Apologies to the Parents I Judged Four Years Ago
To the Parents I Knew Four Years Ago: I’m Sorry
I have come to realize many things since having three children. For example, I now know that I can read “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” seven times in a row without going insane. No matter what people say, throw-up is throw-up and I don’t care if it is my daughter who is throwing up but her throw-up makes me want to throw up. I am a really fast diaper changer. And it’s true: love does not split, but grows with additional children.
But perhaps one of the biggest realizations I’ve made as a relatively new parent (my daughter turns 4 in March, my twin boys turn 2 in May) is how incredibly judgmental I was pre-children.
You, the woman at Kohl’s who pushed a cart with your screaming toddler draped on the rack underneath it, ignoring her as she scraped her feet on the floor because she couldn’t have the toy she wanted: I judged you.
Girlfriend with children who had Nick Jr. on the entire time I visited: I judged you.
Parent at the park who did not pack an organic, free-range, all-food-groups-represented, no-dessert lunch complete with sandwiches cut in cute little shapes, who instead fed your children chicken nuggets, cold French fries and (gasp) chocolate milk? I judged you.
Not out loud, of course. But internally, I was smug. I thought things like I would never have children who would behave in such a manner in public. Or, Doesn’t she know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV until the age of 2? Or, How can he possibly be feeding his children that crap? Has he not read any of Michael Pollan’s books?
And what’s worse, now that I’m a parent, I realize internal smugness isn’t so internal. As a parent, I know when I’m being judged. I can sense it, even when nothing is being said out loud. It’s in the look. The double-take. The whisper to the companion they’re with.
It’s hard not to care about what other people think. But still, that quiet judgment can sting, especially on days when my nerves are shot and my children are in the worst moods — a combination that often leads to a situation judge-worthy by many.
But now, as a parent, I do things judge-worthy even when my children are being good. Last Thursday is a perfect example: My son had a physical therapy appointment a good half-hour drive away. On the way back from the appointment both of my boys fell asleep — we had eaten lunch out, complete with Oreo cookies and Popsicles for dessert, (judge!) after the appointment and it was close to their naptime. Of course they fell asleep. My daughter, however, who has long given up naps (!), was still awake.
When I pulled into my driveway, I had two choices: Wake up the boys and deal with their short tempers having only slept for 25 minutes, or sit in the van with them while they slept, bribing my daughter with apps on my iPod and promises of candy once inside if she would just sit and be quiet for a half hour longer (!). I chose option B without blinking. And I left the car running (!) the entire time.