If That Were My Child, I’d…

I’ve written here several times about my struggle with being judgmental. There are times when I forget that a great deal of grace has been given to me and it’s my responsibility to give grace to others.

No where is this more applicable than in the parenting arena.

Before I had kids I think my favourite phrase was “when I have kids…” because I was pretty damn sure I wasn’t going to repeat my parent’s mistakes. Or the mistakes I saw in the world around me.

Oh no, not me. In fact, what I was going to do, it turned out, was make whole new ones.

And the first was assuming I knew better than another parent.

I knew how long someone should breastfeed, until I had to do it myself. I knew whether parents should work or stay home, until the choice was mine to make. I knew that a child’s bad behaviour was a sure sign of poor parenting, until I had to parent my way through said behaviour.

Now, however, I notice a new trend. Parents who feel that it’s somehow their right or duty to judge good or bad parenting simply by looking at a situation from the outside. They aren’t even backseat parents because that would imply they are along for the ride… no, they are the drive by parenting experts who see a situation from a few yards away and think “oh dear, bad parents”.

This seems to be particularly prevalent with NEW parents. As though the birth certificate issued to your child came with a rider that said “authorizes parent to judge other parents”.

We can all agree that there are certain things in the bad parent category: beating your children, subjecting them to physical or sexual abuse, abandoning them. But I would caution anyone from even sitting in judgment on those situations. That job is for the police and the courts to do, that’s their job… not yours.

Most often I find young, immature, new parents to be the culprits in drive by parenting expertise. They think parenting a willful toddler means they know what it’s like to parent a willful ten-year old. They don’t. They don’t even know what it’s like to parent someone else’s willful toddler.

There came a point in my parenting career, shortly after my second child was born that I realized that whether my child was “easy” or “difficult” had a lot more to do with the personality, gifts, and challenges he or she was given than whether or not I was a good parent. And this caused me to look at other parents with the knowledge that I had no earthly idea what it was like to parent their kids.

If I see a child misbehaving in public, my first thought is, yes, irritation. But shortly after that my conscience kicks in and I remember that I am not their judge. Their behaviour has a reason and it’s isn’t always one I am going to know about.

For example, a child is throwing a fit in the store about a toy he can’t have. I could just label it bad parenting because of the language the kid is using or the disrespect he’s showing. “If that were my kid, I’d…”

What if that kid lost his sister two months ago to cancer and is still processing the loss? What if the parent has been so overcome with grief that she’s been giving in more than she should and she’s just now trying to bring back a sense of normal to their family’s life.

A 13-year old boy is running roughshod through a public venue, talking rude, being disrespectful. The parents are no where to be seen. Maybe it’s a mall and they are shopping and he’s been left to his own defenses. Oh, bad parenting. “If that were my kid, I’d…”

What if that child faces jeers and laughter every day at school? He’s bullied mercilessly and tormented because of his second-class clothes and worn out sneakers. He’s on the autism spectrum, just enough to be socially awkward and maybe unsure of how to act appropriately. He’s gotten a chance to go shopping and his parents, knowing he’s a good kid, have given him some freedom to spend his $20 birthday money. He’s trying to act cool… afterall, all the cool kids at school act this way. His dad says these things, drops the f-bomb all the time. It’s ok, right?

A mother spanks her child in the dairy aisle. Easy one, huh? Obviously a bad parent. Who hits their kid? Or who hits their kid in public. Or, even if you think spanking is ok, obviously the kid’s behaviour issues aren’t dealt with properly or she wouldn’t have to hit him in public anyway.

This mom is working two jobs, close to losing her home. She rarely spanks her kids but today she just snapped and swatted him. She was awake most of the night, worried about the rent coming due. Worried she has no one to turn to since her ex left and her family lives so far away. She will go home tonight and cry. Apologize and phone a crisis line to learn how to better deal with her stress.

How are you to know any of this?

You aren’t. You won’t.

Why would someone choose to judge the situation harshly when erring on the side of grace costs you nothing?

I will tell you.

Oh, that's what I look like as a parent.

Some people find that they can define themselves as being “ok” and in a good place as a parent simply by defining what is wrong or bad parenting. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of parenting rules where the piece missing is your own self as a parent.

 

This way you can put all the pieces in place and know what your shape is as a parent by the exact lines and contours of those around you.

Please. Don’t.

Don’t spend time judging other parents. If you think there is a real concern, a real bad parenting issue involving abuse then by all means, take a step. Do something, don’t ignore it. That takes courage. Do it.

But if you just judge and walk away, then you’ve done nothing except construct your own safe haven of useless, judgmental thoughts that will eventually erode your confidence as a parent.

Because I guarantee you that when your kids get older you will face challenges you could not even imagine as you look at your little sweet baby in your arms, or hear the laughter of your adorable toddler.

And your judgments will return to you tenfold.

