Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Judge and Jury

One of the things I will never understand, no matter how old and wizened I get, is why it is that we parents, we people, so often rush to judge one another on the ways in which we conduct our lives.

I'm thinking about parenting in particular. It ought to be a personal thing, a thing where you make decisions based on your own personal parenting goals, and that's that. But it's not. It is very much not. Parenting has become like religion, with sects and people rushing about trying to convert one another from one point of view to another, as if a competing parenting theory--much less a competing theory that actually works--somehow threatens your own theory, your own parenting. I'm as guilty of it as the next mom, guilty of internally raising an eyebrow when I see a parent with a dirty wailing child, despite the frequency with which I am accompanied by one of the same. I'm guilty of making snide little comments to like-minded friends when I encounter a not-like-minded mother. I'm guilty of trying to convince people to do like I do--public school versus private, daycare or no, city living versus suburbs--even when they're obviously comfortable in their choices.

I remember writing a letter a long time ago in response to an online parenting column in which a homeschooling mom detailed all the wonderful things she was able to do with her kids, but was also unable to resist taking multiple pot shots at the parents of kids who are sent to schools, warehoused, as some people call it, which in itself is an unbearably offensive and downright meanspirited turn of phrase. It so infuriated me--infuriates me still--when I hear some parent justify their choices by denigrating mine. What's to be gained by that? I love hearing about choices other people make, and considering whether they might fit into my life...but I'm so immediately turned off when those choices come with a rush to judgement about people who choose differently. And yet, I'm guilty as charged, myself. Not all the time, but definitely sometimes. And I just don't understand why we do this to each other. I don't understand why I so often hear moms talking about how they need to find "people like me" to hang out with. Diversity is good. Different people means different opinions means opening your mind to different ideas. It means learning. And yet, I look at my closest friends, and they are indeed like me, in the ways that count to me--in general parenting philosophy, in level of intelligence, in the sorts of professions they pursue.

The funny part is the reason I've been stewing about this so much lately. It's because of my rabbits. Yep, you heard me right. Over the past six months, we've acquired two rabbits, Zaboo and Pumpkin. And because I didn't know thing one about caring for bunnies, I joined up with an email group so that I can get expert advice, something that I've found invaluable many times in the past. Well, there's plenty of experts, and plenty of advice in that group. I've learned a lot about caring for rabbits and how they're different from other animals and what I can do to keep them healthy and happy. But I've also experienced a level of judgement that is almost insufferable. Every time I post, every time I read the mail that comes out of that group, there's someone saying that the way I do things is wrong. Not just wrong, but abusive. Because I put them in a cage at night, because I sometimes keep them outside (in Southern California, folks, in the summer...you know, when it's cooler outside than in), because I actually let them run around in my backyard (something that makes both of them literally jump for joy), I'm not fit as a bunny mom. Because I dare to have young children in my home who might, you know, touch the bunnies and god only knows what else. And they let me know how unfit I am in no uncertain terms. Every month, the various rescues post lists of bunnies that they need homes for, and beg for people to step up and take in a bunny or two to save them from possible euthanasia. But then they'll talk about how they wouldn't adopt out to a home with children, or one where the bunnies are let outside, or whatever. Because, obviously, they're better off dead than in my house filled with love and warmth and care.

So I've been getting my back up, and corresponding with a couple of other people from the list who feel the way I do but are perhaps less verbal about it. And it made me realize how hurtful this thing we do to each other is, this thing we parents--of whatever species--insist on perpetuating as we go along. We live in these glass houses, lobbing stones without a thought for what good having shards of broken glass all around us will do. Wouldn't it be better just to open up the windows and let some fresh air in? Why can't we do that? Why does that feel so threatening?

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