When parents threaten to pull their kids from public schools because of mask mandates or other COVID restrictions, their supporters often voice this refrain: "Stay strong! You're the mom. You know what's best for your child."
Well, that might be the case if moms were unflawed superhuman goddesses, gifted with the strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Solomon, and the precognition of Nostradamus.
But, you know we ain't. Like nothing else, parenthood unmasks our propensity for error. Our inability to see that a fussy child is lactose intolerant, or that a toddler's whacking at a fragile electronic is mimicry, not misbehavior. We spend too much time on our devices, and not enough noticing our kids. We yell, or allow too much sugar, or model poor choices. To this day, I regret how my emotions bubbled over when our toddler locked himself in a hot truck, scaring him so that he started crying with fear.
Still, there's the chant, over and over on social media: "Stay strong, Mom! Only you get to decide what your kid needs!"
My parents thought they knew what was best for me when they discouraged friendships outside our church, and when our religion prevented me from learning to dance ballet, from joining school activities and from listening to most kinds of music. They thought they knew best when they taught me that if I left the church, I would go to hell.
I don't hold it against them, even though those teachings left scars. They honestly did think they were doing their best. It just goes to show that grown-up beliefs don't always match reality. As an adult, looking back, I can say that it would have been better for me to have friends outside our church, and to learn that outsiders were fully human, not scary unbelievers. Maybe I wouldn't have suffered so much anxiety if I hadn't been flogged with the fear of hell.
Ultimately, we get to decide whether to pull our kid from the public school over a mask mandate, and whether our minor children can get the vaccine, because that is the power the law gives us.
We have the power to ignore scientists and journalists and health care leaders urging caution in the face of the latest COVID surge.
But please, parents, acknowledge that simply having the power to act does not equate to actually doing what's best for your child. It simply means that in the eyes of the law, we have more rights. When your kid cries because you pull him from kindergarten over a mask mandate, that kid has no real power beyond his tears.
Quite possibly, when we act in what we believe is the best interest of our children, we are merely succumbing to the prejudices and myths and errors of our time.
(Remember those white parents screaming their lungs to shreds because of desegregation? You bet they thought they were doing their best for their children.)
Let's wield our power over our children with humility. Homeschooling might truly be the best choice for a particular child, but don't make life-altering decisions because of some YouTube video claiming masks are a symbol of Satan or because a traveling clown show claims schools are teaching white oppression instead of the Civil War.
Consider what experts say. Just because they're mainstream doesn't mean they're wrong.
Have a little more uncertainly, a little less hubris.
And maybe someday, our kids will forgive us.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.