It's way, way too easy to judge your friends' parenting methods.
And I'm guilty. I have a particular pet peeve that I thought I'd share. We now have a flight of stairs in our home going from the first to second floor. At the top of the stairs, we have a baby gate. We asked the previous owners if they would leave it for us, and they were nice enough to oblige.
Now, I am all about the baby gate at the top of the stairs. If Seth is toddling around up there, and he's not incredibly steady, I like to have it latched so he won't accidentally fall down the stairs.
But... I do not have a baby gate on the bottom of the stairs for a reason. And that reason is that I think that everyone whose child is capable of climbing up the stairs should teach them not to climb the stairs when they don't want them to. I spent some time teaching Seth that "no climbing stairs" means "no climbing stairs", and I think everyone should do what I do. 'Cause I'm perfect and all my opinions are always right. =)
Well, I'm in the minority in this opinion of mine. And as a result, my friend's children around Seth's age come over and constantly climb the stairs. Their parents don't like it, but they don't stop it. And so I get comments like, "It's a lot of trouble to come over to your house because you don't have a baby gate at the bottom of your stairs." And this irks me. I don't say anything, but it irks me nonetheless. I tend to think uncharitable thoughts about their parenting methods because they want me to provide a baby gate.
I think everybody has at least 1 or 10 or 12 things that they think all the other parents should be doing just like them. It could be anything and everything. It could be, "Why do they let their kids sleep with them at night?" or "How dare they let their kids eat purple Jello on the carpet!" We've all got 'em, if we'll admit it to ourselves. Everybody could be doing it a little more like us, and then they'd have it down. (Insert back slapping here.)
But last night as I was going to bed, I started thinking about this whole stair climbing thing. Maybe, just maybe, it isn't wrong for them not to require their children not to climb the stairs. Maybe this isn't a particular battle that they want to fight. Maybe I should be more accommodating to people who come over to my house, even if I don't agree with every single parenting decision they make. After all, they are guests in my home, and I should try to make all guests feel welcome. And how do I know I'm right, anyway? I need to be willing to admit that I could be wrong, on this and other opinions of mine about child rearing. After all, you get too cocky, and you get to fall on your derriere, to paraphrase a Bible verse.
This morning, I was still mulling it over a bit. To buy a gate or not to buy one? "But I don't want to; I shouldn't have to..." "But, Ellen, love is patient and kind..." "Yeah, but baby gates aren't cheap, and I'd have to measure and figure out how to attach it..."
We ran some errands today, and Seth and I went to Goodwill to look for some jeans for David. (I've had the miracle good fortune to find a pair of 34-34's there before for my string bean husband. ) There were no jeans to be had, but as I was walking around the store, I stopped dead in my tracks.
Leaning against the wall in a corner was the exact same baby gate that we have at the top of our stairs. For $6. Same measurements, same attachments. Excuses...gone. I think I know what God wants me to do. When in doubt, err on the side of love. And don't let differences of opinion about disputable parenting matters hinder your friendships. The end.