As is often the case when I am walking around my Upper East Side neighborhood, I judge other parents. I judge them on their parenting skills, gear, kid’s clothing and if they shop at Fairway or not. I know this is not usually a productive or nice thing to do. What is that line about judging lest ye be judged? But it is in my nature and mind and I assume most every one of us has judged our peers, neighbors, co-workers, friends and even family at some point.
I actually find it useful on some occasions, but only after I have judged someone harshly and then do exactly the same thing.
We have all been walking down the street and seen a child in a stroller flailing against the seat belts, crying at the top of his or her lungs and screaming for lollipops, cookies, a new toy or whatever. You know the scene where the parent is walk-running behind the stroller and not letting anything get in the way and the look on that parent’s face is stern and mad. When I see this I almost immediately think, why doesn’t the parent just pull over, bend down and explain whatever the issue is to his or her child, calm the child down and do some distracting? See, it’s that simple, they must be a “bad” parent.
That is until some day when it’s fifteen minutes before my daughter’s nap, she has been up since 5 am, eaten nothing, played like there was only this day to get it all out and melted down so badly that not even the ice cream I bought her by the park, which she threw at me, will calm her down. She is in her stroller flailing against the seat belts, crying at the top of her lungs and screaming. I meanwhile am walk-running behind the stroller not letting anything get in my way and the look on my face is stern and mad, I just want to get her home, changed into PJ’s and to bed. I am being a good parent.
It’s interesting that though I judged the earlier parent as bad, that parent was probably in a similar situation and knew that the best thing for his or her child was whatever he or she was doing; I just didn’t know the details.
You see what I mean about judging; what I see from the outside is very different from what is on the inside. By experiencing the same situation I all of a sudden have empathy for the “bad” parents and understand them to be just like me. This tempers my judgment and changes what I see.
It happens very often that when I judge something negatively and think that I will never be in that situation, I almost always do find myself in that situation and do the same thing I thought was negative.
T.V. is one of those things. There are kids I know who always have the T.V. on. From the time they wake up, to the time they go to bed, it is on in the background. The judge in me says “I am never going to let my daughter watch T.V., it is so bad for her. I want to be one of those parents that never let’s their kids watch the evil T.V. I want to give my daughter an appreciation for reading, drawing, and building blocks. Playing with puzzles, dolls and using her imagination, she will grow and learn and not be sucked into the tube.” This is me judging.
How many times have I been totally wiped out at the end of a day? You know the tired you feel from waking up at 5:30am, feeding your child breakfast, getting your spouse out the door, going to the playground, coming back home with a screaming kid who is just hungry and needs lunch, putting said kid in bed for a nap while you email, pay bills, clean and shove a sandwich down your throat just in time for your child to wake up and then it’s time to dress the child and go to class, followed by playground, dinner and meltdown. What do I do sometimes? Plunk her down in front of the T.V. so we can both relax for half an hour before she goes to bed. I have succumbed, I am an evil bad parent who is letting his kid just rot her brain in front of the tube. Of course that’s not true, but when I judge others it’s because I don’t know what’s really going on.
The take away from this should be that however you have to parent, do it that way. Do not change your approach or thinking because you’re worried about how others will judge you. We have all judged and been judged and in the end it makes no difference. Love is what kids needs the most, and if you commit to your children with love and do things for them that you believe will provide them a sense of comfort, love and family, then it is all good.
It does not matter what others think of our parenting skills, gear, kid’s clothing and if we shop at Fairway or not; loving and doing the things we know are right for our children will serve us best and allow us raise wonderful human beings.
About the author
Jack (Jake) Howard Potter resides in New York City with his wife, Erica and (two year old) daughter, Skylar. Motivated by his study of human anatomy and movement, Howard-Potter works with steel to create large-scale figurative sculptures. His work has been on display throughout the world in outdoor sculpture parks, galleries and public art exhibitions. Aside from being his daughter’s primary caregiver, He is an active endurance athlete competing in multiple half marathons and triathlons each year. To view his work or learn more, visit www.steelstatue.com or visit @steelstatue on Twitter or Facebook