We went on a nature hike today with a bunch of other homeschoolers. I drove there with a friend and her son. In the car, we were talking about parenting nowadays and how it is so hard: you feel guilty for not hovering over your kid the entire time, you feel guilty for not signing up your kid for every single wonderful and fulfilling activity under the sun, you feel guilty about feeding them random food, you feel guilty about them watching too much TV and not producing Pinterest-worthy projects together. Somehow, parenting becomes a hard chore instead of a pleasure. Somehow the kids are always supervised. Somehow, the definition of a good mother is synonymous with helicopter.
A few days ago we were in a casual restaurant. There were two moms eating out, with their kids. The moms were obviously very excited to catch up with each other. The kids, dressed to the nines in matching white outfits, were getting quite restless since the moms have been catching up for a while. One of the girls took a styrofoam cup and sat with it on the floor, ripping it to pieces. She shredded it. Another one dropped her half-finished food. The moms kept on talking. Eventually they got up and left, with styrofoam pieces strewn all over the floor, and the food splatters under the table. As they were leaving, a Mexican worker surveyed the damage, got out the broom, and started mopping up. I said to my husband: what a chillul Hashem!
I do not hover over my kids. I do not get them dressed in matching outfits. I do not watch every move and fret about every choice. But if my kid makes a mess in a public space, he will have to clean it up. It is not a very fancy definition of kiddush Hashem, but not leaving a giant mess for the restaurant workers means a whole lot more than having your kids appear all well-groomed. If a kid of mine gets into a scuffle, I am assuming that he is to blame, and he will have to apologize or work it out.
It is time to take a giant step back and figure out what are the important values to convey to our kids. Is it the outwardly appearance, or is it internal values? If the kids' middot are emphasized, eventually (I hope) there will be no need to hover and fix and smooth everything for them; they will be able to take care of these matters satisfactorily on their own.