Objective Truths in Parenting: Surprise! There aren’t that many!

Dear Me-Three-Years-Ago,

Hi, you crazy woman, you.  Life is pretty crazy with 4 kids 5 and under, isn’t it?  You’re busy being a mom and contemplating an international move.  (Nuts, I know.  Oh boy, do I know.)  With all you’ve got going on, one might think that you’d let go of your steadfast opinions on vaccines and organic foods, on homeschooling and natural childbirth.  But no, not you.  You are as convicted as can be and you know, you know, you’re making all the right decisions in all of these areas.  In fact, you wish a few more people (everyone in the world, perhaps?) would choose to make the same decisions you do.  You know, because you’ve got it all figured out and everything.

News flash: you don’t.

I say that, as Future-You, with the utmost love and respect.  My dear, you do not hold the answer to every parenting dilemma ever.  It’s possible that you may be making a number of poor decisions.  As incredible as it may seem, you may at some point decide that one or more of these choices isn’t the best for your family.  What’s more, you will figure out that what’s right for you isn’t right for everyone.  Before you hyperventilate, let me share with you that I’ve already covered this material, and what may seem completely improbable to you now, will in 3 years elicit a different response:

“So what?”

And I mean that in a totally non-snarky way, sweet lady.  So what if you’re wrong?  What if all your hard research and reading and prayer and discernment leads you to mellow a bit on these topics?  Let me tell you now that while some of these topics remain close to your heart, you no longer see any of them as objective truths.

Honey, you’ve got those objective truths in parenting covered: feed, clothe, shelter your kids, keep them from harm (as much as you possibly can with a 2 year old in the house), educate them, love them, and raise them with a love for God and a strong moral compass.

That’s it.  Period.

Of course you want to provide your kids with something much deeper and more profound than a checklist of the basics.  This is good and right.  But your idea and the rest of the world’s idea of what that rich and colorful family life might look like is probably profoundly different.  And that’s okay.  Because how we parent is mostly subjective.  You like chicken soup, some of your friends are vegetarian.  You live in a postage-stamp sized home, others may be in a studio apartment, or perhaps a McMansion.  You homeschool, others send their kids to school.  You prefer rocking the natural births, and others enjoy all the pain relief medicine has to offer.

Say it with me now: it’s all good.  It’s. All. Good.

SONY DSC

The problem with objective truth is that  it must apply to all people.  Everywhere.  And I can tell you, from all reading you’ve done on these subjects so near and dear to your heart, that there is no objective truth there.  At the very least, there is no known objective truth.  Someone, somewhere, is making worse decisions than you are, and someone is making better decisions.  Someone is smarter and someone else doesn’t quite have it all together.  You’re educating yourself and searching, sweetie, and that’s good. But just like you, proponents of any position can find articles and studies and research and op-eds that will support their position.  Google is real handy like that.

There’s a reason God has only given you four children (so far).  If God wanted us to all to parent the same way, children would be born in factories with managers instead of parents.  So don’t presuppose to know what’s best for other people, and don’t take it personally when others do the same to you.

You will have friends and family members who disagree with you on one or more of these issues.  They may pick fights with you on Facebook.  They may shun you or mock you or talk behind your back.  It will hurt your feelings.  But, Micaela, if there’s one thing, one thing, you take away from this letter, let it be this: pray for them, and forgive them.  Because they’re on the same path as you, and making that whole objective-truth-is-everywhere-mistake you make every day of your life.  (And yes, I still do make that mistake, so be nice to me when you’re… me, okay?)

I feel pretty confident saying that you (and I) won’t ever stop trying to make the best decisions for our kids.  Not now, when they’re little, and not when they’re older.  But if you change your mind, or if you grow, or if some things cease to be as important to you, it doesn’t mean you were or evil, or even that you were wrong.  It means that it takes a whole entire lifetime, and then some, to figure out the path we’re on.  So cut yourself and the rest of the world some slack, will you?

Focus on the objective truths, and let God give you the grace to figure out the small stuff.

Lots of love,

Future-You

Comments

  1. This is so wonderful. I am so glad to see more women speaking out about this. Many years ago, as a young mother, I thought I had it all figured out on how to raise good, holy children. After 23 years of motherhood, homeschooling 18 of those, I have found there is not a right way. I clung to my ideal (homeschooling) for so long because I thought it was THE only way to be a good parent. Instead, God showed my I must cling to Him only. I have been humbled greatly.
    Lisa recently posted…Book Review: Let it GoMy Profile

  2. Micaela, I love this! It’s so true. I’m constantly amazed how as mothers we’re so important but not nearly as important as we think. It’s so weird to contemplate. Thank you for this post today!
    Nella recently posted…It’s An Honor Just To Be NominatedMy Profile

  3. I mostly agree with you. The thing iwth parenting is that it involves at least 2 people (parent and child) and frequently a lot more (2 parents, maybe 2 parents and siblings,). So, deciding what the right thing way to go, really depends on ALL those people, so it’s pretty impossible to come up with an “objective’ truth beyond the basics. That said, I do think some parenting practices are “objectively” better in a broad sense, but not necessarily objectively better when you take an individual’s family into account. For example. do I think locally grown, organic food is objectively better? Yes. But, it’s not possible for our family to afford that right now, so we don’t eat all organic and local.. I can understand that we aren’t eating the “best’ and I’m okay with that, because out situation right now is what it is, and I do feel that we are doing the best with what we have.
    Amelia @ One Catholic Mama recently posted…Sex, Love and Marriage (Weekends with Chesterton and WIWS)My Profile

    • That is exactly what I mean, Amelia! I *do* think certain things are better/worse for us, but if not everyone can have it due to poverty, religious differences, etc, then who am I to judge? Giving your kids vegetables is better than none at all, just because you can’t afford the “good” kind, you know?

  4. Micaela, what a great post! You are an excellent writer, too. I love your approach on topics like this! Keep on keepin on, lady!:)

  5. love it! i think the older we get, this is wisdom and maturity with parenting and w/ life in general. thanks for the lovely post.

  6. oops, i meant to say, as we get older, we are learning that this (humility) is wisdom and maturity. not sure if that makes more sense. this is why i don’t like writing. wish i could write like you 🙂

    • I understood you! Thank you, Judy. Your compliment means a lot.

      • i’m also learning that life isn’t so black and white but complicated and messy. you just never know what people’s lives look like. and we both should go to bed. haha 🙂

  7. Love this post. It’s a good reminder that many of my “convictions” are really just arrogance. I’m trying my best not to judge other moms harshly, and I certainly hope that they do the same for me! Parenting is hard enough as it is!

    • Oh, I know. I’ve done it a million times. The problem with all this judging is that it wastes our time for the really important stuff, you know? Like conversion and service and love. But I’m still drawn to being right all the time. It’s a constant battle.

  8. Love this line: “The problem with objective truth is that it must apply to all people. Everywhere.”

    Amen.
    Rhonda Ortiz recently posted…Announcing My New ProjectMy Profile