The Best Parenting Advice You'll Ever Get: Be Really Lucky
Unless you've been stranded on Mars or trapped in a cave somewhere, you have heard and read about the tragic accident that took the life of a sweet 2 year old boy in Florida. And unless you've not been on the internet for four days, you've also read the innumerable essays and posts about it. And then, oh sweet mercy...there are the comment sections.
Comment sections have always been an insidious slice of our societal pie; the one place people seem to have zero trouble letting their true colors run like an overflowing toilet at Taco Bell. For whatever reason- maybe the political circus that's happening in our country, perhaps a nation already at maximum grief bearing weight over yet another senseless mass shooting- the boy's death in Florida brought out the comment section militia in droves. You thought the mom from the gorilla incident in Ohio caught a shit-ton of indignant, self-righteous flak? The couple in Florida got what she did, and then some.
There have now been pleas for the world to stop judging and be more kind. To show compassion instead of superiority. It's basically all been said, and done so a thousand times better than I could say. I decided to take a little break from the whole of it, to take Facebook off of my phone for a bit and to avoid reading anything below an actual article. Except then I cheated. I read one last post regarding the Disney incident and then, oh yes...and then....one last comment thread.
This thread contained the by-now familiar opening argument: "they shouldn't have" followed by either "had their kid in the water at night!" or "had a 2 year old up that late!" and of course the always soft and gentle "had kids in the first place if they weren't going to watch them." Those remarks are part and parcel of any accident involving a minor now. Parents suck, don't you know? Well, at least some parents do. Except, of course, for those who chime in and let the world know that this kind of unfortunate ugliness will never happen to them.
Which brings me to the last comment thread I shouldn't have, but did, read. A woman named Jen was spouting off, in the usual grammatically challenged manner many of these perfect parents display. She employed the good old Social Media Backhanded Compliment Comment technique, whereupon one begins their novella-length, no-paragraph breaks tirade with a general sympathy statement.
"I am so sorry for this family. I can't imagine what it's like to lose a child this way.
There's always a but, right? God forbid someone expresses sympathy and sadness and ends it there. Jen didn't. She went on to rake the parents over the proverbial coals for what they did, and didn't do that fateful night on a dusky beach in Florida. They were, she decided, the ones who placed their babe into the mouth of that alligator and then waved as he was dragged away.
Then, she dropped this little bomb:
"I have a three year old. And I guarantee that something like this will never happen to her."
Oh Jen. I'm not laughing at you, I promise. Wait: I totally am laughing at you. Because you are effing hilarious.
You've been a parent for three years? Honey. That's like, 10 minutes on the parenting timeline.
I have old kids. Like, "could get married and have babies and mortgages" old. And I'm still a freaking novice. Just as I was guffawing at Sensible Smart Jen and her 30-odd months of parenting expertise, there are women chortling at me with my 22 years of it.
Parents? We may feel as though we've rocked it. We high-five ourselves, humble-brag about our mighty accomplishments and roll around in our successes like Garfield in a pan of lasagna.
But what none of us talks about, or even readily admits?
Most of parenting is just being lucky. Dumb luck, luck-of-the-Irish, lucky ducks. Whatever you want to call it, we gots it. Luck by the truckload, my friends.
That's the difference between Jen Almighty and the Nebraskan parents who lost their child. Jen's had it, and for one awful moment, they didn't.
Sweet Jesus. Even the act of getting, and staying, pregnant? May the odds be ever in your favor because that is a feat in and of itself. A friend and I had tandem pregnancies for our first two babies. Not because we timed it like that, you guys. It just happened. And then, we found ourselves pregnant together again, with our third babies.
She lost that baby via miscarriage. I didn't know what to say, sitting there watching her weep while trying to ignore the pregnant elephant in the room. She finally spoke:
"You are so lucky." She was right, of course. I was lucky. Luckier than a leprechaun riding bareback on a pot o' gold.
Now I know some of you are sitting there, claws extended, parenting books and child development pie charts and Venn diagrams at the ready. Ready to tell me that NO! Not luck! We are aware and educated and take steps to ensure the safety and growth of our babies. LUCK HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, JENNY YOU BIG FAT LYING LIAR!
I agree with you. To a point. There are different levels of parents, that's for sure. All you have to do is watch the news for a few hours to find that out, and find it out in spades. There are abusive and neglectful and absent parents. Dumpster babies and kids chained in basements and duct-taped into Rubbermaid bins. Those parents are obviously terrible human beings and despite whatever excuses they may have (their own miserable upbringings, mental illness, addiction, etc) bad luck had nothing to do with the fates of their children.
But for the rest of us? The Average Joe and Josie you rub elbows with everyday? Our successes and failures have as much to do with luck as with anything else.
What if that doomed family in Florida had decided to pack it up just five minutes earlier? What if their four year old daughter had fallen and started crying just a few seconds before the alligator swam up? What if Mom or Dad had been holding the little guy in their arms instead of letting him walk?
It didn't happen that way and they have proved that sometimes the universe and the planets and the luck fairies line up just so and the absolute worst-case scenario is played out like some macabre production.
So to all the Parenting Gurus out there like Jen, you need to just reel it in a bit. Take a seat, and then take a look at the luck you've been blessed with. Accidents happen and they do so without warning. The neighborhood dog that snaps, the huge tree branch that falls, the space heater that shorts out, the texting/drunk driver who happens to be on the road at the same time as you.
None of us, and I mean absolutely NONE of us can know if our guardian angels are on duty or if they've fallen asleep or sneaked out for a smoke. We should continue to be watchful, and vigilant, and educated about all things parent-y, of course. Keep outlets covered, baby-proof the cupboard doors and get your kids immunized. Look both ways, wash fruits and veggies carefully and lock up the house at night.
But never, ever should we become so arrogant as to presume we are exempt from experiencing a moment of bad luck.
It could happen to anyone...even you, Jen.
Posted by the_happy_hausfrau at 8:22 AM