The Daddy: Parental judgment: Are all parents sizing each other up, or is it just my insane obsessive nature running a constant dialogue when I see other parents and their kids?
The Momma: Well, I would say it’s just you, but no, I’m pretty much convinced all parents size each other up somehow. But more and more, I don’t think it’s all a negative thing.
D: I think it’s a natural manifestation of this new role we’ve all fallen into: caretaker for a dependent. You’re thrust into that role, and are constantly analyzing the decisions you make and whether or not they’re the best ones they can be. Once that happens, I think the actions of others in the same position naturally fall into a compare and contrast viewpoint. If they’re not the choices you would make, you know: the “right” ones, naturally judgment’s gonna happen.
M: Not only that, but I think that, as one of our readers Alexis said, you also watch to figure out if they’re doing something that you’re missing. Sometimes I think what we call judgment is actually us being worried that we’re doing it wrong or looking for tips, in case we’re in the same place.
D: Oh, absolutely, it’s not always about a superiority complex. One of the worst feelings is seeing a brilliant move, and realizing how wrong we were doing something. And even then, I know it’s okay to be wrong, and that it’s gonna happen OFTEN, but I feel like “damn! I should have thought of that!”
M: That’s not to say that some judgment isn’t just that. I’ve looked at other parents and thought, hey, you’re doing it wrong. I try not to, but I think we all have our…triggers for lack of a better word.
D: Watching parents make flagrantly…*different* choices than we would is a tough one for me. You know me, I was looking forward to being a parent for many reasons, but not the least of which was to see how awesome I could be at it. I’m just starting to learn how immensely difficult it is, but I like to think I pay pretty good attention. I see some parents who seem to be treating the responsibility like borrowing a neighbor’s lawnmower and I cringe.
M: In general, I agree–but I also think we have to be careful with that kind of judgment because we’re only seeing a moment. We may think a parent is being oblivious or whatever, but we don’t always know what’s going on, or what the 5 minutes before or after this moment look like. That’s not to say sometimes what you’re seeing isn’t accurate though.
D: The kid with half his face caked with dried food from a previous meal, literally CAKED over with something he ate, that took at least two and a half hours to dry and form a resilient crust, and he’s just walking around with his parents who are oblivious? No, I’m sorry. I can’t think of a time I’m gonna allow that to happen to the Knob. He won’t stay immaculate, and I’m gonna miss a spot or two after he eats once in awhile, but a sturdy, reinforced barrier of calcified detritus anchored to his face? No. A simple wipe with a partially wet rag after the meal could have eliminated that. And then, at no time did the parents drop a glance on the kid and think “oh hey, it’s a bad thing that it looks like my kid tried to osmosis eat by smashing a handful of mashed potatoes through his face. Maybe I should hose him down before they figure out that I lock him in a dog kennel at night.” Parenting fail.
M: See, so that’s one of the examples I was talking about. Yes, you’re right, that’s totally worth judging, if only because, ew.
M: But not all moments are as clear-cut, even though we always make those snap judgments because we think they are.
D: Oh I know, I know. Look. I absolutely know that if there was ever anything in my life that should teach me humility, acceptance and the understanding that I don’t have all the answers, it’s going to be parenting. This would be the best point in my life to stop making snap judgments and comparing myself to others. Is that going to happen easily? No. One of my goals with the Knob is to still be myself as his father, not this new magical perfect “Father” person who has none of my personality. Does that mean I have room to become a better person while doing it? Absolutely. Baby steps. For him, and for me.
M: I think my biggest thing in pointing it all out goes back to my own fear of being judged. I would hope that if someone sees me doing something they deem as awful that they’d give me the benefit of the doubt. But then, I do tend to worry more about what other people think than you do. That’s what I have to work on.
D: That could honestly be where my concern about judgment comes from- the fear that I’ll run into myself out in the world, who’ll eviscerate me over a bad parenting decision. I guess the solution would be to be more tolerant and forgiving and just do the best I can. As if THAT’s gonna happen…