A few weeks ago, my first piece went live on the Huffington Post blog. It was a narrative about what it's like to parent children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, and for the most part, I've received a surprising amount of encouraging comments. Many folks commented with appreciation for writing about such a tough topic and for giving them something they could relate to. A few folks went even further and reached out in private messages to engage in conversation about their own struggles parenting children from similar backgrounds. For a long time, I've felt pretty hopeless about our parenting, and I craved someone to whom I could relate, which is what sparked me to begin writing on the topic of parenting kids with histories of trauma. I knew this work would not come without tension, but as I weigh the pros and cons before I hit "publish" on each piece, I always come back to the fact that my words could bring another person hope and understanding. My writing could make things easier on my children as people's frame of reference is expanded. My writing could reach a mama struggling to attach to her child, feeling guilty, and like she's doing it all wrong--and it could make her feel just a little better in that moment. So despite the risks, I've kept writing about these difficult topics. And honestly, because of the positive feedback I've received, it's been fairly easy.
But today I noticed the first negative comment on the HuffPost article...and I have to say, it set me back a bit. The comment is something we've heard before from other people, so it's one I'm learning to shrug off (thanks to my kickass therapist!). I've been bracing myself for this moment for a while. Recently, some of my fellow writers from Her View From Home discussed ways to deal with criticism; reading their thoughts was useful. When I read the negative comment on my article today, I let the feels come. I got angry, but then I took a deep breathe. I felt exhausted with constantly having to reassure some that I DO love my kids, but then I forced myself to remember that most people I know (or have met) understand how deep my love is for my kids. I wanted to type something back, but I stopped myself because I realized that nothing I said in that moment would be useful anyway. So, I popped in my headphones, turned on my girl T. Swift, and had a very subdued jam session to "Shake it Off" since I was at work (don't worry: I'll be dancing later like a mad woman at home...with my kids...because they love to dance). The person behind the comment missed the point of my article. As my writing reaches a wider audience, I will receive criticism. It's the nature of the proverbial beast.
Criticism, while it may sting, can be beneficial. It can reveal some of our blind spots, and it can teach us to be critical because, let's be honest, not all criticism is legitimate. Criticism can propel us forward. When I was teaching full-time, I always told my students that they'd never grow if they always remained closed up in their safe zones. I want my two children to be able to accept criticism. I don't want it to define them, and I don't want it to make them hateful. So, I won't let this negative comment (or any future comments) define me, and I won't let it make me hateful. I'll use it to keep loving my kids, to help me learn how to become a better parent, and to keep writing to be able to forge a community....and I'll use it to dance my face off tonight after work.