I am a member of an online support group for moms with children born with cleft. The group is much larger than that though, it consists of mothers, but also fathers, grandparents and of course individuals born with cleft themselves. The group’s only rule “Be Kind.”
My mom actually found the group and shared it with me not long after I received the news Patrick would be born with a cleft. Initially the group felt both a bit overwhelming even scary, and yet comforting and informative. There were days early on, I had to force myself not to go on, it was too difficult and I was too emotional. Other days I would scour the group with intense curiosity and a sense of community- we weren’t alone.
The group on a whole I would describe as supportive, open, and accepting. Members geographic locations are diverse scanning all regions of the United States, and many regions of the world. With this diversity comes a large range in quality and access of care, insurance struggles, and saddest of all, local community acceptance of their children. I have heard stories that break my heart and others that warm me. Overall, I am grateful to witness the general warmth these parents receive when they come to the group for advice, support, and overall, a safe place to vent.
It came as shock to me you’ll understand when 9 months after joining this group, I log into Facebook to see a firestorm of drama unfolding on the page this morning. Someone had posted what I would describe as a rude, trying to start shit, post. She asked “why do so many people call their kids clefties?” (A term a number of people use to describe their cleft affected children. It’s a slang for the longer term cleft cuties” ) It bothered her, and she thought we should all accept our kids for more than the way they were born.
Personally, I don’t use the term. I get it, I don’t hate it, I think it can be cute the way people use it, but I don’t. The way the mom said it bothered me though. And as you can imagine, it realllllly bothered a lot of other people. Now the comments were HUGE! I started to read some, obviously sucked into the vortex of this drama unfolding online. I mean lets be real, this was car crash level, you wanted to look away, it wasn’t right to stare, but you just couldn’t!
There were so many comments I didn’t read all of them, but many were nasty, on both sides -defending the post and agreeing we needed to stop using the term. Others bashing her for not being accepting. (ironic when we harass someone nastily for not accepting us, while not accepting them.)
The post was taken down, and the admins all made a post reminding us of our only rule in the group “Be Kind”. A lot of comments continued, apparently there was a comment I didn’t read that really went below the belt. YIKES, I really wish I had seen it. (so wrong, I know!)
I tease, but watching this unfold in a place I truly believed to be one of compassionate and accepting parents reminds me of just how low we can go when we believe someone disagrees with the way we parent, the way we get through a day, the way we choose to survive raising tiny humans.
The thing is, we will never all do things the same way. We don’t think the same things, and we haven’t walked the same path as each other. I am the youngest of 4 children, all of us parents ourselves now. All four of us have chosen to parent our kids so differently. Imagine now, we grew up in the same home. We, as a larger community come into parenthood with different experiences and perspectives that shape what we believe is the best way forward.
Organic foods vs non? Breastfed vs bottle? Purees vs Baby led weaning? Cry it out vs Rock them to sleep? Private school vs public? Working mom vs Stay at Home? Tough love? Help with homework?
We are never going to do things exactly like our friends or family, or neighbors, or kid’s best friend’s parents. That’s not how this works. There is no one size fits all parent, and the choices we make, or actively don’t make, are part of the journey to surviving being a parent.
I would have told you at 23, I knew exactly the kind of parent I was going to be. I would never let my kids sleep in bed with me, I would breast feed all them until they were at least a year old, and tv or screen time should be seriously limited!
Guess what? My baby has been bottle fed formula, slept in bed with me for 3 months, and we play cartoon nursey rhymes every day! HA!
Life. It happens, and not always the way we expect. But I believe with all my heart that all of us make choices every day that we ultimately believe is in the best interest of our kids.
Those nursery rhymes for my 5.5 month old? Maybe not the best for Patrick, but they keep him quiet for a little while, which is good for me. Good for me is good for him.
Let’s be nicer to each other. Let’s talk nicer to each other. Let’s stop talking behind each other’s back!
These moms in my group who call their kids clefties? They say it in the most endearing and loving way. They love their kids, and find the term loving and adorable. They don’t believe it’s a bad thing. They’re raising their kids to embrace who they are in all ways.
The moms who hate it? They are working with a different mindset. They believe giving them a nickname of their birth defect would then define them this way. They are working on showing their kids that they are more than just how you were born.
Both of these kinds of parents are right, because they love their kids! You will inevitably agree with one of these two things. Just don’t hate on someone when you learn that they think differently.
Let’s agree to support each other, even when we don’t agree. Let’s agree that we will always believe moms, and parents are making each decision with the intention of doing what is best for their kids, and their family.