Sometime the Universe likes to remind me not to get to big for my britches.
Today I was that mom at Target. You know the one: disheveled looking, dressed in sloppy, stained clothes, pushing around a cart with a screaming snot faced kid in it. Hissing at the crying kid to stop, looking visibly frazzled.
This is the mom that makes you feel better about yourself. The one that you walk past and feel ever so slightly superior to, the one who makes you feel like you are doing a better than average job as a parent and maybe a human being.
I usually think I am a pretty decent parent, a condition that is greatly assisted by the fact that my kid is probably one of the world’s easier two year olds (and, yes, I do totally worry about jinxing myself by saying that out loud). He is curious and impulsive and not always obedient but our public meltdowns are pretty few and far between. He usually rides around Target in the front of the cart waving a strangers and flirting with old ladies.
But not today. We went to Target today because the kiddo is sick. Not super sick, but runny nosed and congested and starting to cough a little. He probably could have gone to daycare today but Mr.Monkey and I decided to play it safe and keep him home. My work schedule was lighter so I opted to stay with him. Now, I normally wouldn’t have taken the kiddo out but I wanted to pick up some vapor rub for him and maybe some juice to get some vitamin C in his system. I figured he could handle a quick trip to Target. I threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt and loaded my unwashed self and child into the car.
I’ll spare you the gory details of the meltdown (let’s just say that there were demands for popcorn that were not being met in a timely fashion) and just say that I had a moment where as I was hissing “settle down” between gritted teeth at my wailing child, I looked up and caught sight of my self in the mirror. There I was: greasy, disheveled hair, saggy jeans, a light sheen of sweat on my forehead (it was 60 degrees yesterday, 85 today. The sweatshirt was an error in judgement. I blame Iowa weather for the sweaty part), sighing with frustration at an adorable crying child who just wanted this one small thing.
There was another mom in the aisle. She was pushing a cart with her angelic sleeping infant clipped into a car seat on the front. I caught her eye. She quickly looked away. She’d clearly been staring.
Would I have judged me if I had walked past this scene? Maybe.
I try not to judge people’s parenting choices too much, except for one hot button issue that I feel STRONGLY about but won’t write about because A) the issue has been done to death and B)I can’t have reasonable discourse about it because the people who disagree with me are just WRONG and if I can’t write about it without getting all capsy then I shouldn’t. But I digress…
As I was saying, I try not to judge people’s parenting in public because on my good days I can remember that what I’m seeing is just one moment in these people’s lives and I don’t know what kind of day/week/month/year they’ve had. I still give a side eye to anyone being physical with their kids but other displays of temper I can usually imagine a circumstance where they’re just having a bad moment.
On my bad days, well, I savor that judgement. Judgement feels so deliciously good sometimes, doesn’t it? When you catch someone else’s eye as you both pass the mom (or dad) and kid who are both in meltdown and you both roll your eyes a little and think “I would never do that”, there is just a hint of satisfaction in that moment.
Maybe it comes from the fact that we all, on some level, worry that we aren’t good enough at this parenting thing (or life thing, as I think this whole judgement thing happens in all sorts of circumstances) and we want some way to know that we are doing good enough. So we see someone who is struggling and we know, at that moment, maybe we are good enough because we are at least better than that person.
Or maybe not. Maybe I’m the only one who is like this sometime. Maybe I’m babbling now but I want to say this: we will all draw the short straw someday and have our moment of weakness and frustration happen in public. We will all fall short of being the type of parent/person we want to be but, as I continue to remind myself, we are more than that one moment, we are more than our weaknesses. So, be kind to yourself. Be kind to the person you see struggling because they are more than that moment too.