My recent haircut garnered lots of attention. My daughter flew out of the classroom, her eyes wide with appreciation, “Hello beautiful woman!” she exclaimed. My son took one look: “Why did you do that?” he asked. “It looks terrible.” Other moms stopped, pointed to their hair and mine and smiled. Dar said: “It looks great.” And an unnamed someone pronounced: “Too many highlights.”
When first I saw my new cut, I loved it. But that first, pure, unadulterated enjoyment in my new hair dimmed under the heaping commentary. I began to wonder: Does the cut make me look older? Should I have kept my hair longer? Do the highlights look artificial? A bad haircut is serious business. As an unhappy customer who once had a second haircut on the same day in order to salvage a horrid first one, I would not think to downplay the importance of even a single hair. But in the end, as I find myself face to face with my reflection in the looking glass, I can shut out everyone’s opinions and decide: I look okay.
Nowhere do other people’s opinions seem to matter more than in my parenting. Every day I ask myself: Am I a good parent? Do I make good parenting choices? My questions, sadly, rarely get answered in my heart. The children’s opinions, my parents’ words, friends’ comments, even the looks of strangers all affect my perception of my decisions and actions.
Not surprisingly, Uri and Eden have opinions about my parenting. “You yell all the time,” is a common complaint. “You’re always impatient.” “You don’t make us good food” is a particularly dreaded grievance. I care about their opinion of my parenting. After all, they are the main beneficiaries (or in their opinion, victims) of it. They are the ones who will need to see a psychologist for years to come in order to undo the damage my well-meaning but disastrous mistakes engender.
And yet, I doubt that the children (or my parents, friends, and strangers) are the best judges of my parenting. The children, caught in the transitory and yet all-encompassing moment-to-moment childhood life, cannot appreciate the big picture, the bigger plan, the one in which I am hoping that they will turn into healthy, self-sufficient, independent adults. The unsuspecting strangers in the grocery store cannot appreciate my bigger plan either, the one in which the tantrum-engrossed candy-deprived child lives to be 95 with all her teeth intact. And my parents, no matter how much they care, still live at their own house and only see part of the picture, and even that is colored by their own parenting hopes, regrets, and dreams.
Still, when a friend tells me that I am a marvelous parent, my heart sings. When the children criticize me, I wish to crawl under the bed and disappear. But somewhere deep in my heart I know that I am doing the best that I can, and I have to trust that love is enough. That, and putting a dollar or two in the savings account for future psychologists. After all, it is best to be prepared. I consider it insurance for a satisfactory life.