I read a quote from Mayim Bialik once when she gave rare insight into her decision to circumcise her sons as part of their Jewish covenant. As a vocal proponent of attachment and natural parenting, she surprised many in these parenting circles.
Her response? “When you think you are right, you are wrong”.
What I took this to mean is that if you can’t understand how the opposite of your position might be appropriate, then you can’t possibly be right. In other words, there is no ultimate right or wrong.
I read this at a time when I was realizing how polarizing my own views on parenting had been. Although I’m a staunch advocate for home birth, breastfeeding, leaving boys intact, and almost any other “crunchy” practice, I’ve gotten over my horror of those who choose another path.
Part of this is because I have so many friends who aren’t like me, but are loving and kind and wise and people whom I look up to immensely. I realized that being too narrow in my viewpoints caused a divide with them that wasn’t adding anything to my life, but was certainly taking away from it.
I started frequenting blogs that look at the other side of many issues I write about, like breastfeeding, home birth, and vaccination. Some of them, like Fearless Formula Feeder, are respectful (although the hurt and pain of formula-feeding mothers who feel marginalized and put-down by many breastfeeding mothers is often difficult to read), but others like the Skeptical OB and Science-Based Medicine completely ridicule ideas I feel strongly about.
It is humbling to immerse yourself in the other side.
I encourage you to do it.
Have you ever thought about formula feeding? Have you thought about having an elective C-section? Have you considered circumcising your son? Have you considered vaccinating your child with the full CDC recommended shots, or considered not vaccinating at all? Have you considered spanking?
Are you squirming yet?
If people you love have made choices that are different than your own, then really considering these is a little easier, and it’s a good place to start. Have you ever talked to them about why they chose what they did, or how they felt about it?
It’s not an easy thing to do.
But here is the thing: we’re in an election year. We have polarizing candidates. We, as parents, have so much at stake. And we know what we believe. That part is easy.
We know what’s right, what we value, what feels good to us, and what makes us stand up and cheer.
But do we know the other side? Really know it? Do we understand where they are coming from and what their concerns are and how they can believe their outrageous claims can possibly be correct?
I’ll admit that I’m still nervous when I do it. I feel furtive and sneaky, and I can feel my heart race as I think of all the ways I would counter what they are saying. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parenting issue or a political one — they are all important to me, and ultimately to my children.
The toughest part about the quest for “rightness” is that it’s never ending. It requires that we always seek greater understanding, because whenever we rest, and we think we’re right . . . we’re wrong.
Photo credit: phil41dean on Flickr