek God and religion? If I don’t will she become an atheist? If I let her have too many fruit snacks will she become a diabetic? If I don’t will she develop obesity seeking comfort in the food I didn’t let her have? If I make her sleep in her own room will she become distant whereas if I let her sleep with me am I stunting her opportunity for independence? As you can see there are so many MANY challenges we face each day and questions ultimately we must answer to the best of our ability.

This blog isn’t about whether you should or should not vaccinate your children or any of the other hundreds of decisions you’ll make for your child. This blog is about supporting your fellow parents out there and putting an end to the bullying and shaming. No one, and I mean, no one out there is the perfect parent. No matter what your upbringing you’ll probably be in some sort of therapy at some point in your life for some issues you developed over time. Parenting is hard enough as it is without feeling ashamed or attacked for your beliefs, your choices or your lifestyle. If you’re really concerned for a child and their upbringing, talk to the parent of that child and get to know them. Listen to their story and maybe you’ll have a better understanding. Had anyone cared about my story that day I walked out of Planned Parenthood they’d see I wasn’t there to terminate the life inside of me. After seeing the ultrasound it wasn’t a hard decision but of course that was the last easy decision I ever had to make when it comes to Charlotte.

Change the conversation and change the story.