Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Where's the line?
The imaginary line. The line between "do what is best for your family" and "that is cruel, abusive, neglectful." Where is it? Do you have one in your head? That dividing line between "not my cup of tea" and "wrong, wrong, wrong"?
I do. Sometimes. It shifts and moves a bit, but it is there. However, my line is not necessarily the same as your line and this is what I'm struggling with right now. I believe there is value in discussing what works and what doesn't work, what is beneficial and what is detrimental, what is valuable and what is useless. When we do that, however, it is almost always accompanied by cries of "don't judge me."
I believe that leaving a baby to cry it out is cruel, that spanking is wrong, and that circumcision should be abolished. Over the past week or so, I've heard people who have chosen those practices (by choice or in desperation) speak out against Chinese mothers who berate their children and force them to study and practice for hours on end. I've heard them chastise mothers who have a five year old's eyebrows waxed against her will for a beauty pageant. I've heard them express outrage at water torture techniques used on toddlers in polygamist communities. Why did they speak out against those things? Because they are better mothers? Because they have limits or standards too? Because the practices are abusive? I don't know.
I think water torture is on par with cry it out. I think spanking is on par with forced practice while being threatened. I think cutting off a piece of a child's penis is on par with waxing a child's eyebrows. So yes, I am outraged by these things that everyone else is outraged by, but I must admit to being confused about why it is okay to critique some parenting techniques, but not others (yes, I get told how wrong and judgmental I am every time I critique something). The only conclusion I can come to is that some of these are mainstream acceptable cruelties in the Western world and the others are outlandish things that only those strange Chinese, polygamists, or human show pony families do. Personally, just because something is widely done and accepted, doesn't make it acceptable to me.
There are extreme and less extreme versions of any of these parenting practices, for sure (e.g. graduated extinction cry it out versus let the baby cry until she vomits and beyond, make-up and a sexy outfit on a toddler versus forced eyebrow waxing and toddler lingerie). But I think that if it is acceptable to express outrage, then we need to realize that none of us is perfect and that not everyone's imaginary line is in the same place. We need to allow the dialogue and expression of opinion on both the things we are outraged by and the things that we may be doing in our own homes. We also need to keep that dialogue respectful, regardless of whether we are criticizing our neighbour, a fellow blogger, or some anonymous woman on YouTube.
Image credit: Subharnab on flickr