There’s a mom barking at her children. She’s angry and frustrated. She’s struggling and the threats are pouring out. Her children aren’t listening and she’s grabbing at them roughly to keep them at her side in the busy parking lot. And I know that children need patience and understanding, and that if you set rules ahead of time and remind them frequently, then they have an easier time following your rules. If you’re consistent and loving, they will learn to respond to your requests and follow your directions.
But I also know that there are days when it all just falls apart. There are days when you wake up and everything is going wrong, and nobody is listening. Maybe everyone is about to be sick, maybe she’s sick, maybe she didn’t get any sleep, maybe she got some bad news, maybe she just couldn’t rally today and all she needs is someone to just understand. And maybe, after all that frustration and yelling, she’s going to gather herself in the car, find her peace, apologize for losing it and just spend the day snuggled up with her kiddos reading books on the couch.
I don’t know what her day was like today, but I know that my judgement won’t bring her any closer to her apology or snuggles on the couch. She does not need my glare, only the empathy in my eyes that says “I know it’s hard, sometimes it’s all just hard.” So I smile, and I don’t judge.
There’s a man at the store gathering his children candy bars as they demand them while waiting in the line. “Must be fun when daddy babysits,” the woman behind him clucks. He turns to feign a smile. His children are bouncy and loud and I know that candy is the fastest way to a meltdown. There was a sea of food dyes to choose from, and I cringe as I imagine my own children’s sugar laden behaviors.
But, I also know that some battles aren’t always worth waging. Maybe he rarely sees his kids, and it’s not worth the fight. Maybe he’s a stay-at-home dad and he’s already waged enough battles this week. Or maybe, just maybe, he understands that sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with a treat every now and then.
I wink at the children and whisper “you’re so lucky to have a great daddy.” Because whatever day he’s having, or going to have, he’s not the babysitter, he’s the parent. He doesn’t need me to tell him anything. So I smile, and I don’t judge.
There’s a mom fumbling with bottles and her child is screaming. We’re in the middle of the mall, and I see her glancing anxiously as she tries to calm her child while preparing his meal. The extended breastfeeder in me contemplates how much easier it can be to breastfeed, without having to fumble with the bottle or make sure it’s prepared. I know that women are not supported enough in their attempts to breastfeed and I silently rage against the establishment.
But, I also know that this moment in time is not about the larger themes of breastfeeding vs. formula in modern day society. It’s about a mother trying to feed her child. Maybe she couldn’t breastfeed, maybe she tried harder than anyone, maybe she never felt comfortable breastfeeding, or maybe she was never supported. None of that matters. All that matters is that she is a mother who loves her child and is meeting his needs.
She doesn’t need my judgement or opinions to calm her anxieties. She needs to be recognized for being a mom, and know that it’s ok for her little ones cries to echo without condemnation. So I smile, and I don’t judge.
Parenting is full of moments. They come and go and we grow and change. Some moments we excel with patience and love and laughter. And some moments we fail and have to pick ourselves back up. In those darker moments, it is not the judgements or positions or misconceptions of others that help us gain our strength again. We are all too aware of our failings. Rather, it is the camaraderie, the connection, and the empathy of others which help us remember that we are strong, and sometimes it’s hard, but we can do this.
I don’t know what’s happened to you today or this week or this month or this year. But I know that whatever it is, you don’t need me to make it worse. For every bad day you’ve had, I’ve had one too. So, here, let me help a little. I will smile, and I won’t judge.
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