Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Open Letter to "Bad" Parents

To all parents who have ever beat themselves up over their parenting, this letter is for you.

If you have ever said no to your child's request for a new toy because she has a room full of toys at home or because you chose to pay the electric bill or because you were saving for retirement or are not a bad parent.

If you have ever yelled at your child because of other things going on rather than because of what he did and then gone and apologized to him, admitting your are not a bad parent.

If you have ever cried in front of your child or said a bad word in front of your child or fought with your spouse in front of your child and then had a difficult conversation explaining what they saw or are not a bad parent.

If you have ever taken your clean, well-fed, loved child to school, sent them off with a hug only to realize later that it was picture day or the day they were supposed to wear their favorite color or the day they were supposed to take something else and you are not a bad parent.

Admittedly I am a person who hesitates to use the terms "good" or "bad" for people - whether parents, children, or the clerk at the check out counter.  But this is about more than just not wanting parents to call themselves bad...I also think sometimes we need to cut ourselves a break.  After all, most of us are doing the best we can with the resources we have at the moment.  And we have morphed into this culture of people who feel guilt for what we don't give to or do for our children even when they are not hurt (and sometimes are even helped) by our actions.

So, please, before you beat yourself up over mismatched ponytail holders, limits on television time, nights when you don't read to your children, or days they leave the house in a mess...please remember this...

There are children whose parents buy crack instead of food...

There are children whose parents not only don't have pictures of them but whose parents don't care to even remember they exist...

There are children whose parents smack them around and then tell them it's their fault...

There are children who don't know their own names because their parents only call them bastard...

There are children who have never been told they are loved, have never been shown they are loved, who do not know they are loved.

If you love your child and your child knows it, even if you have room to be better, please remember - you are not a bad parent.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We're All the Same

It was almost ten o'clock and the babysitter was expecting us home anytime.  As we walked to the car my heart was smiling.  I had just dined with new friends at the mosque.

It was last Saturday night...just one week ago today.  Several of us who knew the imam through some Interfaith planning had been invited to share an evening with the Islamic community here.  We arrived, about an hour before sunset.  We were ushered into the prayer through one entrance, women another.  We heard the story of an older gentleman who has lived in our community over 50 years - long before there was a local mosque.  He spoke of acceptance and peace, of not having to apologize for his faith - things he's receive in our country and our community.  Next the imam gave us some basic education about both Islam in general and Ramadan (the holy month they are currently celebrating) in specific.

Then the time came.  We moved to the dining rooms and with our new friends we placed dates in our mouths to break the fast (their fast, not ours...I must admit I'd eaten way too much already that day).  A quick snack, then a return to the prayer room for prayers at sunset, and finally back to the dining rooms for a meal and conversation. 

No wonder my heart was smiling.

Then Monday morning came.  As the boys and I were leaving the house my phone rang.  It was a gentleman from our church.  "The mosque is gone.  It's burned to the ground," he said.  He drives past there each morning on his way to work and called me as soon as he saw it. 

My heart was sad.

All I could picture was the big eyed toddler holding her mama close...the preschool kids jumping off the stage with joy while their parents engaged in prayers...the woman with whom I had shared dinner conversation, talking about parenting and careers...the twins who had been on my own son's soccer team...the gentle imam caring for his congregation. 

All I could picture was people with whom, although they worship differently than I, I am very much the same.