I know some parents who, when their children begin having children, have no qualms about criticizing and outright badmouthing their kids’ parenting skills. This has always been a hot button issue for me. I find it infuriating that anyone could put down their own child when that child is doing the best they are capable of. When they’re learning their way, getting through the challenges of new parenthood with whatever skills they have. I find myself wanting to yell at these people, “You were a new parent once, too! And you weren’t perfect, so lay off!”
But maybe the critical parent has something else going on in their head. Maybe they see some potential in their child to be better—and rather than gently encouraging, they communicate it with aggression or tough love. Maybe they are frustrated because they know their child’s life could be easier or better, even, if that child adjusted their ways.
Or maybe they’re worried about how their child’s choices reflect upon them. How, by being associated, they could somehow be culpable or judged themselves for their kid’s missteps.
I don’t know what the reason is.
But amidst my vehement distaste for that behavior lies a blushing, squirming, shameful hypocrite. I am, and always have been, an outspoken critic.
If I think someone is doing something wrong, I tell them. I see people with great potential, incredible charisma, talent, intelligence, and instead of exploiting their arsenal of ability, they squander it. They make choices that don’t move them forward. They settle. They sell short.
Maybe to them, that’s not the case. But my discerning eye deems it so and feels frustration that they don’t see what I see—possibility, promise, a chance for something better.
I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to have thoughts of shaking and yelling at, or disassociating myself with, certain people. But I’m not sure how to truly accept what I want to condemn. I find it so very, very hard to just say, “Well, that’s the way they are. Gotta just let it be.” I’m sure there’s a fantastic codependency fable wrapped in here somewhere…
So if one cannot be supportive of another’s actions, what’s the best course to take? Detachment? Disappointment masked by a façade of pleasantries? Or do the critics have some duty to at least try and make a difference? Even if the outcome is—as it has been when I’ve witnessed disparaging parents—sheer disgust?