I am embarrassed to say that I used to judge people, but before you judge me, you have to hear me out.
Before I had children, I would be in a restaurant and when I saw children acting up, I would smugly think to myself, “My children will never act like that in a restaurant.”
When I would see a child running around outside, not wearing a jacket when it was cold, I would deem that parent a bad parent.
When one does not have children, it is very easy to place the blame of a misbehaving child on the parent. I would think about my future perfect child. In my daydream, if my child would act up, I – being the perfect parent – would smile at my little troublemaker because I had an overflowing amount of patience and I would gently explain to my child what he did incorrectly. In turn, he would smile at me and agree that he was wrong and promise to never act up again.
Because I have four children now, I have been through tantrums in a grocery store, refusing to dress in clothes that are appropriate for the temperature outside and acting up in a restaurant. There are days when my patience is gone by 6:30 a.m. and I wonder if there is any way I could go back to bed and hide for the next 18 years.
I know that no matter what my best intentions are, I am dealing with an unreasonable child with a mind of his own, and what he deems to be appropriate is completely different from what I believe.
One time, I was at a playground and a little girl was playing in the sandbox. Her parents wanted to go home. They tried everything – begging, pleading, bribing and even pretending to leave. When the parents were pretending to leave, I turned to the girl and said, “You are not being very nice to your parents. Here they take you to a playground and you refuse to listen to them. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
The little girl ran to her parents and grabbed their hands. I believe this makes amends for some of my judgmental attitudes.
Another time, I was volunteering in the cafeteria at my children’s elementary school and a mom came up to me and said, “Can you believe what Johnny’s mom packed in his lunch? It is all junk food.”
I looked at her and said, “I am sure Johnny’s mom was rushing around to get to work, and he was throwing a tantrum about not wanting the food she was packing or the clothes she had ready for him and she had enough. She could not battle another thing that morning. If I was the mom, I probably would have thrown a candy bar and a can of soda in his lunch and said enjoy.”
The mom looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and walked away. You will not get me gossiping about what some kid is eating in his lunch.
Also, if I see your child wearing a bathing suit and it is 20 below zero outside, the only thing I will say to your child is, “Don’t forget to put on sunscreen.”
Not that long ago, I was in a restaurant and my youngest started acting up. As I looked at the young, childless couple sitting next to me, I noticed that they wore that same smug look on their faces like I had so many years ago. I smiled at them and thought, “You just wait.”