Mom, Don't Judge
Anytime a judgmental glance is cast your way, remember this.
One of my favorite mom stories is one my neighbor told me about her own mother, Cindy. Cindy was the mother of two girls and pregnant with her third. She was in the waiting room of her obstetrician’s office with her two daughters, who sat quietly coloring. A few seats down was another pregnant woman, this one with two little boys. The boys were banging together trucks (not to mention their own heads), jumping off chairs, and ignoring their mother’s pleas to “Please settle down.”
Wow, Cindy thought, that mother really needs to learn to control her children.
Sure enough, Cindy’s baby was a boy…. And you know it was Cindy a couple of years later who was pleading with her son to “settle down”—and wishing she hadn’t been so judgmental with that other mom.
I’ve had my own “Cindy” moments. When my daughter was a toddler in daycare, there was a biter in her class. At least once a week, it seemed, we got the report that she’d been bitten.
“What in the world is going on over there?” I exploded to my husband. I called the daycare and asked what they were doing about the situation. And you know I had my own choice words for the mother of the biter.
You can see where this is going. Three years later, instead of receiving a report that my child had been bitten, I was receiving calls at work with the news that my son had bitten somebody “again.”
But it’s all good, because such experiences have given me what I consider one of the greatest gifts of motherhood: not being so judgmental (a.k.a., humility).
It’s tough sometimes, especially when other moms’ parenting styles clash with your pet peeves. For example, one of my pet peeves is picky eaters. With my own children, eating is a choice: Eat what’s for dinner, or don’t eat (or get dessert). It’s not presented as a punishment; it’s simply a choice. And guess what? If they’re hungry, they’ll eat what’s on their plates. If they’re not, they skip a meal (and I haven’t had to hospitalize either one for starvation yet). I have more than one mom friend who complains about her picky eaters and details how she chases them around the house to get them to eat something. At one point, it would have been on the tip of my tongue to say, “Well maybe if you stopped chasing them around the house with food all day, they’d be hungry and eat what you serve them for dinner.” But now I know that it’s just that I haven’t been in that mom’s situation. Maybe picky eating doesn’t really bother her all that much, or she remembers unfondly being forced to eat objectionable foods during her own childhood, or she really does have a child who would rather starve… or whatever. I doubt it’s a problem that will cause the child to be a menace to society when he grows up, so who cares?
Besides, the mom of the picky eater would be well within her rights to have clucked her tongue at me had she seen my five-year-old at a recent Temple service when all the children were called up to the bimah (like an altar in a church). There were all the children, standing nicely and singing sweetly along with the Cantor… except for my son, who decided to imitate the Cantor’s voice and sway with his eyes closed, as if the spirit were moving him. I had no idea what to do. Storm up to the bimah to take him away and risk a scene? Let him do his thing and chastise him later? I got my 9-year-old daughter’s attention and gestured for her to tell him to stop. She whispered to him, and he answered in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “Stop what? What am I doing wrong? I’m singin’ and dancin’!”
I read a blog post recently about a mom who put her twins in a child safety harness (a.k.a., leash), something she used to pass judgment on other moms for doing. In the post, another mom of twins who has her kids in a harness says, “…until you have twins, you don’t know.”
Anytime you’re inclined to pass judgment on another mom, replace “twins” in that sentence with whatever fits at the moment: “a boy,” “a runner,” “a picky eater,” or “that exact child.”
And anytime a judgmental glance is cast your way, remember this: Pity not the mom whose child is misbehaving, but rather the one who passed over one of the greatest gifts of motherhood.
More by NJ Family's Real Moms of NJ Blogger, Renée Sagiv Riebling: