How to Take “Constructive Criticism”

Being a parent is hard. It’s a job that requires no qualifications- but demands 100% effort. Nobody goes to school for this. The most guidance we receive comes from the 90 minute classes on child birthing during the second trimester of pregnancy. The “oh shit” moments don’t start happening until the first night home from the hospital. That’s when we realize that these tiny humans are going to dictate the rest of our lives. Forever. No really. Forever.

The pressure starts before the contractions. Three months into the first trimester, I broke the news to our family. It was a Christmas party. I remember hugging each family member and whispering the news into their ear. The sweetest surprises are the ones that are the most anticipated. Everyone was ecstatic. The putrid droplets of wisdom, long since expired, dropped from their lips like they had been saved, all this time, just for this very moment. But everyone is going to have their own advice. Their own stories. Suggestions.

Parents are good at feeling attacked. It’s not because we are too sensitive or emotional. Becoming a parent is like being signed up to a class, dedicated to telling you that you don’t fucking matter anymore. And every lesson plan is a new piece of advice, conflicting with every other piece of advice you have ever heard. And at the end of each day, you’re told that everything you have done is wrong and that you failed. No matter who you listen to. No matter what tools you use. You are wrong.

Older generations have told me that I am easily offended. I see it every day in the comments section of every controversial facebook meme. I can’t figure out if they honestly believe that their advice is so important that it should be valued above research studies and personal experiences. Social media has allowed opinions to be valued over relationships. It’s easier to delete Aunt Karen on Facebook than to tell her that taking castor oil in labor can literally kill an unborn baby. People want to believe that the advice they followed was the right advice. So much so that they will steer other people to follow it. There is a fight to be right in parenting.

Social media holds my generation accountable for every word we say, every step we take, and every second of our parenting. The more we share, the more we are criticized. There are like, 40 states between my family and everyone I grew up with- but social media makes it feel like they live right next door. I’m faced with the challenge of wanting everyone to be as involved in my son’s life as possible, while not wanting to share the most intimate details and decisions in my life.

I do not let fear of failure or judgement control my decisions. The two faces of facebook became apparent to me when I climbed a mountain with my son when he was 9 months old. My photos exploded with likes and reactions. But my inbox was beaming with questions of criticism and worry.

“Don’t you think that is a little dangerous…”

“What’s the matter with you!? You could have gotten hurt!”

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Why the fuck would I listen to that? Is that my responsibility as a parent? To fucking drown in someone else’s worries and concerns? Because my lifestyle as a parent is to go hiking and mountain climbing with my family, do you honestly believe that it gives you the right to have an unchallenged opinion? News flash: Opinions do not have to be spoken and shared every time they run through your head. You can actually just not say anything at all. There’s this really cool thing that I’m allowed to do as a parent. I’ve been doing it for a while now actually and it’s working out great. I don’t really have a name for it but I highly recommend that you try it. Don’t fucking respond to people’s criticisms or questions. Ignore them. It’s fucking amazing, I’m telling you. I literally get to decide how much negativity people dump into my life. And I do it all by not giving a fuck.

It’s ironic because the generations that are the quickest to accuse millennials of being “too sensitive” are the quickest to get hurt when you don’t accept their opinions blindly. Don’t let social media tell you how happy you are allowed to be.

A.

Mountains

There is not enough time in the day. Every morning I wake up with the assumption that I alone, will be able to carve apart the mountains that I have built of my challenges. I’ve meticulously planned every day of my life so that I wonder who owns my time. Truly I must, but the mountains that tower over me are so hard to climb. Today I realized that I have planned my own disappointment. In the lists, I have calculated exactly what needs to be done so that I, the creator of my own obstacles, can feel pride. In these lists, I orchestrated my own failure.

But have you ever climbed a mountain? Or even stood at the base of one? Standing at the bottom of a mountain that is over 1000 feet in elevation will realign even the most troubled of priorities. It’s not every day that I can drag myself to the base of a mountain, but on the days that my challenges paralyze me, I find it to be most important. I cannot just flutter through life, half completing my goals every day. Although it is sometimes difficult to imagine, challenges are only pebbles next to mountains.

I’m not a godly woman. I am one of those people who passes through a church parking lot only to collect the pokeballs and any rare pokemon that might be lurking around. I can assume that in 200 years, this type of activity will be written into every holy book as a sin. I wonder if there will be coupons for first-class seats in hell at the end of each holy scripture.

While I busied my mind with the idea of burning in hell for eternity, far in the distance I saw a tree- dead on the top of the mountain. For a moment, I pitied the tree. Having to live through the harsh heat of southern California must be far more challenging than any hurdle I’ve jumped. Then I realized, this tree has no concept of difficulty or pain. This tree managed to grow from rock and clay to fulfill its exact destiny on this planet. The tree is dead- but it died at the summit of a mountain.

I have triumphed through every challenge I have ever faced in my life. I might stumble and fall, but can’t turn back until I’ve reached the peak. All mountain climbers must have a similar philosophy: Make it to the top, or die trying.

A.