I push my almost-full cart through the grocery store, distracted by the high-pitched squeal of my 15 months old. “We’re almost done,” I repeat for the seventh time, but she’s not buying it. I quickly grab my last few items and head to the checkout line, feeling the stares of the other customers as my little one’s shrieks reach a fever pitch. My jaw tightens and a harsh “Shhh! That’s enough,” escapes my clenched teeth.
That doesn’t help, of course. As I load my items for billing, I try keeping her engaged by either crooning silly tones or handing over her sippy cup to shift her attention. A woman behind me says to her friend, loud enough for me to hear, “If my kid acted like this, I’d scoop her up and leave the store right then and there. You have to teach them that they can’t behave like this anywhere they want.” I’m too exhausted and frustrated to explain that leaving the store is exactly what my daughter wants.
I take her out for a stroll in her pram. People smile and wave at her and she lets out a sweet ‘Hi’ to them. They stop by and say ‘She’s so sweet and social.’ I just smile.
We are having lunch at a fine dining restaurant. The little one enjoys eating her food while sitting in her ‘baby chair’ while we finish our meals. Suddenly she doesn’t want to sit there any longer and starts shrieking and throwing everything she can let her hands on. People who would probably be raving about how biddable the child is – look at us like we are torturing her by making her sit in that chair!
Now, if you judge my parenting based on any given five minute snippet, you may either think of me as a bad parent or the greatest mother in the world. Yet I regularly witness strangers make such judgments of other moms. The truth is, for the most part, parenting on any given day is full of uncertainty.
My little one is otherwise a happy child. Doesn’t become cantankerous easily! If you judged my mothering based on her best moments, hours, or days, you’d probably wish you had my stellar child-rearing skills. On the other hand, sometimes she can be cranky. If you judged my parenting skills based on those moments, hours, or days, you might assume I was completely inept at basic discipline and nurturing.
One can’t make any accurate judgment or assumption—good or bad—about people’s parenting from witnessing a narrow window of interaction. If a kid misbehaves in public, you might think you’d handle it differently; but don’t we all have bad days? Kids have tantrums and it is a fact of life. We try our best to eliminate them but truth be told, tantrums happen all the time.
There’s an unspoken parenting rule, though not everyone agrees, but you really ought to leave parenting to the parents. It’s tempting to think that another mom’s perfectly behaved child means she has it all together, but you don’t know how that kid behaves the rest of the time. Maybe he’s perfect as long as he’s fed and has slept well but becomes cranky if he’s hungry or tired. Maybe you just caught him on a good day when the stars aligned just right!
No one knows your children like you do. No one lives with you around the clock to see what goes on in your house like you do. No one has the right to tell you that your parenting needs work or pass judgments about the way you teach, discipline and interact with your children. Your children are no one’s business but yours. Period!