Let Me Pencil You In

I think I have finally found a calendar system that works for my family. It’s a bit cumbersome but it fulfills my need to know where everyone is at all times while still being easy enough for my husband to look at it to know where he needs to be and what he needs to be doing. If that’s not our marriage in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

First I write everything I can on the fridge calendar. Then I colour code it with fancy-shmancy highlighters. Green is usually hubby’s work. Green with pink around it is my work. Orange is a kid event. Yellow is child care. I have to cross the days off so when I look at the calendar I know what day it is. For realz. I have looked at a calendar and had no idea which week I was in… it’s disconcerting.

fridge calendar

Note: held up by the red magnet in the upper right hand corner are my Principals of Marksmanship. Every mom should have them on her fridge. Well, every mom in the Canadian Forces anyway...

Then I bring the fridge calendar over to my computer and I enter it all in again on my computer on my Google Calendar. This syncs with my iPhone and my Outlook. My iPhone will also sync back to the Google calendar… but I haven’t figured out how to make it auto sync to the fridge calendar… yet. :)

Not as much colour, but neat and tidy.

The important thing to remember is that I must always enter things twice. Once on the calendar. Once on my phone or computer. I’m sure it would be much easier to be completely digital, but I’m addicted to the fridge calendar as well as my google one. And other than the odd hiccup, I keep my family moving in a tight formation.

If there is something I’m supposed to do and it’s not on one of these calendars… or hopefully both… it ain’t happening! I have five jobs… the only thing not up on here is my freelance writing business. And that’s because it is represented here by all the blank space. If I’m not doing something or going somewhere… then I’m probably writing. If I have a phone interview scheduled, that goes on the calendars. But the writing just happens in the white spaces.

What do you do to keep yourself and your family organized?

Parenting Award


If you look at this picture you will notice that I took my kids to Heritage Park… with a gun. That would be my beautiful daughter throwing a gun at her brother.

Note to self: check out what’s stored in the Pikachu backpack before leaving the house.

What Would You Do?

I have a question, I’ve posted it at my Canadian Parents blog, would you mind comin’ over and answering it for me?

Market For Ya: Traveling Mamas

Traveling Mamas Anthology

TravelingMamas.com is in search of true uplifting, funny, inspirational, and touching stories with a travel theme for an upcoming anthology series. Possible themes may include family travel, romantic escapes, girlfriend getaways, and solo trips.

We’re looking for stories that inspire us, force us to laugh out loud or make us reach for the tissue box. Bring us into your story by using the five senses. Every story must have a beginning, middle, and end.

Now this is the type of anthology that I need to contribute to! Or, wait, what’s the proper grammar… this is the type of anthology in which I should contribute… no, wait, that’s passive… I should contribute to this anthology. Perfect!

My daughter, the little traveler, was on 20 different flights before she was 14 months old. She was a dream, quiet, mellow…

But what happened to my quiet little one? She is not so quiet any more… she’s in that ‘almost 2’ stage where it all must be picked up, thrown, tasted, yelled at, bitten, chewed, spit out and sung at.
I think my favourite thing right now is how she calls stars “uppas”. You know, like “uppa bove the world so high….” She can see an uppa from a mile away too… we’ll be calmly walking along and she’ll scream “UPPA!!!” like All Must Stop Now and Behold The Uppa!
M used to say “slookit”… “Slookit that mama!”
I need to keep writing these things down before I forget them.

And then? I'll have your babies.

As part of the regular spring ritual, I signed up the boychild for soccer and t-ball. He likes both. This will be year three of soccer (meaning he can actually run with his head up about half the time) and year two of t-ball. We’re not 100% sold on t-ball but we had fun last year.

Every time we sign up there’s the “where would you like to volunteer” section. The crafty little buggers don’t ask IF you want to volunteer, but WHERE. So I usually choose something like communication or assistant-manager, figuring that I can step in somewhere if needed.

But this year I got an email from both t-ball and soccer mucky-mucks with the “hey, you volunteered to coach” line. Um. No I did not. Not even close. I cannot picture me and a toddler trying to coach anything while Major Man is still working nights.

(Which he won’t be doing any more because he got THE JOB!! But I digress…)

So I kind of ignored those emails… and then the t-ball guy contacted me again. He was wondering if I’d could do the division coordinator position. I asked what the duties were.

Let me pause here to say: Never trust anyone who begins an answer with “Oh, it’s just…”

The duties sounded simple enough, communicate stuff with coaches. Cool.

Then the email went out to all coaches and it soundes something like “and if you need this, email Heather. And if you need that, email Heather. And if you need a pink orangutan in a tutu with red nail polish, email Heather. And here’s every phone number and email address she has. Amen.”

Whaaa?

It’s day one of ‘coordinating’ and I have already realized I need to take the t-ball schedule to and from work on a little memory stick so I can reference the games and practices when the coaches email me… sigh.

But the boychild is sure to have fun. I just have to remember that soccer and t-ball are fun, hopefully my head doesn’t spin around when we’re running ten minutes behind and the baby is tired and hungry and it’s a little cold and it’s been a long day and I just want to sleep…

When I'm feeling judgy

Have you ever had a moment when you are just feeling judgy? You know, when you just want to smack someone or your eyes are rolling so far back in your head that if the wind changes they’ll stay that way?

Today was one of those days.

