Sister and brother laughing on a bed


The Quote That Changed My Perspective on Parenting

Feb 25, 2019

Famed poet Maya Angelou often used a quote from a West African philosopher to explain how she dealt with fame: “Don’t pick them up, don’t lay them down." Meaning: don’t put weight on the compliments you receive and don’t believe only your ardent followers because when they turn on you it means you have to give up whatever accolades you’ve built your self-esteem on.

I’ve found this quote to be incredibly helpful when applied to the wobbly world of parenting. You can’t take credit for all of your children’s good behaviour, unless you’re gonna turn around and take credit for all of their bad behaviour as well.

At first this seems a little deflating — so I don’t get ANY credit? But the flip side is so freeing!

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You mean her inability to eat a meal without having a temper tantrum might have nothing to do with me? It’s not because I didn’t smile hard enough, or serve enough options, or listen to her thoroughly or make a gratitude vision board with her?

You can’t take credit for all of your children’s good behaviour, unless you’re gonna turn around and take credit for all of their bad behaviour as well.

When my kids do something so deep, so kind, so empathic, it’s hard not to turn smug and think to myself, "Oh, that’s because I always parent with my soul sparkling like Tinkerbell." I stop myself from attributing their every decent move to a choice I’ve made during their short tenure on Earth.

However, when they act like little jerks, I don’t have the same urge to immediately connect it to my own faults. Even though I know the exact f*$#ing reason my kid used a swear word on that playdate.

Which means, to avoid hypocrisy, I have to give up one or take on the other. But to maintain sanity, I just can’t shoulder the blame for every one of my children’s less-than-perfect decisions. So fine, there it is. The lovely qualities they have are just that. Lovely qualities THEY have.

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I can’t be responsible for all of their delightful sides and none of their terrible sides. Especially since I truly have a diverse array of horrifying sides. I’m a human rhombicosidodecahedron (Google it and stop saying the CBC doesn’t teach you anything).

Remembering this mantra — don’t pick them, don’t lay them down — can also help us be a lot less judgmental. Not everything is on our shoulders, and the same goes for other parents around us.

If we all take a little less credit for the good stuff and maybe a little more credit for the bad stuff, we may have an awakening: my family’s days aren’t improved by identifying who or what to blame, but by getting rid of the blame altogether.

Article Author Yasmine Abbasakoor
Yasmine Abbasakoor

Read more from Yasmine here.

Yasmine Abbasakoor was a television development executive before leaving to pursue her dream job of being a stay-at-home mum. After five years of living it up in the sandbox and laundry room, she’s ready to share her myriad of musings with the world once again. Connect with Yasmine in her kitchen (she’s the one standing behind the island) or on Linkedin.

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