Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Agent of intolerance... =)

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.


Perry and Amanda said...


Before you attach the gate maybe look for an old fashion failure to meet code one that is adustable and can be easily removed and stored when not having company. I know you already bought the gate but just thought before you put holes in the wall.

Ellen said...

No worries. The one upstairs has been rigged to a couple of pieces of wood and wired to the banisters, and we would do the same. No holes. But for now, I think I'm just going to see if its good enough to slip it between the banisters when we have company. =)

Momma B. said...

I have fallen into that trap time and time again! SOunds like you are on the right track and one I have to remind myself of again and again! A call from you would never be a bother! Love you!

Ruthie said...

Wow. God does send his messags loud and clear!

My biggest pet peeve is people whose kids wreck havoc on your things (e.g., jump on leather couch with shoes on, run around with glass picture frames). It's a dilemma, b/c what do you do if the munchkins break said things? I'd feel uncomfortable asking their parents to pay for the stuff, yet it annoys me that they don't teach their kids some manners in the first place!!

Rachel said...

Well, we could just bring our own baby gate with us when we visit you! : )
But I think it is just that every parent has a different idea on what is an important issue to them to make a big deal of with their own kids. For you, it might be no climbing on steps, but that is not the case for me. : ) There are other issues that I decide to put my time and effort into, but you might not think those are as important for you. It's just a matter of picking your battles and each parent has to pick their own.
But yes, I do agree with you that if we're not careful we can fall into judging the other family for not agreeing with us on what's important! Good lesson for us all.
And very cool that you are realizing this and that God supplied this gate for you, and confirmed the issue in your mind!

Brittany said...

Hi thanks for the comment. I'm sure you could do it with semi sweet chips. I have used them to dip Strawberries before and I think it actually tastes better.

Rina said...

Hi, Ellen, I got the link to your site from the comment you posted on mine and I've really enjoyed reading through your blog! I saw this article and could relate to how you feel. I know that if it were MY house and we had stairs, I would certainly teach my children not to climb up the stairs without permission (for safety reasons.) I could also relate to how others might feel, too... if my own house didn't have stairs (therefore my children had never been taught not to climb on them) and we visited a house with stairs, I would be very reluctant to teach my children not to climb them at someone else's house. Everyone disciplines and teaches their children differntly and I would be uncomfortable employing a method of child training that I wasn't positive would be supported by the person whose house I was visiting. Much like your guests, I would probably tend to ignore the issue rather than tackle it directly in an environment not my own. It could be that your guests feel the same way. I'm glad that God worked this out for you, and gave you the answer to your situation. I can certainly see myself on both ends of that issue! :)