But one thing that’s got me really drawn in recently is about judging. Judging parenting. When I was younger, before I had my children, I considered myself to be a moral absolutist. I had a line – some things, some people, were on the good side of the line, other things were on the bad side of the line. I had no patience for cultural relativism, no sense that something that was “bad” could be “good” in certain circumstances. I could agree that I knew a “bad” parent when I saw one, based on their actions, their kid, or a combination of the two. I would have probably agreed with a list like this one, that lays out pretty well what most folks consider a ‘bad’ parent:
They cuss around and at their kids in the middle of the cereal aisle.
They fight with their significant others in public, in front of their kids, and slap the little ones when they get out of pocket, especially if there’s an audience to witness their discipline.
They let their kids roam the streets until somebody else’s mother tells the kid to go home.
They ride around in their cars with the windows rolled up, chain smoking while their babies bounce around in the back seat, sans seatbelts and boosters.
When it comes to showing up for parent/teacher conferences, or sending in donations for a teacher gift, or chipping in at the PTA-sponsored events, they’re nowhere to be found.
But then two things happened to me, and made me forever change the way I saw morality, the way I saw right and wrong, the way I saw parenting.
First, I became a parent. Twice. Now I do not believe that you have to experience something to understand it. I don’t need to eat a chili pepper to know it’s hot. I don’t need to dive into the deep end of the pool to know I’m going to drown cause I don’t know how to swim. I don’t need to touch the hot burner to know my skin will burn if I do. But there are some things in life that nothing but experience will truly allow you to understand, and parenting is one of them. (I think sex, being drunk, and actually driving a car are others.)
Consider the cussing at the kids in the cereal aisle. I’ve NEVER cussed at my kids, and I never will. (I don’t think I’ve ever cussed AT anyone.) But I can understand why one might want to. Imagine you’re in the supermarket, not in the cereal aisle, but in the produce department. You are inspecting the the peaches, looking for the best ones, and suddenly you hear, “Ummm…” You whip your head around, and your child has just taken a big ole bite out of several peaches right on down the row! You want to say, “What the F@*K!” because you’ve been through this before and she was instructed not to touch anything and especially not to take bites of fruit in the produce section. You were sure that THIS time you’d gotten through to her. But you hold it in as you hurriedly throw all the bitten peaches into your bag, which at $2.99 a lb, just decimated your budget for peaches. Again, I’ve never cussed at my kids and try my hardest not to cuss around them either, but damn, I can understand.
The second thing that happened to me was I was diagnosed with a serious mental illness and spent a week in the hospital when my children were 3 years and 18 months. From that day on, I could never find it in me to call another parent a bad parent. When you’ve wanted to do something as horrific as leave your children without a mother, and believed that was the best thing for them…
I don’t think I’ve turned into someone who doesn’t believe in right and wrong anymore, or good and bad. I’ve just come to believe that almost everything “depends.” I do believe that what other people do to and with their kids has an effect on the rest of us, as we are all interconnected and live in this society together. But when it comes to parenting, and knowing the hard choices that I made and continue to make every day, that right and wrong don’t have much meaning to me any more.
I hate to judge. And I hate being judged. Even if a parent does every single thing on that list, I’m not going to call him or her a bad parent. Why? Because I think it’s a waste of time and not very productive. Instead of sending positive vibes and energy about how to help that parent and especially that child, all I’d be doing in pointing out the flaws, gossiping about the defects. I’m sure many people could have did that while I had two babies at home, having a nervous breakdown in the hospital, saying that I was selfish and not taking care of my responsibilities. Or they could of helped me and my kids, which is what a lot of people did. If you see a kid out at all times of night, do send him home. You see a family without car seats, give them yours when your kids outgrow them. You see mom about to go off on her kid in the cereal aisle, distract her so she doesn’t. You see adults fighting in front of the kids, in public? Take the kids and distract them, bring them to your house to play for a while. Befriend these so-called “bad” parents, bring them into your fold, your group, teach them some things. Don’t just label them and cast them aside.
I have friends now, who, when they see me discipline my children, will tell me a better way they think I could have handled the situation. I absolutely appreciate that. Would you?