I’ve read a couple of blog posts recently which take a very different stance on parents who are not coping with their children and which have really got me thinking. The first was written by Maisey Yates, over at Peanut Butter on My Keyboard, and you can read the full post here. She was out with her young daughter in a public place and heard a mother swearing at her own children. Maisey very bravely stepped up and told the woman that she shouldn’t be talking to her children that way. It requires a lot of courage to do something like that, and it sounds like the woman was totally out of line. Maisey wrote with compassion and was in no way saying that she was better than the other parent.
And yet. And yet. I think about the times I have raised my voice to my children, in private and in public and even though I may not have sworn at them, when I called them “little beasts” what I really meant was “little shits”. Am I any better than that mother actually swearing at her children? I’m sure my children got the message that I was abusing them from the tone of my voice, let alone my actual words.
Then I read this post by Leah at Becoming Supermommy. This post has been widely syndicated and requoted on Facebook and other social media (often without noting that Leah WROTE the post!). This is a wonderful post about how none of us is a perfect parent, and urges acceptance of us all with our failings and imperfections.
So where does this leave me? I’m firmly in the “we shouldn’t judge each other as parents” camp. Having said that, my husband and I do roll our eyes at each other and from time to time we do feel smug. Mostly, we think “wish we’d thought of that!” When I see parents at the supermarket at 9pm with their very small children, I work very hard not to think “that child should be in bed!” and try to work towards “I wonder if this is the only time that family can get out to the supermarket and there’s no-one they can leave their baby with”. I try to walk in their shoes. But the fact is that we all judge, even when we work hard not to. We all have an opinion about the right way of doing things, whether it’s breast or bottle, routine or freedom, working or staying at home, abortion or not. We mostly speak our opinions, and we certainly think them.
So what will I do when I am next confronted with the situation that Maisey faced? I hope that I will be brave enough to do what she did, and speak with the other parent. But I hope I’ll also be able to take a leaf from Leah’s book, and say to her “I know it’s hard and frustrating, but tomorrow will be better, or the next day. Please don’t speak to your children like that.” I hope I could do that. I hope I will be brave enough. I hope I will be compassionate enough. I hope the person I speak to will take my comment as kindness, not as a patronising statement. And I hope I can help to make someone’s life slightly better – the child’s, if not the parent’s.
What would you do?