Captain Gerald Coffee (a POW who survived the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison in North Vietnam) once said:
“Laughter sets the spirit free through even the most tragic circumstances. It helps us shake our heads clear, get our feet back under us, and restore our sense of balance. Humor is integral to our peace of mind and our ability to go beyond survival.”
And motherhood is, at times, #survival.
It’s why I made this video. Well. Why my alter ego made this video. Because in a way, we’ve all been on both sides of the proverbial coin, haven’t we?
Being judgmental is part of human nature.
All of us are guilty. We look down on others; we want to know that, given the same situation, we would make better choices than others. We take comfort in the thought that we’re more rational than emotional, more assertive than hesitant, more in-control than not. But the truth is, we aren’t.
And while my alter ego presented humorous character portraits of judgments made on parenting, in reality, those comments and glances are anything but comedic. They’re downright hurtful.
Today, I address both our egos, the judger, and the judgee.
To My Alter Ego, Judgy Judgerson, with love,
Gandhi once said, “You need to be the change you want to see in the world.”
So if you find yourself being judgmental, stop.
Look deep into your heart and ask yourself: why?
Many times, these judgments come from a place of fear. Fear for the well-being of the child. Fear of the uncomfortable situation that a crying child brings. Fear for how the mom will handle it. But these situations that you judge are not emergencies and don’t require you to intervene.
You may feel your gesture comes from a place of genuine concern. But be careful. The parent at the receiving end of your words, your looks, your flaring nostrils, at your raised eyebrows, your tilted head, is not sensing your good intention. What they get is your contempt. And the result? Insecurity from the parent.
What can you do instead?
- Observe Your Own Thoughts.
Judgments have to do with you, not them. What is your internal chatter? Are we drawing comparisons? Are we assigning worth? Listening to our own internal messages can point us in the direction where we need further insight and contemplation.
- Practice Acceptance.
Not jumping to conclusions about personal attributes of the other parent takes practice. But practicing non-judgment is a gift to give fellow moms, friends, neighbors, and most importantly, strangers. We come from different backgrounds and experiences, with different kids and different personalities. But at the end of the day, as someone famous once said “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same. (It was Daniel Tiger. Bet you can’t get that song out of your head now!)
Be Kind. Be Helpful.
Follow the recommendation of Dr. Wayne Dyer: “When given the choice between being kind and being right, choose kind.” Maybe your parenting tactics ARE superior. Maybe. But regardless, your judgment undermines the confidence that parent needs to handle the situation in an appropriate and effective way. Just lend a hand instead: You can offer to save their spot at the cashier’s line while they solve their situation. You can keep an eye on the smaller sibling while mom turns her attention to the child in need.
To the Judgees,
<<sigh>> We’ve all been there.
In Unconditional Parenting, Dr. Alfie Kohn says: “The bottom line is that raising kids is not for whimps. It’s a test to our capacity to deal with disorder and unpredictability -a test you can’t study for and whose results aren’t always reassuring. Forget ‘rocket science’ or ‘brain surgery’: when we want to make a point that something isn’t really all that difficult, we ought to say ‘Hey, it’s not parenting…'”
Parenting is not an easy job. And yet, we often do it in front of a public stage with little sleep and no support. Here are some tips to get you through the Target Tantrum Meltdown.
- Look around. No Seriously, Stop and Look Around.
I know what you’re thinking. Uh huh. No way. I’m keeping my head buried in the sand.
Here’s the thing. Most of the time, when your head is bent over and you’re in the throws of a tantrum, you’re only imaging the lights of a thousand stage hands on you and the eyes of a million people glaring at you and the hushed whispers. And you’re only IMAGING judgment from those strangers. Look up, and look around. See who’s looking. No one really. Be a lover of reality, and don’t assume “everyone is staring and judging me”. Find out who really is.
- Create New Interpretations.
Ok. So by now you’re thinking about all those times people WERE staring at you. Well this brings me to my next point. Perhaps you did have someone staring. Maybe even two people. But is it possible you only perceived their judgment?
Warning! Science alert! Humans are intensely biologically programmed to stare at baby’s faces, to attune to a baby’s cries, to respond to a child in need, to look alert. Our cortisol levels increase when we hear a child cry. Our very existence has depended on it. When a child cries in a store, it’s only natural we humans turn towards the cry.
I CHOOSE to interpret those glances, stares, and gazes simply as neutral biological instincts; they’re not harboring ill-will, judgments, disdain, or repulsion. Peaked curiosity, that’s it. But here’s the thing, that takes practice. Choosing to create a new interpretation takes practice and mindfulness.
The same goes for any comment directed towards you, your child, or your parenting choices. Practice creating new interpretations. Interpretations built out of compassion and understanding. Most of the time, those comments are coming from a place of concern for your child. And having concerned citizens that are deeply vested in the health of our children is a beautiful thing. A thing that not every country has. Let that sink in.
- Trust Yourself.
Above all, stay focused on your child and stay attuned to your inner compass. Don’t allow real or imaginary onlookers and judgers influence how you feel or how you parent. Instead stay attuned to what your child needs in this moment; what does this situation require right now. Peace. Patience. And Presence. You’ve got this.