I’ll admit – before I was a mom myself, I spent a lot of time judging mothers for the (what I saw as) stupid decisions they made. I couldn’t understand the parents who would take their kids to restaurants and let them be noisy and rambunctious while they blithely ignored them or gave a half-hearted shush every so often. Or the parents who brought young children to movie theaters when they were obviously too young. And even though I only went to matinees, I still had a sore spot for the fact they disrupted my movie-going experience.
Of course, no I know better. I know that as a parent, you become inured to the noises your kids make. It is something you hear all day long, so when you’re at a restaurant, you don’t necessarily think that they are being overly noisy. As long as they are not running around banging into other people or stealing food off plates, you’re quite content to let them enjoy themselves.
And as for movie experiences – well, there’s more than one reason to take the kids. For one, why should you put your life on hold and not see a movie you’re longing to see just because you have kids? It’s one thing to take them to a midnight showing on opening night, but a 2 PM Sunday matinee of a PG film is hardly asking too much. More than this, how do you know when your child is ready anyway? We took Dexter to see a stage show when he was just a few months old. It was loud and featured explosions, and he didn’t bat an eye. He was enthralled. So we braved a movie theater, paying bucketloads of cash to see the latest blockbuster (again – a matinee), and the kid SCREAMED. And screamed. And cried and kicked. Mark and I took it in turns to take him out of the theater and calm him down, but each time we’d return, he would start screaming again. In the end, we made it one third of the way through the film, having seen only a few minutes of it, and we realized it was just never going to work. We had to leave.
But every kid is different, and they have their own timescales. At almost three years old, we recently took Dexter and Daniel to see Frozen, and while Daniel had to be taken out for minutes at a time, Dexter watched the whole thing without bothering anyone.
I have judged parents for letting their child have a pacifier until they were five! It still amazes me, but that’s only because neither of my kids has ever used a pacifier for anything other than an occasional toy. If I found that one worked well, I probably would be using it as long as possible!
But the biggest judgement I make is something I see OFTEN at the theme parks. And that is older children in pushchairs. It sets my teeth on edge when I see a five year old being pushed around in a stroller. I can’t understand it. My own kids both refuse their stroller. Dex has hardly used it since before he was two, and Daniel doesn’t even walk yet and still hates being pushed around. Is it lazy parenting?
Not always. I admit that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. It is in some cases necessary. Just because you can’t tell that a child has a disability, it doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. For my own sanity, I try to give the parents the benefit of the doubt. They know better than I what their children need, and I wouldn’t want to be judged on my own decisions for my children.
One thing is for sure – since becoming a parent, I have a new appreciation for other parents. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop judging people without knowing all the facts. I think it’s human nature to form opinions without understanding the whole picture. But at least I can try and be kinder – or at least keep my thoughts to myself.
What snap judgements did you make before you were a parent? Have you changed your mind? How has being a parent shaped how you see the world?