Thursday, October 1, 2009

Casting the First Stone

Yesterday, my friend Amy posted a video on her Facebook page called "Ne Jugez Pas Trop Vite." For anyone who's forgotten high school French (or took a more useful language, like maybe, say, Latin), that translates to "Don't Judge Too Quickly." The video, actually five mini-commercials for a financial institution, shows people in innocent yet embarrasing situations easily misconstrued by those who are watching. For example, in an ill-fated attempt to get to the bathroom without waking her neighbor, a woman in a middle seat on a crowded overnight flight tries to climb over the sleeping man next to her. Add a little turbulence, and suddenly she's on his lap with her skirt hiked up to her waist, as fellow travelers look on in horror. Oops. But the clip drives home the point - that most of us are guilty of jumping to conclusions, of making snap judgements without all the facts. So I started thinking: don't we all do this? Not sit on strangers' laps on airplanes, hopefully, but judge too quickly? And do we even recognize that we do it?

Come on, admit it: ever frowned in disapproval as another mom drags her screaming kids from a restaurant or store? Ever thought to your (perfect) self: I'd never allow that type of behavior! Ever privately felt smug when you see what other moms pack in their kids' lunches? Hmmm? Admit it: when your kid is eating organic carrots, apples, and yogurt, and you catch a peek at Johnny's Cheetos, Oreos, and Hi-C, you feel like the better mom, don't you? Yep, me too.

Remember the mom who was caught on mall security tapes spanking her daughter in the car? Despite the public outcry, all I could think was, I wonder what came before. Who knows what had just happened, off camera, that led to that very public spanking. I'm not advocating corporal punishment, but who among us can honestly say that she doesn't understand how a mom could snap?

Breast vs. bottle. Working vs. staying at home. Cloth vs. disposable. Academic preschool vs. play-based. As moms, we are constantly making decisions and are constantly under scrutiny. And if we aren't being judged, we feel like we are! Ever whipped out the boob to breastfeed your newborn and been told to use the bathroom? (Because I like to eat there, don't you?) Or pulled out a bottle, only to have some "nursing Nazi" lecture you on the evils of formula - even if that BPA-free sterilized bottle contains breast milk you diligently pumped at 3 AM after baby Katie only nursed on one side? (And if it DID have formula in it, SO FREAKIN' WHAT?!?) Ever reprimanded your child in public? Childless (child-free?) shoppers watching and frowning? Ever had your kids give an Oscar-worthy performance in front of the entire carpool line? While the principal stands there, too?

What about the time an old lady at the grocery store yelled at me (yes, raised her voice and called me a bad mother) because my "winter baby" didn't have on a hat? I've had to half-drag, half-carry a screaming toddler out of the mall under the scrutiny of (highly judgemental) shoppers, all of them shaking their heads and feeling sorry for my kids - while my sweet baby girl yelled, "You're hurting me, Mommy! You're hurting me!" over and over and over again. I wanted to scream, "Feel sorry for ME! You get to go back to your latte and shoe shopping, and I've got to somehow buckle this kid into her car seat and get her home before she falls asleep! And I'm NOT hurting her, but keep judging me and I'll definitely hurt YOU!"

Slacker Mom jugez pas trop vite! Let she who is without parenting error cast the first stone. I've made mistakes, you've made mistakes, and none of us can say that we know exactly what the other mom is going through. Maybe Johnny's mom was sick and he made his own lunch. Maybe my toddler was just mad because I (gasp) dared to say no cookies before lunch, and she was tired, and she had a new sister, and she just lost it because SHE'S TWO and that's what 2-year-olds do and I WAS being a good mommy! (And, by the way, that "winter baby" did not need a hat, because it was March in South Florida - which means it was like 75 degrees outside.) We may not be perfect, but we are doing the best we can. So here's our homework: Try to go a week without judging ANYONE, yourself included. Things aren't always what they seem. And I've found that if I judge others a little less, I can go a little easier on myself. Try it.

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