I feel like this is an obligatory post. Like, every person who has children has come to this conclusion and so why in the world would anyone need to read about it? But if I’ve found anything to be true, it’s that we read about what we know deep down to be true anyways because it reassures us and realigns us with the truth—the truth about this life, and the truth about ourselves.
So here it is: I used to judge people by how their kids acted.
If a child refused to eat their vegetables, I would think to myself, “my kids will eat whatever I put in front of them.”
If a child threw a tantrum about having to leave the park, I would silently assure myself that when I became a parent, my child would know exactly what was expected of them when it was time to leave anyplace. They would NEVER behave in such a way.
If a child pushed another kid, was unwilling to share, hit their parent, said a cuss word, or was flat-out disobedient, I would judge the parents hardcore. I would absolutely know that my kids would NEVER do those things because I would be a better parent than whoever this child’s unfortunate mom and dad were.
Parents of children older than mine, I humbly ask for your forgiveness.
Today, my daughter, who is a pretty awesome little girl if you ask me, was having a meltdown at 7am because, for whatever reason, 5am is the new start to her day (and my day too), and she gets pretty darn exhausted rather quickly. She would not eat her broccoli at lunch, and she cried giant crocodile tears at the library because she wanted to continue to play with the plastic ice cream cones, which she would NOT share with the other kids. And that was just today. Last night she pushed her cousin off of the four-wheeler bike because she wanted a turn and also refused to give her little brother a goodnight kiss…
Yes, to my utter dismay, my 2-year-old is not perfect. And contrary to what I previously thought, I am not in much control of what she does or doesn’t do.
This is not to say that I do not or will not take responsibility for things that my kids do. This is simply to say that I now understand that there are just some times that kids do things that do not reflect what their parents have taught them or how they were raised.
But here is what I’ve learned:
I’ve learned that when I judge other people, my brain cannot distinguish these judgments as separate from my own self-talk. This is backed up by brain science, actually. When we even think negative, judgmental thoughts about others, our brain registers them as evaluations about our own selves.
All these times I have looked at kids with that side and rolling eye, and have labeled their parents as “bad” or “unworthy” or “lazy” or “unfit”, I have really been evaluating the type of person and parent that I am or will be.
Yes, I might get that little rush of superiority and ego boost, but very much like the crash after a sugar or caffeine high, it’s not long before I’m wallowing in a judgment hangover that can only be cured with… more judgment.
One moment I’m all like, “Wow, her son just completely disrespected her. I would never let my kid get away with that. She must not be very consistent. I’m a way more intentional mother…”
And then the next moment, my little one does the unthinkable and throws a tantrum that has everyone at the Target check out line staring at us, thinking Lord-knows-what, and all I can do is keep the judging cycle going by getting defensive…
“Well those people have it easy. They all can afford a babysitter so they can go shopping by themselves, or their kids are older and less needy, or they probably have had way more sleep because they don’t have a newborn at home… how dare they judge me! Don’t they know they I am doing the best I can? What type of person judges a mom based on what their two-year-old does? Nothing is wrong with me… it’s them…”
Except I don’t recall that I’ve just done the exact. same. thing. If—big if—they are even judging me at all in the first place! They might, in all reality, be thinking something sweet like, “oh poor thing, I bet she’s exhausted and her little one is too. I sure hope she can find some time to rest and won’t beat herself up too much about how her kid is acting right now.” And wouldn’t that be sweet, and way more helpful, understanding, and honestly accurate too?
It’s then that I am reminded of the responses I want to have. And the fact that the actual cure for the judgment hangover isn’t more judgment at all. It’s compassion. It’s love. It’s a raised hand saying “me too girl; I get it”.
If my brain cannot distinguish between a commentary on someone else and a commentary on myself, then I want to rewrite my judgment commentary entirely and break this cruel, defensive cycle.
Because if judging other people makes me feel all the stress and shame I am doling out on them in my mind, then it’s working the opposite way I want it to. Deep down, my inner “mean girl” is hoping that judging people will make me feel better about my own self. This is why behind most every “mean girl” is actually an anxious, nervous, insecure little person—hurt people hurt people, right?—and my own inner “mean girl” is the same.
I don’t want to be judged for what I do on very little sleep, or for how I feel on my worst of worst days, so why would I want to be judged for what the little human I birthed, who has entirely no shame at all, does on a non-regular basis? I don’t.
So I’ve got to stop judging my fellow mamas and papas who also don’t deserve it. We are, in fact, in this together, if we want to be. And I do.
Also, I recognize that most of my judgments come from an entire lack of knowledge and experience. Case and point: I rarely judge a mama with a kid younger than me, and I find that most of these “my kid would NEVER”’s have popped into my brain far before I had even conceived a child.
But this entire revelation, which I think many of us with little humans running around our homes have also come to, has made me wonder how much of the way I judge people for other things is the same.
If I judge a person for being out of shape, does it also make me think poorly about my own body?
If I judge a person for their lack of preparation, does it also make me harsh with myself when I miss a deadline?
If I judge a person for how they choose to spend their free Saturday, does it make me also judge myself when I am not a productive or restful or… (insert whatever “should” is on my latest list at the moment)?
And I think it does. I think my judgments of others keep me trapped in judgments of myself. I judge because I think judgments protect me, but in truth, they make me put up the perfectionist façade and pretend like I’ve got it all together when I really don’t. They make me defensive and angry, and thinking the worst about others and about myself. In short, judgments are not helping me or doing anyone else any favors.
So this one is for my fellow mommies and daddies, but also for anyone at all who has ever judged anyone…(Think you don’t judge anyone, just listen to a few minutes of a radio station that plays music you dislike—we ALL can be judgmental at times.)
Let’s stop this judgmental cycle. Let’s choose to assume the best of one another. Let’s stop pretending we’ve got it all together when we really don’t. Let’s put an end to this negativity that keeps us all trapped. Let’s realize that thinking or saying “bad” about someone else does not make us “good” or better. Let’s be kind, understanding, and gracious to one another, if for no other reason than because it helps us be kind, understanding, and gracious to our own selves. I’m assuming you could also use a little extra grace around here, and so could the closest two-year-old’s mommy near you.
“Today I release the judgments I’ve used to protect myself. I am safe.”