Before we had children of our own, Jon and I were the best parents. I’m serious. We knew exactly what we were going to do and not do for our kids. We knew what we would and would not let them get away with and how we would praise and punish them for their behaviors.
Then we had kids and we understood things about parenting that no one could teach us even if they tried. We found out things we couldn’t have possibly learned no matter how many parenting books we read, how many hours of babysitting we logged (ok so Jon never babysat, but I did) or how much time we spent with our nieces and nephews.
Parenting is often a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of a gig and it’s ok to break your own rules and invent new ones as you go along. But it’s important to also realize that other parents are doing the same thing and what we personally observe doesn’t give us the whole story.
I will never forget the time B.K. (Before Kids) when we were on an airplane and we witnessed a mom as she completely flew off the handle when her little girl asked for a banana. What kind of mom yells at her child over a banana request?
Fast forward a few years and I know what kind of a mom flies off the handle when her kid asks for a banana. I finally get it.
I get that if I was with this mother and child before getting on the airplane I probably would have heard a conversation that went something like this:
Mom: “Honey, please eat your banana? We need to get on the plane soon.”
Daughter: “I don’t want it.”
Mom: “What do you mean you don’t want it? I just bought it for you because you told me you were hungry for a banana.”
Daughter: “I don’t want it. I changed my mind. Can I have pretzels instead?”
Mom: “No you can’t. Are you sure you don’t want the banana because it’s going to be a long flight and I don’t want to hear that you are hungry later.”
Daughter: “I don’t want it.”
Mom then either throws it out or eats it herself since it’s already been peeled.
It’s easy to judge others. We do it all the time. I still do it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t. I also get judged all the time because I have a son with autism and his behaviors often draw attention. When you look at my son Evan you can’t see his disability. He doesn’t look like a “special needs kid.” He looks like any other elementary school kid so people are pretty quick to judge his seemingly bad behavior. When he was younger he wasn’t judged as much for screaming at a restaurant because that’s what two year olds do. As he’s gotten older, his meltdowns are far less excusable in the eyes of others. Fortunately they don’t happen as often and we know what triggers them so we can prepare him beforehand if we need to which in turn minimizes his meltdowns.
I’d like to say it doesn’t bother me to get those disapproving glances or snide comments, but it does. I’ve gotten used to it and it bothers me less and less. But it’s also made me more sensitive to others around me.
Over the summer I had the luxury of having a childless lunch out with my parents. At some point during the meal I heard a child give out a quick but blood-curdling scream. I remember briefly thinking must be a kid with autism. It was the kind of thought that comes and goes as quickly as ‘I think I’ll make chicken for dinner tonight’ or ‘I need to make an appointment for a haircut.’ I don’t think I’d even remember this incident except that a few minutes later my friend walked over to me and said “Jen you were the only one in the restaurant that didn’t look up when my son screamed.”
Yep, I was right. It was an autistic kid and he was upset because a fly landed on the table near his pancakes. My friend said she was thankful that at least one person in the crowded restaurant wasn’t judging.
It’s hard to change our perceptions and behaviors. I know I’m still working on it and don’t know if I will ever be as nonjudgmental as I’d like to be. But I do know that we as parents are doing the best we can with one of the most difficult things on earth – parenting and we’re doing a pretty good job with it most of the time. So please, don’t judge me and I promise, I won’t judge you.
—Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program Volunteer
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