Judgements. We make them and are subject to them every day. I myself have been judgemental, so so so judgemental my entire life. Especially before becoming a parent, of other parents. Because that’s what you do when you don’t have a kid. You look at all the parents with their annoying, horrible, bratty, misbehaving children and decide how you’re going to be SOOOOOO much better at it once you have your own. And very soon you suddenly realise how bitter those words taste. Because you keep having to eat them, over and over again. After becomeing a parent it suddenly hits you with just how difficult it all is, and so I decided that I would no longer be judgemental of others. And just like my New Year’s resolutions, this new found sentiment lasted approximately half an afternoon before I was back to my old ways again.
Last weekend, Stormaggedon decided to fall off the couch. Head first. Onto our tiled floor. And before I go on, let me say this about “Helicopter Parenting”: it doesn’t work. Stormaggedon was on the couch, my husband sitting next to him, and me standing over him, and he STILL managed to fall off before either of us had the reflex to stop him. At first I didn’t think it was that bad. He was screaming straight away. I thought if I picked him up, gave him a kiss and laughed it off it would be ok. Until I saw the planet sized bruised egg that immediately developed on the right side of his forehead. I have to admit I’m amazed at how calm I reacted. Grabbing an icepack from the fridge, we tried to calm him down but after about 10 minutes of intense crying I decided we should call an ambulance just to have him assessed. Of course the second I get off the phone to triple zero, our little bundle of joy stops crying, and actually starts laughing. He then decides he’s had enough of comfort and tries to crawl away, just after the operator told me to keep him as still as possible. The paramedics arrive within 15 minutes and although they think Stormy is probably fine due to the lack of other worrying symptoms, it’s decided that we should still take a trip to the hospital just for observation.
So where’s the judgement? Well riding in the back of the ambulance one of the paramedics is obviously trying to make me feel better about my lack of parenting skills and regales me with a story, “Don’t worry, we see this sort of thing all the time. Why just yesterday we had to take a 15 month old in because his mum sat him up on top of the washing machine while she was washing something in the laundry sink.” And at this I started to scoff, about to comment, “what kind of idiot puts their kid on top of the washing machine. What was she expecting?” Then I stopped myself. Here I was, sitting in the back of an ambulance with my injured child, and I had the gall to laugh at the stupidy of another parent.
This wasn’t the first occasion in the last year where I had let my opinionated parenting feelings known. At the shops a few weeks ago I strolled past another woman who was pushing her toddler around in his pram, the toddler laid back and completely engrossed in the iPhone he held in his hands. And I remember before I could stop myself snorting out loud, quite obviously in her direction. Realising what I had done I looked apologetically awkward before quickly pushing Stormy off in the oppostie direction.
Another time I was having a discussion about birthing with a group of mothers, where I took aim at “idiots” who have home births, as they are putting themselves and their children at risk. Not realising that one of the mothers had birthed all three of her children at home. In fact with only the help of her husband and a doula, and no midwife or doctor at all. I don’t know who looked more horrified when I realised. FYI, I haven’t spoken to her again. Lesson learned, never be so opinionated around perfect strangers.
It’s comforting to know that at least I’m not alone on the judgemental bandwagon. The Mummy Mafia is well renowned for their seemingly supportive, yet condescending attitudes towards each other. I’m sure some of you have been on the receiving end of these types of conversations: “Oh, so you only breastfed Rachel for a few weeks? Well I suppose you did the best you could. After all it’s about doing what’s right for you, isn’t it. I myself am still breastfeeding little Tabias. He’s 17 months old you know. And on a completely unrelated topic, he’s so well behaved and calm all the time. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the breastfeeding though. Is that Rachel throwing a tantrum over there? You know you should really reduce the sugar in her diet. It’s killing her you know!”
And of course the one-up-manship which leads to self judgement: “My Benjamin was walking at 9 months”, “That’s nothing, my Gertrude was singing her ABCs at 2”, “Well my daughter was completing a 40 piece jigsaw puzzle in 10 minutes whilst watching Seasame Street at the same time, and she’s only 2 and a half!”…(ok that last one was my mother talking about me. I was pretty gifted but peaked early)
But here’s the thing. As bad as I feel about all of the judgements that have been directed at me, I still feel the same way about all the judgements that I’ve passed. It’s still a really stupid idea to put your baby on top of the washing machine, regardless if you’re right there. I really don’t agree with giving your toddler an iPhone or iPad to play with. I still feel that unsupervised home births are just playing with fire. But you know the thing about judgements? They are your own opinions, and that’s where they should stay. How someone parents their child is no one’s business but theirs, and opinions should be kept to themselves. Of course this should not count towards a child that is suffering from abuse or domestic violence. If you see a child that you know is being deliberately starved, is having cigarettes put out on their arms, is being abused, or left on their own for hours at a time, then it’s your absolute duty to tell someone. Preferably DoCS or the Police. If however you feel a mother gave up breastfeeding too early, a child is getting more screen time than recommended, or the toys they’re playing with aren’t educational enough, then maybe you might need to remember the old saying “Think before you speak”.
Back at the hospital, two and a half hours later Stormaggedon was given the all clear and we were sent back home. Where he immediately made a beeline for the couch. Though this time we were much more weary and instinctively watched over him like a hawk. But just like my New Year’s resolutions, that watchful instinctiveness lasted for all of half the afternoon.
Please don’t judge me.