I finally felt compelled enough to sit down and begin writing this because of my children, and something I did not too long ago as a result of still trying to potty train our youngest, Abby. I find it amusing that the biggest job on the face of this planet is the one that doesn’t come with a handbook or any extensive training beforehand – parenting. Sure I can go search on Amazon and come away with dozens upon dozens of books written on the subject of parenting, but therein lies the problem. With those books I would find dozens and dozens of different opinions on how to be a parent. Ultimately not very useful in the long run because the tendency we humans have is to only listen to the things that tell us what we want to hear – not the things that we actually do need to hear. What prompted this was some searching on the Internet I was doing on the trials and tribulations of getting a kid to go poo in the potty. Abby is a bright kid, and when we finally forced ourselves out of our routine to actively potty train her, she took to it right away. But there seems to be that age old issue of getting her to do #2, and nothing we have tried thus far has worked – even bribing her with her toys from her favorite show, Spirit Riding Free. So I went online to see if other people had this same issue and how they resolved it. As I should have expected, I got the Amazon search results. Then I realized I became the worse thing a person can become – an Internet Parent.
It’s actually quite easy to do, especially for me – having had some experience with technology and the internet in the past. But what I realized is that what I was becoming was one of those people in the Holiday Inn commercials, or the Medical Check-up commercials. You might be familiar with the ones I am talking about – a plane is crashing, and the pilot is passed out, but someone from the passenger section jumps into the cockpit and takes control. One of the Flight Attendants asks if he is a pilot, and the passenger replies, “No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.” The other one is where actors who play or have played doctors on TV stroll around a hospital encouraging people to get check ups, or something to that effect. They generally start out by saying “I’m not a real doctor, but I play one on TV.” And thus we come to the crux of this issue: parents who try to be doctors, teachers, or what have you by doing searches on the Internet and diagnosing and “treating” their kids with the information that is spewed out. And I was about to fall into the same trap.
There is nothing easy about being a parent and it seems it is more about error than anything else in the tried and true “Trial and Error” method. Somehow we make it through each day and just have to prepare for the next day. We do the best we can, and I am far from a perfect parent, and because of that, I always hesitate to judge what others do with and for their kids. We are all unique with unique situations, but there are times where missteps happen that are so obvious that you have to shake your head and wonder just what the Hell people are thinking. Unfortunately, in some of those circumstances, that only happens after a tragedy has occurred. Far too often anymore, I hear people say that they know what is best for their kids, or what is best for their family, but that is often a wrapping and an excuse for a decision that is so utterly selfish on the part of the parents, it makes you just want to get up and give them a good belt across the back of the head. The truth of the matter is, we don’t always know what is best for our kids or our families when there is the potential of medical or mental issues involved. But somehow, people think they know better when the start googling on the Internet. Somehow, those parents think that by looking for information on the Internet (and their continued searching until they actually come across that one bit of information that tells them what they want to hear all the while ignoring all the other reams of information that says what they want to hear is wrong), that they know how to diagnose and treat their kids, or teach their kids, or what have you better than any Doctor, Teacher, or other Professional that has studied and been doing their job for years. They have become Internet Parents, and their skills at such are no better than that guy who stayed at the Holiday in or all those actors who play the part of a doctor on TV. Yet, somehow they know better. What a crock and utterly selfish way to parent a child. And that’s the true tragedy.
Instead of the child getting the help or education that they really need, they get the Witch Doctor treatment. Because of this, what may seem like the right thing to do at the time ultimately ends up sacrificing the future of the child. Be it a mental issue that needs a professional’s diagnosis and care, or just the simple act of ensuring that a child gets placed in a special needs classroom, regardless of the stigma that parents selfishly fear it places upon them. Might as well give the kid a shovel and send him off to a farm to shovel shit the rest of his life for all the opportunity these Internet Parents are providing for their kids. At worst, we end up with tragic circumstances like Sandy Hook Elementary School and Stoneman Douglas High School. Kids that needed help and special needs and either the parents flat out refused to get them they help they needed or did not fight hard and long enough to ensure that their kids got that help. It’s certainly not an easy road to travel when one has a child with a mental or emotional issue, but being a parent is never going to be an easy job, and if someone is not going to fight tooth and nail for their kids no matter the inconvenience or cost, then they probably should not have been parents to begin with.
We had our own issues with Erin a few years ago. The Internet was useful in terms of giving us an idea of where to start to get her the help that she needed, but we realized right away that we did not have the knowledge nor ability take care of the issues ourselves. Regardless of the cost and inconvenience to us, we made sure to go to the right professionals and get Erin the help that she really needed. We will do the same for Abby as well. A parent knows when their child is not “normal” and the real test of character comes in admitting that there is something wrong, and not using excuses like “It’s the Terrible Twos” or “Boys will be Boys”. The act of a good parent is admitting that as a parent we are neither equipped, nor qualified to give our child the help that they need. That is a true act of selflessness. You can bet that at her next check-up, we will be asking the doctor about our concerns and following her professional guidelines and directions. If, as the future unfolds, it turns out that Abby needs continued specialist help, she will get it. If it turns out that she needs to be placed in a specialist classroom to get the education she needs, and deserves, then that is what we will do. We, as her parents, understand that we are not qualified to treat nor educate our daughter. Therefore we will turn to those who are and ensure we can give her the best possible chance to have the future she deserves. As her parents, that is what we are qualified to do, and Abby deserves no less. We refuse to be Internet Parents. Everyone else should too.