Being A Mother Has Made Me More Judgmental

In many ways, giving birth to my first child made me so much more understanding of parents. I used to think negative thoughts every time I sat next to a crying child on a plane. Then God gave me children who were not uniformly perfect on planes. I used to think that people who co-slept with their children might be dangerous and/or unable to separate themselves from their spawn. Then God gave me a child only able to sleep while in close proximity to my heartbeat. And in general, I’ve become much more understanding of the difficulties of navigating strollers through city streets, parents being tired or distracted or out of it, and the way little kids can wreak havoc on housekeeping.

But in other ways, I’ve become so much more judgmental.

It’s sort of like how being a waitress will simultaneously make you more tolerant and more demanding in restaurants. Anyone whose worked for tips at tables knows that sometimes there’s a snafu in the kitchen that will delay a meal or that a particularly heavy rush can lead to confusion over drink orders. But waitstaff also know that some wait times are unacceptable, some meals should never be served and some attitudes should never be expressed to a customer.

That’s how I feel about those leashes that some people put their kids on. I’m totally cool with this if you have a child with an honest-to-goodness behavioral problem. But I do secretly judge those parents who simply can’t teach their children not to run away or into city streets. I’m not saying that some kids aren’t rambunctious or poor listeners or that disciplining them to control themselves is easy. But still. It’s a leash.

Here are a few other things that I’m more judgmental about:

Parents who negotiate with their children. Just yesterday, I heard a father in the park tell his daughter not to stand up in her stroller. “But Dad, I really want to!” she whined. “OK, just this once,” he said. Are you freaking kidding me? Never, ever negotiate with a terrorist or a toddler. I knew that before I had children. But now that I’ve lived with them for a few years, I just want to shake the parent and point out how illogical it is to reward a child for whining. Even better, my friend told me he was recently getting his hair cut in a barbershop. This little boy got his hair cut and then was playing with a toy. My friend figured the boy and his mother were waiting for another family member as 20 minutes passed. Then he realized that the boy got to keep playing with the toy simply because his mother didn’t want to make him mad. She kept saying, “Are you done? Do you want to go now?” And the boy would say, “NO! I AM PLAYING!” The mother would retire meekly for another five minutes until she asked the kid again. This happened three times until finally she said “Do you want to go get ice cream?” That’s not how parenting works.

Parents who fail to teach their children table manners. Is there anything worse than hearing some snotty kid bang his freaking spoon on the table non-stop while you’re trying to eat? Or hearing some kid have a temper tantrum at the booth behind yours? Or even watching a family quietly eat a dinner because Sally and Johnny have been sedated with an iPad or DVD player? Your job as a parent extends to teaching your children how to eat out in a civilized fashion. I’m not saying my children are perfect. They’re not. Not by a long shot. However, the moment they make someone else’s dinner uncomfortable, they get in trouble. And they’re learning and they’re able to eat at pretty much any restaurant now. It’s not the presence of a tantrum or a banging spoon or whatever that bothers me, either. That stuff happens. It’s watching some parents do nothing about it. Chaps my hide. And yes, I sometimes have a horrific headache after trying to manage my children at a restaurant, but I know it’s going to pay off in the long run when we have nice meals as a family for years to come.

Parents who honestly think their kid is special and express that sentiment publicly. I mean, I know we all think our kids are the smartest, charmingest and funniest humans to ever walk the earth. I sure as heck do. But I’m smart enough to pretend that I think they’re just good kids when I’m around other parents. These types of parents who act like their children are superhuman used to annoy me before I had kids. Now that I have kids, and realize that the sentiment is universal, I’m only more annoyed. Have some perspective, people! Your child might be the center of your universe, but they’re almost certainly not the center of mine (unless, you know, they’re one of my nieces, nephews or godchildren — then fire away).

Parents who lose their identity in their children. OK, I get it. Being a parent is awesome. I certainly think it is. And I love and adore my children. But before I had kids, I used to get weirded out by those people who couldn’t talk about anything other than having children. As fascinating as I find constant conversations about diapering systems, educational choices, breastfeeding, vaccination, shuttling children to their soccer/ballet/tennis/piano practices, etc. (ugh, shoot me now), is it too much to ask for a simple conversation about a recent book you read or a story that was in the newspaper today? Or anything at all other than your child or how you feel about them?

Overprotective parents. I used to make fun of parents who put helmets on their kids before they got on tricycles, slathered hand sanitizer and sunblock everywhere and wouldn’t let their children climb the jungle gym. I still do. Sorry. It’s a tricycle, not a Formula One race car.

People who flip out when other people correct their children’s behavior. I used to think this was something that a few parents did when non-parents intervened. Now I realize that some parents just don’t want anyone to ever suggest to their children that their behavior needs improving. I mean, I’m not a big fan of other people telling my children to watch their behavior, but if it’s called for, I back them up. I was once spoken to at church for admonishing some children to not destroy the curtains they were mutilating. It takes a village, people (it also takes the Village People, I’ve found). If we can all look out for our neighbors’ children a bit, the world is a better place.

Not reading to your children. I used to judge parents who didn’t read to their children. I thought that they were selfishly harming their children by not introducing them to the written word. Now that I have children who love to be read to, I have much less tolerance for parents who don’t read a book or two to their children each day. It’s not hard to visit the library or pick up some remainders. And children love the time you spend with them. And they learn to read and learn to love to read.

So while I may not understand every choice parents make — such as how some parents dress their children in matching outfits — I am much more tolerant of so many things parents do. “Whatever you need to do to get by,” I mumble under my breath rather constantly. But certain things upset me even more now that I know more. Such as letting your kids wear yoga pants that say “Juicy” across the butt.

So, what’s your favorite thing to be judgmental about? Other than internet rants against other parents?

(Photo: Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock)

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