Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Things I Hate: Parents (and non-parents) Judging Parents
It was 1996.

M was away on yet another medical military assignment (rotation).

His usual length away: 30 days.

I was playing the single parenting thing to two young toddler boys.

But the truth was that even when M was home- he wasn't really involved with the family because medical school was an all-consuming activity.

So it was a stressful time.

I thought I would do something nice for myself, however...

and go out with my kids to a restaurant.

Something we never did due to our limited budget.

So we got in there and sat down.

The boys were full of restless energy.

I was exhausted.

The restaurant was not fancy, it was a casual, family type restaurant.

We were sitting at a booth.

The boys were laughing and giggling.

They would go under the table- laugh and play under there- and then switch sides with each other.

They thought this was hilarious.

"Please stop," my tired voice pleaded.

But it fell on deaf ears.

We got our food.

The boys played with their food.

They were loud.

"Indoor voices please."

"O.K.!!" they loudly responded.

As we walked out a woman in a booth near us stopped me.

"Your children are horrible! They are totally out of control! I have never seen such terribly behaved children!"

In my mind: 'Please stop.'

I couldn't think of a reply. I was shocked. I didn't think they had acted that bad.

I attempted a weak comeback noticing that she didn't have any children with her- she was sitting with other adults. I thought- if she had kids she wouldn't have said that, she would understand, but I was wrong. "You probably don't have any kids." I weakly replied.

"Yes I DO!" she responded indignantly. "I have two girls and they are VERY well behaved. They have NEVER acted like that."

In my mind: 'Please stop.'

Then I just walked away.

It was the response I should have done in the first place.

I never put judgments on other parents (unless of course there is evidence of horrific mistreatment such as rape, severe neglect, molestation, attempted murder, etc.).

Sometimes I observe other families. Sometimes I think about their interactions and behaviors.

But their kid could be swinging like a monkey from the chandeliers and I would never blame the parent(s).

I have no idea what their lives are like, or what situation is going on with them.

I think parents need to help and support each other. Talk about the good times and the struggles.

Parents often don't discuss their challenges because of the blame game. I can't tell you how many times I have been flamed on this blog because of discussing a challenge I had.

The first thing that I said to the family I was sitting behind (in my last post) after learning the details of their adoption was to ask how they were doing and to express the challenges we had experienced. I did that so they knew I understood some of the adoption-related struggles. I always empathize with parents.

So, that is why I was upset that my last post may have come across like I was judging that family.

Ummmm..... they had like EIGHT kids and they adopted a special needs child too!

I was in AWE of that family. At the same time I wondered, knowing the exceeding demands of Piney, if I could have handled it if I also had young children.

Probably not. Our adoption agency also discouraged it.

But, that is not to say everyone couldn't handle it- and this family told me they were doing great.
So, like some of the commenters suggested, everyone is different and different people are capable of different things. Certainly adoption is always a miracle and a blessing for the children and the parents involved- even with the challenges that come.

Have you ever had someone criticize your parenting skills? Did it make you become a better parent?


Blogger :: Suzanne :: said...
I've been mostly blessed by strangers saying nice things about my parenting, perhaps because I have to do so much public hard-core Dragon-Lady type parenting. I swoop in all flames and growls and everyone does indeed look.

Anyway, I do often get the hairy eyeball and occasionally a comment for letting Chickadee do 'dangerous' things. Not dangerous for a nearly 7 year-old child -- which she is -- but dangerous for a 4 year-old child -- which she appears to be.

I just explain that she really is almost 7 and that she is just tiny because she was profoundly undernourished as a toddler. I leave it at that. At least then they can hairy eye-ball me for failing to feed her.

Blogger Rachael said...
Once when I was grocery shopping with one of my children who was about one at the time, we had a full cart of groceries, were in a long line and that child (about on the verge of an I-really-need-a-nap meltdown) wanted to eat a grape from the bag in the cart. I repeatedly tried to redirect the child (I can't remember which kid it was!:)) but no success, and he was too young to reason with. So, in a desperate attempt to not have a meltdown while in line at the grocery store, I gave him a grape. Sure enough, some helpful woman also in line taps me on the shoulder and explains to me (in very helpful but condescending tones) that grapes are a choking hazard for young children. My response, "Thank-you for your concern...I certainly wouldn't want him to choke, but desperate times call for desperate measures!"

The funny thing is, I'm a doctor. Of course I know grapes are a choking hazard in kids! But...I also know the heimlich maneuver! ha ha. (just kidding...I mean I DO know the heimlich maneuver, but...)

What I wanted to say to her was something like, "And you're not concerned about the fact that those grapes are also UNWASHED AND UNPAID FOR?! Obviously we are desperate here, lady!!"

Anonymous Susanne said...
I think I understand where you are coming from - the need to fully(100 %) be there for each of your children in order to feel succesful in your job as a mom. I can't imagine how to raise 8 kids (one with special needs) - I sounded like they were all close in age and no matter what they will not have the same attention that kids from smaller families have!
I do believe the best way to handle adoptions are with bio-kids that are old enough to understand that they might feel a little on the side in periods!!!
Enjoy your day.. every day!

Blogger Elle said...
I don't get comments in public. I'm more in the camp with Suzanne that I get compliments. But there are times when I meet a person (without the boy next to me) who has read my blog and says something about his behavior. As if I have this little Hellian of a child. The truth is quite the opposite.

Blogger Cathy and Nick said...
I admit to having moved thru 3 phases of my life. Phase one was married with no children, when I would look at other families with children who appeared "unruly" and think that "my" kids would never act like that. Phase two was with my first 3 children, who were exceptionally well behaved thru strict guidance by both of us as parents and reinforced thru comments by friends and strangers alike. Phase three was when our family expanded to add a child with special needs (cognitive problems that are "invisible" to casual observers) and a child thru international adoption. I immediately understood in phase three that our younger kids would have difficulty living up to the "exceptionally well behaved" standard we set for our first 3. Our SN child has difficulty with loud noises, chaotic situations and unexpected changes, and our IA child had the expected challenges of expressive verbalization and testing familial boundaries. I had to readjust my expectations to accomodate my children's limitations, and helped my family and friends understand the differences in the younger 2 vs the older 3. We try very hard to anticipate social situations and plan accordingly to allow "successes" for the kids. The few times someone has remarked on the negative aspects of my younger kids' behavior has allowed me to educate them as to the causes of their behavior as well as educate myself as to how to better manage the particular situation in the future. So, do the remarks of strangers make me parent differently? Possibly only in that they help me identify situations we have not adequately addressed to allow our kids to succeed. And having BTDT, I feel I am much more empathetic when observing a family having difficulty/challenges with a child in public. I truly believe that one can not understand the challenges they face unless you have walked in their shoes.

Blogger Lea said...
I agree with what Cathy and Nick said. When I was single with no kids, I used to think "my kids will never act that way". Heh Heh. Now I understand:).

We have actually received many compliments on the behavior of our sons in public, although I'm sure there were a couple of people who would have liked to tell me a thing or two when we were eating out the other day.

Blogger Valeta said...
I get comments on my parenting often.

I have never met anyone in the same position I am in. No one ever has to face the same challenges, so I usually just ignore there comments.

Blogger Dreamer girl said...
As a parent with a special needs child and a sped. teacher, I see the judgements people think about our family. The best part is I think I'm a better person because of it. Someone once told me "kill them with kindness". Nicely put. Like a bowl of peanuts, we come in different shapes and sizes, but ultimately we are all "peanuts". I like your tips on parenting. Good reminders.

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