I can feel your eyes watching me. See the frowns, hear the whispers to your mate, feel the weight of your glare.
I know you’re judging me.
You don’t know what is going on, or what the reasons are, you have just chosen to go to instant judgment of my parenting skills. And I’m found lacking.
You can’t wait though to go online and tell people about the person with subpar parenting skills you encountered. You can’t wait to show your superiority by exclaiming you would never do such a thing, because you care about your child. You don’t let your phone distract you. You would never give your child an iPad in public. You only feed your kids healthy snacks. Your child wouldn’t dream of throwing a fit in public. You wouldn’t spoil your child like that.
And when I say “Except we’re dealing with an extraordinary circumstance.”, you’re quick to back peddle.
“Oh, I didn’t mean you!”
Because you’re judging complete strangers that you may not have even spoken a word to. Because not every child with a disability looks disabled. Because the things you’re judging these bad parents for are things parents like me go through every day.
“Listen, I know you’re going off about parents making special meals for their kids and that we shouldn’t be short order cooks, but my child with food aversions/allergies only eats 15 things, and I’ll be damned if I’m eating chicken nuggets again in this century.”
“Oh! I didn’t mean YOU! I just meant this other parent I don’t actually know!”
“Yeah I gave her my iPhone to watch a movie on while we were at the coffee shop with friends. I actually wanted to talk to my friend and my kid thought we should leave as soon as he swallowed his last bite of cookie. I was desperately trying to milk out another fifteen minutes because I only get out of the house twice a year.”
“Oh! I didn’t mean youuuuuuuuuuuuu….”
No, you didn’t mean me. Except you kind of did. Because you don’t know, when you’re instantly judging that parent you see in public, the background of that parent and child. Because you don’t know them. You have taken the time to judge them, but have not taken the time to learn about them. That could be my daughter and me you’re judging.
And then you go home, you get on the internet, and you proudly proclaim that you’re totally judging that parent you saw handing their kid a device in a restaurant, or promising their daughter a treat if she’d just stop screaming.
And yet…and yet…if parents like me didn’t do all the things we were judged for above, then we’d be judged for not being able to control our kids. We’d have people in the next booth complaining to waiters that our child was being too loud and annoying. We’d be told that we shouldn’t bring “kids like ours” out into public where other people are trying to enjoy themselves. We are told how “a good spanking” would solve our kids behavior issues. Which is why your judgment of me falls on deaf ears. I stopped caring about what you think of my parenting child a decade ago and just do what I need to do.
I get it – we all judge people. Sometimes, those judgments are spot on. Hitler? Bad. Traffic? Annoying. Puppies? Adorable. Judging me a bad parent because you see my three-year-old in a stroller and feel the need to tell me so without knowing why I needed a stroller for my daughter with low muscle tone? Which really did happen to me? Rude.
Listen, I know not everyone is always going to pick up on my daughter’s differences, because they aren’t on a billboard above her head in flashing neon lights. But she happens to be my fourth kid, and I know I’ve been judged on the behaviors of my other three offspring as well. And people are so quick to judge. They don’t know if the kid is having a bad day because they were up late the night before. They don’t know if mom is dealing with post-partum depression. They don’t know dad is letting the kids ruin their dinner with ice cream because mom’s in the hospital being treated for cancer. They don’t know that those three kids with devices in their faces are only allowed those devices while waiting for their baby sister to go through yet another therapy session or doctor’s appointment, and those three kids are dragged to every appointment because dad’s working and mom can’t get a sitter. And mom knows how boring it all is. So got them devices to play on to make sitting in waiting rooms and hallways easier on everyone.
They don’t know.
You don’t know.
I don’t even know.
How about this? How about instead of judging parents, or defending your judgment, or trying to excuse your judgment…how about you just don’t judge those average everyday parents who are just trying to get through a store or a meal? Or maybe, you can judge them a little in the privacy of your own head, but keep your mouth shut and your fingers still? Maybe don’t broadcast that judgment to the internet.
Because everyone has an off day, and that parent your judging may really really not need that extra crap loaded onto them on that off day.