Friday, February 8, 2013

Tales from the Crib - Give them a Break.

("Tales From the Crib" is my semi-regular Friday ritual.  What's "Tales From the Crib"?  For that, look here.  Then look here.  "Things My Two Year Old Taught Me" morphed into "Tales From the Crib" early last year in order to include more children and more ages.  Considering the growth of my two bugs, I thought the change was appropriate.)  
Give Them a Break.

I was driving the kids home from school in near-blizzard conditions when from the corner of my eye I saw a car barreling from the left.  He had a stop sign and I had none, but I put on the brakes, fishtailing around in the slushy snow because it appeared he wouldn't try to stop.  Thankfully I slid to a halt before the other car rushed past, driving much too fast for conditions and - as I had anticipated - ignoring the rules of the road completely.  In that moment I had a few choice words I ached to let loose, but bit my tongue as my son asked, "Mom, why did you stop so fast?" And without hesitation I informed him that the other driver was insanely stupid, that's why.  He was in shock, because I had, apparently, said a naughty word - "No one should call anyone stupid!" He stated.  And of course he's right, but aren't there exceptions to the rule?  A stupid driver in a blizzard perhaps?
I thought about it.  And thought some more.  And remembered a speech I was priveleged to listen to at a women's conference a few years ago.  I don't even remember his name, but the man speaking gave us a tip.  He said he was trying to avoid harsh judgements and losing his cool, and that because it was often hardest to do this when driving, he had adopted the habit of giving everyone else on the road the benefit of the doubt.  "They're probably on their way to the hospital," he thinks time and again as other cars cut him off, speed past or don't merge properly.  "Yes, that's it.  They're on their way to the hospital."  And if he thinks about the "what if" he's less likely to run off at the mouth with uncharitable things he'll regret later.

This memory popped into my mind's eye with applicable situation after applicable situation blending in a mosaic of "what ifs".

Are you that person?  The one who holds the door for the struggling mother, carrying a baby with a toddler and two older kids in tow, only to then say with a hint of superiority and not a bit of amusement - "Wow.  You have your hands full."  Do you witness kids in pajamas and princess dress-ups and swear "never me."  The one who raises her eyebrows at the temper tantrum mounting from the two year old in the produce section and shakes her head at the way a parent does - or does not - handle it?  Do you avoid the check-out lane with the harried looking cashier who doesn't seem to have a nice thing to say to anyone?  Are you smirking in self-righteousness while watching the girl trudge through the snow to the store, sweatpants tucked into scruffy boots, scraggly hair disheveled and unkempt, with no hint of makeup, let alone shower?  And when you see someone haul 6 kids through the store while grocery shopping - each begging for a different snack or antagonizing a sibling - do you roll your eyes?  

Because I think I have been that person.  Not on purpose.  Never intentionally.  But I believe I've made snarky comments about the crazies who roam Walmart in their pajamas.  About how I wouldn't go out in public looking like so-and-so.  I think I may have rolled my eyes a time or two when accidentally happening upon a private disciplinary discussion between mom and toddler.  I think I have.

Have you?  Ever?  Just once?

I think you should be careful.  I think I should be careful.  Because, inevitably, those kinds of thoughts and actions will turn us into hypocrites.  You never know when "those people" you avoid or disdain or raise your eyebrows at will actually be YOU.

This morning, I felt awful.  Was I throwing up or sick with the flu or otherwise nearly incapable of getting out of bed?  No.  I just felt awful.  Physically, I was queasy. Mentally I was exhausted.  And after the battle of "brush your teeth and get dressed" was waged (and won!) with my son, I couldn't do it.  I couldn't broach another battle - with my daughter OR myself.  And so I did it.  I tucked my sweatpants into my boots.  I put my hat on over hair that wasn't brushed or styled.  I put gum in my mouth instead of brushing my teeth.  And I strapped my daughter into the car seat with boots on over footy pajamas and a lovely white princess dress under her coat along with the other two little hooligans and THAT is how we went to school.  With the other perfectly coiffed and manicured mothers.

And I refused to feel guilty.  I refused to allow myself to feel judged.  Some days are perfectly coiffed.  Some days are smudged mascara.  For everyone.  No one is exempt.

None of the other mother's knew what kind of morning we'd had - nor what kind of week or semester.  Just as we have no idea what kind of day that girl in the sweatpants and boots at Walmart had either.  

The mom with her hands full?  She likely doesn't need anyone to point that out to her - let alone with such smug indifference.  Maybe the mom toting the kids in dress up clothes is simply picking her battles.  Maybe the parents with tantrum-y two year olds are doing their best.  Maybe they've tried it all.  It could be that their pediatrician or child psychologist suggested a new approach. Perhaps the cashier in the check out lane just lost her best friend to lung cancer.  Maybe her dog died or maybe she just doesn't know where rent is going to come from this month.  That girl all disheveled and unshowered?  Maybe she's been up all night with a sick kid and now she's picking up medicine.  Heck, maybe SHE'S the sick one.  Or maybe all of her jeans are just dirty.  The person hauling around 6 rowdy kids could have a babysitter who fell through or unexpectedly run out of milk or maybe, just maybe, she LIKES having all 6 rowdy kids at the store with her.

The point is, we don't know.  So give them a break!

I guarantee this will not be the last time I take my kid out in pajamas.  And it will likely not be the last time I leave the house in comfy pants.  You won't ever see me shake my head at that mom pushing around the boy in batman footies, ever again.

Perhaps we should be just a little softer with others, and just a little kinder to ourselves.

(If you eat ice cream for dinner, I won't judge.)

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!


kellystar said...

been there, done that...both the judging when I shouldn't and the sweat pants tucked into boots, no shower. Thanks for the reminder.

Michelle L. said...

A really lovely post, Kimberly. I need to think about this more often, so so true. Now I shall have ice cream for breakfast...

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