Vintage random thought.
“There’s a kid in my bed,” I thought to myself. Out of context, that phrase could raise a red flag or two, no? The kid in my bed, however, was my youngest who had asked me several hours earlier, “Daddy, can I sleep in your bed?” To which I replied “No.”
Hmm, perhaps he is a budding somnambulist, or maybe he’s just confident enough in his ninja abilities to believe that he could enter my room, and then my bed without being detected. Either way there he was sound asleep, peaceful, wonderful.
Acceptance is not always synonymous with surrender, or in this case defeat. Acceptance, in my opinion, is one of the pillars of ‘Minimal Damage Parenting.’ Minimal Damage Parenting I believe is the best we raisers of offspring can hope to achieve. It’s a foregone conclusion that when it comes to parental duties, we will at some point fuck up royally leaving emotional scars at various depths which will ensure the lucrative futures of those in the fields of psychology or psychiatry for generations to come. So I accepted the fact that I had a sleeping boy inhabiting the easternmost part of my king sized bed, rolled over, smiling about the amazing good fortune of playing father to two truly lovely young men, snuggled my face into my pillow and clocked out.
“Dude…you peed the bed!”
As the words left my lips, I put a last moment spin on my inflection in an effort to remove any note of anger or shaming.
“It’s okay buddy, but please let’s strip the bed and throw everything in the washing machine.” This was not the first time my son had had an ‘accident’…in fact, he was a chronic “sleep pisser.” Some parents get bent about this kinda shit, but I’ve decided that, other than doing more laundry than the average bear family, it’s no big deal. I’m quite confident that it’s not his idea of a good time and that he will eventually grow out of it.
Acceptance, not of bad behavior, sloth, disrespect, cruelty, etc., but of things which ‘just happen’ and will eventually stop happening can only be positive. I believe this is what healthy parenting is all about. Shame is a toxin. As an adult, we may choose to partake in the use of toxins for the purpose of overcoming our inadequate coping abilities, the quelling or social anxiety, or whatever. Children, however, don’t have the same “recreational” luxury. However, they are vulnerable to psychological toxins and are unlikely to choose exposure to them of their own free will. Were you ever shamed by your caregivers? If so, pretty awesome right?
Shame is a prime mover in our society. It’s an under lurker that bears no face on the surface but wears a monster’s mask under the bed. If you feel that you bear no shame you are either lying, unusually lucky or a psychopath.
Shame: /SHām/ Noun:
A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
So says the dictionary. Interesting interpretation. I find it curious that this definition of shame put all onus on the one bearing shame and none on any outside influence that may be assigning it. Is all shame real, or is some shame framed for us by those who simply want us to feel bad about circumstances that displease them? Have you ever had a bad day? Have you ever taken that bad day out on someone who had nothing to do with it? I have…ugh! Just writing it here makes my stomach turn. Yes, I’ve been that entitled asshole. And I’ve seen them, at gas stations, in restaurants, in the workplace, and of course, at Walmart.
So back to parenting for a sec. Kids are easy prey. They are vulnerable. They are trusting. They don’t know how to discern the difference between reasonable accountability, and unreasonable judgment. How many apologies for shaming do we get before we’ve cried wolf one too many times? If we are able to ask forgiveness at all? I ask this not in an accusing tone. Rather in the spirit of circumspection. I didn’t have the misfortune of pissing the bed, but holy shit do I have my share of issues. My sons don’t deserve my shame. They don’t deserve any shame at all. Did I mention that shame, in my opinion, is a toxin?
Being a parent is many things. Hopefully first and foremost being a parent is perpetrating the act of helping your children find a path to grow into the best possible versions of themselves. Shame has no part in that journey. If you disagree, well, as they say, shame on you.