We went to the zoo. (Note, brother carrying his sister’s coat and sister saying “get me out of this flippin’ contraption, there are animals to squeal at!!)

We did have fun, we had a lot of fun. The kids wore themselves out and they both love the zoo now. M was never a zoo kid, but in the last year he’s started to love it. E is a total zoo kid because there are Animals! With fur! And they are cute! Her favourite is the warthog, I swear. She goes nuts when she sees him.

It would have been perfect if it weren’t for ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE. I don’t mind the kids running around, it’s just some of those parents. The lady yelling at her son because he wasn’t pushing the stroller right (“you just about ran into that lady!”) who five minutes later nearly ran over E with her crazy stroller-pushing-while-dragging-kid maneuvers.

I did feel bad for the one mother who was trying to jam her stroller up a hill and thought she was ramming it over a bump, until she realized that the reason it wouldn’t go forward was her child’s leg was caught against a fence. Yeah, that sucked for her, I did feel bad.

And the people who STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD or, in the middle of an exhibit without pulling over to the side. What is with that? You are not the only person in the zoo today.

But the zoo was fun for the kids. It was a bit chilly off and on, about 6 degrees celsius. Even I needed a nap when I came home.

But the judgy feeling was still there.

I was watching a show, one of those reality shows where contestants try to lose weight. (It’s called X-Weighted, I tried out for it once, but was rejected because there wasn’t enough conflict in my life!) This woman is stressing about going back to work after her maternity leave (which in Canada is one year).

She’s crying and saying “I don’t know how people do it! I don’t want to leave my baby!” Which translates to me as “all you other women must be heartless”. Which, let’s face it, probably wasn’t what she meant.

But my inner judge said “suck it up princess”.

Which I find really sad! I find it sad that when I’m in uber-PMS, judgy mode because it means that my capacity to love anything and anyone is compromised. And my capacity to receive love is compromised.

So this is what I do:

I clear my mind and pray, asking that the spirit of strife leave me.

I imagine the person I’m judging is sitting in a room with me and it’s just them and me… then I try to imagine the words I’m thinking actually coming out of my mouth. I imagine what their face would look like if they heard those words.

I ask forgiveness in my heart for thinking those things. (There but by the grace of God go I.)

I receive the forgiveness (crucial step!!) and I move on.

It can be hard to stop being judgy. I think I mentioned earlier that I was diagnosed with Premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD a few months ago. I take a daily dose of vitamins. Or, rather, I am supposed to. But sometimes I forget. Luckily I have a job that has the side benefit of just enough stress to remind me each day to take my Happy Pills.

But more than a physical reason, being judgmental (well, I call it judgy because it sounds nicer!) can be a habit. And I don’t want it to be MY habit any more. The first step is stopping the words from coming out of my mouth. The second step is stopping them from forming in my brain.

I’m a work in progress.

Because he asked me to…



The Baby. She Eats.

My son was not like this. He was an early talker and late walker. He didn’t like things being put in his mouth and he didn’t have an inclination to put anything in there other than food and maybe his fingers and toes.

But this one? This girl baby? She eats everything.

We were trying to have some coloring time this afternoon. The moment my back was turned she ate the marker. We know better than to give her crayons (very easy to chew) and I guess I thought that the markers would be better… or at least taste worth. But no. They taste just fine thankyouverymuchandcanIhaveanother?

But as a bonus… she does a great job cleaning cheerios off the floor. Who says we need a dog?

My Personal Board of Directors

I have spent a few years sitting and volunteering on boards and committees for various groups. Currently I’m on the executive of one board, a political women’s group. It’s quite informal and I really enjoy the interaction with other women. I’m on a committee of another and I enjoy it too, though it’s quite a bit more work.

It occurred to me tonight that I have a personal board of directors. These are the people I go to with questions and problems and I seek information and feedback from them. I don’t always like the feedback I get, and sometimes I know they have an agenda that differs slightly from mine, but I always appreciate that they take the time to “volunteer”.

I have Major Man, of course, who carries a lot of weight. He’s like the chair of the finance committee… someone smarter than me in certain ways and able to answer the question “can we do this?” The answer is most commonly, we can do anything as long as we can afford it. He’s a rock though. 110% in my corner at all times.

Then there’s G. She’s like the chair of the governance committee. Always ready to give direction if I ask and talk about precedence, procedure and the direction I am headed. Sometimes a conversation feels like an information gathering session, but I don’t mind. She’s a smart one too. Not much grey in her life, more black and white and she brings a lot of clarity to the table.

And of course J. She’s the longest standing member on my board of directors. She’s chair of the sponsorship committee, always working on helping me figure out how we’re going to do what we want to get done. There are no roadblocks in her view and she helps me to look ahead positively.

M and E play a roll. They are the membership. They are the reason I need that board of directors to ensure I’m a success.

I don’t always like what my committee members are telling me, I don’t always like what the membership wants me to do. But I am glad for both of them. If they weren’t here I would feel as though I were adrift. I mean, what would I DO all day?

I hope you have a personal board of directors. People who volunteer their time for you.