Yesterday I was at the library with my three boys. It was a very small branch library, so when I walked away, leaving my one-year-old standing on a chair at the table, happily playing with a peg puzzle so I could look up a book, I was a mere 10-15 feet away. I turned my back long enough to log on to the computer and when I turned back, there was another mom (older than myself) standing very near him, protecting him as if he might fall, and giving me a nasty look. She didn’t walk away until I walked back to him.
It happens to young moms all the time, and it’s something I’ve experienced on numerous -NUMEROUS- occasions. Another mom makes a judgement on your parenting based on a snapshot. Whether it’s because your child is having a meltdown in a public place or because she thinks you’ve made a terrible decision by walking away from your child while he’s standing in a chair -gasp!- and she thinks he’s going to fall. The other mom doesn’t have the details. She doesn’t know that you had previously sat with your child while he stood in that chair long enough to discern he was not going to fall if you walked away for a moment. She doesn’t know that your child is a really great kid and that fit-throwing behavior is not tolerated in your family. She only sees what’s available to passerby, which she takes at face value to be poor parenting.
The fact is, I don’t need your judgement. I don’t need you to invasively stand by my child in order to “protect” him because I’m not doing a good enough job. I don’t need you to tell my son he needs to behave in public (I’m looking at you, elderly lady who felt the need to stop me at the grocery store to tell me her children never fought when they were little). I don’t NEED your dirty look when I’ve got a fussy baby strapped to my chest, another child in the seat of the cart, and yet another trying to push that cart into a display. I don’t even need you to comment that I have my “hands full.” I can see that, thank you, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like having my hands full, and you know what? I can handle it.
Before you think this post is all anger and frustration, let me tell you what I do need. I need a smile. I like to smile at people. It lets people know that we are in this together. This thing called life. Just smile at me. Chances are, if I’m feeling a little stressed because my children are misbehaving, that smile will go a long way in encouraging me, and I will resolve to pass on the kindness and grace you just showed me to my children.
I need you to say hello to my kids. Sound like I’m asking too much? Kids just love to get attention from strangers. Love it. Just a simple “how are you today?” from a stranger sends my kids over the moon. I try to say hello to other people’s kids, and likewise, my oldest just loves to chat up people at the grocery store, kids and adults alike. We are social beings. We were created for community and we like to communicate with one another. Just say “hi.”
I need you to tell me you’ve been there, too. If I ever get the very special treat of shopping by myself, or even with only one or two children, and I see a mom with a cart full of kids who are bickering and complaining like mine sometimes do, I smile and I tell her that I usually have a cart full of kids myself. I get it. I don’t think you’re a bad mom because your kids don’t like the grocery store; mine don’t either. A few kind words go a long, long way. I had a mom tell me at checkout once that she also has three sons, all grown now. She looked at me and said “you’ll survive.” Bless her heart. I mean, really. There’s a mom who knows that raising three boys is tough, but had a word of encouragement for me!
Titus 2 tells us that the older women are to “behave out of holiness, to be teachers of good things, and to not be false accusers.” They are to teach younger women to “love their husbands and children and to be keepers at home.” If you are judging me as a mother, you are not teaching me to be a good mother. You are simply bringing me down when I may already be feeling pretty low thanks to the not-so-pretty behavior of my oh-so-adorable children.
Let me say this again. If you are making me feel bad about myself as a mother, you are not teaching me to be a good mother. You are shaming me. You are probably contributing to my coming unglued on my kids once we get to the car and out of your watchful eyesight. You are giving me another stone to collect and put into my bag of “bad mommy” moments.
Let’s give each other jewels to place in our “good mommy” crowns. Let’s encourage each other as mothers, both new and seasoned. And especially if you’re a been-there-done-that mom with grown children, throw that young momma a bone. Give her a smile. Chat up her kids in the checkout line. It may turn her day right around.