By Melissa Stefanec
As human beings, we can’t help but judge one another. When we see others, especially strangers, we are forming opinions about them. We are imagining their stories and trying to fit them into a box that is familiar to us. We want to make sense of our world and track our progress through it. We want to see how we measure up.
The problem with seeing how we measure up to others brings two things — we either feel inferior or superior to others. In order to feel the latter, we judge.
People seem to layer on the judgment especially thick when it comes to parents and children. As a parent, you don’t even have to leave your home to feel the beady little eyes of judgment glaring down at you. Judgement comes from social media and entertainment. Almost everywhere you look, there is something or someone giving you the proverbial sideways glare. It sucks, and every parent feels it.
I cannot fathom a world without unnecessary judgment. It seems as impossible as two days straight of sleeping in, a day of uninterrupted bathroom breaks, and day without my two children bickering with each other. Although I recognize a judgment-free world is impossible, I also believe small changes really do add up.
So, in the thread of being the change I want to see, here are 10 things I have (almost) completely stopped judging other parents for.
1. What you feed your kid — Tonight, I tried to feed my kids falafel, olives, hummus, chicken and rice. You know what they ate? A few bites of chicken and the pita bread that came on the side. Sometimes, I just don’t care what form the calories come in, as long as my kids are swallowing them. Kids are so picky, and I can’t throw out seven dinners a week. So, sometimes, I feed them food I know they will eat. I just plug the dietary holes with gummy vitamins.
2. Your kid having a public meltdown — Fellow Mom or Dad, when this happens, I truly feel for you. It’s hard to watch your kid struggle. It’s hard to watch your kid’s emotions irrationally derail while you stand by helplessly. It’s even harder when you have some middle-aged person staring down their nose at you because selective amnesia has eliminated their children’s prior meltdowns from memory. Hang in there. I promise to give you a sympathetic nod and knowing smile while your toddler melts into a puddle about not being able to buy whatever eye-level bait a store has set out.
3. Your kid being messy — I try to keep my kids’ clothes and faces clean. There are even times when I wipe and disinfect them under bright lights, decide their attire is pristine, and then notice half of a chocolate-covered banana stuck to their cheek when I strap them into the car. I don’t know how it’s possible, but they seem to seep chocolate and ketchup from their pores.
4. Your child saying something inappropriate — If I had a dollar for every time one of my kids made a butt or poop joke when his or her first three jokes didn’t land, we would be taking fancier family vacations. Kids are constantly searching for reactions from others, and they will stop at almost nothing to get them.
5. How you spend your free time — When you don’t have your kids, the world is your oyster. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone or yourself, enjoy life how you see fit.
6. What kind of music you or your children listen to — Great people like all kinds of music. Kids needs to be exposed to different kinds of music. Just like music helps adults work through their innermost emotions, it does the same for kids. Just make sure your kids are listening to music (I might actually judge you if you let them skip that).
7. What you named your kid — Unless it’s something mean or unsavory, I can’t describe how little I care about what name you pick for your offspring. Do you like it? Great, that works for me.
8. Your kid not listening to you — I often get complimented on my children’s’ good behavior. There are just as many times when I am close to losing my sanity because my children have zero interest in following directions. Just like adults, kids have bad days, and that results in not listening.
9. Raising your voice at your kid in public — If you aren’t being emotionally abusive to your kid, but you’ve lost your bananas and finally raise your voice 10 decibels, who am I to judge? Even the strongest of parents lose their cool, and this is bound to happen outside the safety of your home.
10. A bad parenting moment — We all have these. Sometimes, my patience, energy and will are depleted and I do something I feel guilty about. So, next time I see somebody doing a shoddy job of parenting, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that mistake came after a day of patience and good stuff.
After all, when we stop being judgmental of how others are failing, we can focus on the areas in our own lives that need improvement. Without the deflection of judgment, we can grow as parents and as people.