As of this writing, I have two children and a third baking in the proverbial oven. My children are the most beautiful, brilliant, exciting and excitable people on the planet. I love to hug and kiss them, and they seem to love it as well. My son? Making him laugh is often a reason I’m excited to get home. And hearing my daughter’s hopes and dreams for the future—she wants to be everything from a songwriter to a scientist to a spy—at age 6 (about to be 7) lets me know that “P, you did good.”
Kids. They rock. Get you one. Everybody’s doing it.
In case you aren’t aware, I’m a man. As a man, that means that my job is to provide for and maintain the security of my children and family. If I don’t want to get caught up in the nuances of how to do it all, I don’t have to. Nobody is judging me for those things. Sure, if I up and bounce, rock, then skate and roll on my family, the Supreme Court of You Ain’t S—t will rain down on my soul, but that’s pretty much where it ends. Being a dad means that doing the bare minimum actually gets you praise. Just being there means that you got to the top of the mountain. It is sad but true.
For the record, I do not do the bare minimum. K? K.
But let me tell you something that I’ve seen with my own eyes about the other side. Full disclosure: I didn’t realize how many women did not like other women purely because of the choices they made that do not impact their lives in any fashion. This phenomenon manifested itself in terms of baby rearing.
Some women can be brutal. I was not prepared.
I did not realize that womanhood was a constant internal war. I knew (and know) that men are constantly and unfairly attacking women’s concept of what it means to be a woman. Many of us are stuck in the Stone Age, and even the enlightened among us have blind spots. But there are also significant numbers of women who determine how good or bad a mother you are based on choices made that aren’t even indicative of whether or not you’re a good mother. Love, affection, safety, consistency, presence and caring are what determines that. According to the world’s most accurate human barometer—the Internet—that gets lost in the matrix sometimes.
For instance? For instance.
As a padre, I have done research on many things baby-related, but I cannot tell a lie (about this): I know that my biggest job is to keep the baby alive. Feed, change, bathe and make sure he or she doesn’t roll off the bed, out of the car, off the couch, etc. It’s pretty basic. Parenting is a team sport, and for the team to win, I must do my job. Women tend to dig much deeper into not only keeping el bebé alive but also how exactly that life should look, even as young as a day old. That’s where the wars seem to start.
Are you #TeamNaturalBirth or #TeamEpidural? I didn’t realize how strongly women felt on either side of this argument until I hit the Internets. And it seems like the Natural team’s raison d’etre is to shame the Epidurals about the fact that they didn’t go natural, from jump, negatively affecting the life of the child being born. Team Natural insists that the only way to have a child is as God intended. The Epiduralists are like, “#bishwhet, it hurt! My experience is just as valid as yours because I birthed a child!” I’m not a woman; I have no clue who is right (if anybody) or wrong. Me? I’m just glad my baby came out healthy and Mommy is OK.
Thing is, as is often the case, both sides have valid cases and reasons for making the individual choices they are making. And both are well within their rights to do so. Where things go wrong is that both are adamant about sharing their experiences and opinions about the choices they make for validation (a fair thing when trying to make sure you’re doing what’s best for your child), which can turn into chest beating when folks disagree, and other women don’t like that validation s—t if it ain’t what they done did.
And don’t get me started on breast-feeding vs. formula. I’ve gone into a forum once—a scary place, I assure you; there’s a reason there was a room that said “Dads Only”—to try to find out what people felt was the best formula to use and left shaking and scarred. I understand that breast-feeding is the ideal way to go—and it’s more financially efficient—but man, it ain’t for everybody. But the claws were out and the talons were sharpened.
Women who chose to formula-feed their children for whatever reason took fire and decided to defend themselves. The breast-feeders stood on their vaunted ground in full defense of their choices. Lines were drawn, tridents were thrown and when the dust settled, I think Brick killed a guy. It seems like, again, a personal choice. The child’s health seems paramount here. Some women physically can’t breast-feed and I guess those women get a pass? I’m not sure what else they’d get, to be honest. It ain’t like you would let another woman breast-feed your child, like in slavery … days … never mind.
Cloth diapers vs. disposable? Natural wipes vs. … nonnatural? The fights are real, and I found it a bit disconcerting. Not because I don’t understand that people have opinions. I get that. But because women were feeling a significant need to defend their choices about how they mother their children, one of the most personal things you can do. If you want your child to sleep in the bed with you, that’s your choice. Now, are there scientific and logical reasons why you’d want your child to sleep in a crib vs. with Mommy and Daddy? Absolutely. But it is still your choice as a parent? Right on.
I’m sure dads feel strongly about things. I know I do on certain items. But it’s all been because of experiences. For that same reason—experience—though, I’ve also felt not so strongly about some things because I’ve seen with mine own eyes that, at least in my case, those decisions didn’t seem to negatively impact, or impact at all, the life trajectory of my child.
Which brings me to another point: It seems like much of the to-do about how to do things or how not to do things is more of an upwardly mobile sport. The women I’ve seen arguing about “natural” (and more costly items) are those with the means to do so. They also have the time to sit on message boards all day and argue with other women about how best to raise their children. Not that less-affluent individuals don’t concern themselves with these issues—I’d wager that they do—but who has time to argue about a birth that already occurred or one that will occur when you’re trying to make ends meet and you only get two weeks off after your child is born? You go for what makes sense to and for you, and the truth is, that doesn’t necessarily make any child the worse for wear.
I don’t have the answers; I’m like Sway. And really, I’m not trying to tell anybody how to live her life. But I do know that I’ve witnessed, on more than one occasion, the myriad battles taking place over a woman’s mothering by other mothers simply because the choices were different. And it amazed me, because I love mothers. Mothers rock! Most of these people’s kids are just fine physically and healthwise, but that doesn’t stop the battle from raging, and it probably never will.
Now, if they’d just fight about those bad-ass attitudes and behaviors their kids have been infused with, we might get somewhere, because a lot of these kids running around here are a—holes, and I’m sure how they got here and what diapers they used aren’t the culprit.
But I’m sleep.
Panama Jackson is the co-founder and senior editor of VerySmartBrothas.com. He lives in Washington, D.C., and believes the children are our future.