I was at the park last week and a toddler walked up and hit my toddler. Out of nowhere her mother runs up, smacks her daughter on the behind and yells “no hitting!” then carries her child kicking and screaming to the car.
My initial reaction? Honestly? Look over to my husband and talk crap. ‘Who hits a child that small?? She is learning her behavior from her mom you know. It’s just fascinating how unaware people are’. Yadda yadda YUCK. My husband and I agreed, then stood smugly on the sidelines of the park basking in our parental perfection. The mom eventually reappeared and apologized profusely for her daughter hitting ours.
It doesn’t really matter how I feel about spanking–I was a crappy human in that moment. She clearly loved her kid and wanted her to be on her best behavior–like we all do. And while our methods may differ, she wasn’t putting her child in immediate danger. That mom might not even believe in spanking and was just overwhelmed from the day and snapped, like we ALL do some days. Or maybe she spanks her kid daily. I don’t know. I haven’t a clue in the world. I didn’t engage with her I just stood back and judged her.
Many would say I was so judgmental because I’m insecure in my parenting choices. I’m not insecure in my opinions, but it’s fair to say I am insecure in my ability to follow through on those beliefs as well as I wish I could. The reality is there are lots of things I’m against, yet have screwed up and done. I’ve yelled at my kids with a an ugly rage I’m ashamed is a part of me. I’ve dismissed my kids. I’ve been flat out mean to them. I’ve let them watch TV for hours and hours on end. I have stood at the park and shamed my peers for doing things I know I’ve been guilty of.
I’ve done all of these things quite simply because I’m human – and frankly – humans suck sometimes.
I know none of our actions are perfect. But sometimes it’s harder to come to terms that not only are my actions imperfect but my reactions as well. I’m all for solidarity, peace, rainbows and butterflies–but sometimes I suck–and pretending that I don’t suck in the form of judging people from time to time serves absolutely no one but my own ego.
It’s delusional of us to think we won’t screw up on something so acute as parenting, yet we hold this delusion close and attempt to ward off any stimulus that interferes with it i.e. witnessing another mom be less than her best at the playground. It makes us uncomfortable because deep down we know: sometimes I am that imperfect mom. And sometimes the response to that realization comes to the surface in a less than desirable way.
If I haven’t already, which I’m positive I have, I’m going to mess up my kids in some way (likely many ways), and absolutely no amount of preparation can possibly prevent it. Some mess ups will be small, others not so much. Screwing up is one of the only guarantees we get in this life, and in its own weird way, remembering that can be freeing.