Shortly after we got married, one of my friends had a baby.
While I enjoyed watching her parenting journey, I was pretty certain I could do better. She was lucky her child had a good temperament, because she wasn’t strict enough. Her child wasn’t talking super early, because she was clearly doing something wrong. Maybe she wasn’t reading to her? Talking to her enough? Whatever the reason, I would definitely do better when I had my kid.
Then, my other best friend had her baby. And–lo and behold–she wasn’t fast to talk. Obviously because they were doing *something* that I wasn’t seeing. Pushing her too much? Too much television? Nothing I would do, for sure.
There were more. The relative’s child with autism? The school system and labeling. The friend whose kid had behavior problems? Not enough attachment parenting.
And then along came the Bean.
I breastfed her 22 months. She co-slept. I read to her from the beginning, sang to her. No television until age 2. We did everything “right.”
And she crawled at 12 months. She didn’t speak in complete sentences until age 6. And she potty trained the same year.
So was this a slice of humble pie? Not really, because I don’t think that my “judging” was due to a character flaw of any sort. However, I do think that my judging had nothing to do with the people being judged–it had everything to do with my own fears.
Recently, I’ve seen this story shared on Facebook. Again, although I don’t know the whole story, I think that the mother doing the “judging” had her own issues. I’ve learned a lot about the judging and “advice” we give other people, whether it involves parenting, minimalism, or something else.
What have I learned?
- I learned that I judged others to assuage my own fears. This is what I was doing when I judged my friends. I was terrified, after years of teaching special education, of having a child with a disability. I wanted to believe that it was possible to avoid having a child with a delay. Autism, especially, was my biggest fear. If there were some magic techniques I could use to avoid this, I would. So, of course, I was given a child with autism, and a severe language delay, so that I could learn and understand. I judged out of my greatest fear, which in the end was nothing, meaningless.
- I learned that I judged because I doubted myself. It goes back to elementary school. We criticize those who are making the mistakes in the areas where we have the most doubt. Will I read to my child enough? Will I discipline properly? I don’t know the answer now, and I certainly did not back then.
- I learned that I judged because I was trying to find my identity. Parenting–like junior high–is made up of cliques. Will you be a sleep trainer? A natural parent? I wanted to be “crunchy,” in order to define myself and find support. So I became fiercely critical of those who were not. Who would dare use formula? Eat fast food? For shame!
So when you find yourself judging, understand that it is not a character flaw, but a doubt you have within yourself. Be curious with your own mind. What fears do you have? How are you doubting yourself? How are you trying to define yourself? Because your “judgements” are all about you, not about the other person.
And what about the times you feel judged? What about the times when people make comments to you? First off, understand that those comments are all about the commentor, not about you. And second, why do they upset you? They would not, if you did not have doubts. What doubt did that person “step” on?