When parenting worlds collide
I’ve been thinking about writing this blogpost for over a year now, but never seem to get myself to do it. It is such a difficult subject, yet I discuss it with friends all the time. I know it is a subject that keeps moms, everywhere, occupied, almost on a daily basis. It’s when parenting worlds collide.
It’s that moment when another kid hits or hurts your child and there is no parent in sight or the other parent doesn’t react in a way you think is necessary or reasonable.
It’s that moment when another kid acts out a certain way – screaming, hitting, getting angry, acting rude – yet your child has decided they are best friends for life and you fear said behavior will somehow "rub off" on your child.
It’s that moment when you discuss a certain parenting topic – just pick anything “sensitive” like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, plastic vs wooden toys, screen time, eating vegan/vegetarian vs meat, discipline, potty training – with another parent and you are both on completely different sides of the spectrum and one feels threatened by the other one's choices.
When she is your friend
It’s difficult, when parenting worlds collide, on any given day. Parenting is such a sensitive subject. It’s so close to the heart, because it concerns the most precious things in your life: your children. If you disagree on certain topics or behavior, it can feel like a personal blow. But it is even harder, when the collision happens with someone that’s very close to you.
When you’ve known each other for years. When you’ve been there for each other, through all the hook-ups and break-ups, tears and fears, exams and graduations, blessings and dreams-come-true. When you’ve helped each other move house, went on trips together, have seen other friends come and go, but always stayed together. When you were sure this friend, maybe even your best friend in the whole world, was here to stay.
And then you had babies.
And now your worlds are no longer in sync. Because your friendship no longer comes first: your children do. And what if you disagree on how you raise them? What can you do, when your parenting worlds collide?
Some moms tell me they just confront the other parent. They tell them what they think is wrong about their (lack of) intervention. These are the direct, honest moms. They are not unsettled by confrontation. They feel confident in their believes and principles and feel everything should be discussed. They can be considered “direct” or even insensitive. I think they are brave. Because even though their collisions can be intense, public and definitive, the confrontation will probably be solved quickly. Sometimes by going their separate ways, but usually because the air has been cleared and a practical solution has been agreed upon.
Other moms [that are more like me] brood on the situation, endlessly. [Maybe even for two+ years] They feel all kinds of things – everything from sadness and fear to anger and insecurity – but don’t know if they should, can or want to discuss it with the other parent. They may avoid situations where collisions are imminent or they hold a grudge or they let the other parent step all over them. I understand these moms [as I am one of them]. But I don’t think avoiding the confrontation is the solution. After all, the collision has already taken place.
Why you need to start a conversation
Letting a "hit and run" slip by is not an option when it comes to your children. You need to start a conversation – which can turn into a confrontation. You owe it to your child and to yourself. Especially when there is a potential emotional or physical harm involved.
You are allowed to stand up for your child, obligated even [I mean, would you ever forgive yourself if something serious happened and you never said anything?]. And you are allowed to stand up for what you believe is right. You are also allowed to have opinions that differ from other parents. Just as that other parent is allowed to have opinions and believes that are different from yours.
If you can start your after-collision-conversation from that standpoint – one of respect for each other’s differences and with the belief that you have a right to your own opinions and feelings – it doesn’t have to become a scary, angry or friendship-ending confrontation. You may surprise each other, by finding a solution.
Maybe the other parent will understand your fear of your child getting hurt and respect your wishes for a more hands-on approach during a play date.
Maybe you will realize your child will choose friends along the way that they can learn from. You won’t always like them or understand what your child sees in them. But you can trust your child’s learning process and the fact that you raised them well and that behavior may rub off temporarily, but that character won’t. They may “try on” certain behavior, just to see how it feels and realize it doesn't fit. And maybe you will see that the other child can learn from your child as well.
And maybe you will realize, in conversation, you and the other parent have [completely] different ideas and opinions about parenting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends or that your children can’t be friends. There is a bond there, that goes deeper than any parenting style. And that bond is the love you both have for your children.