Dear Moms Who I Judged for Disciplining Their Children in Public, I’m Sorry
I hate having to admit I’m wrong.
I do it when I have to, but there’s nothing that makes my skin crawl more than having to go back on something I said or did and give in that when I stood firmly on something I was really just full of crap.
But it happens, and it’s happening lately almost every single day. Every time I go to a restaurant, to Target, to the mall, to the trampoline park. Every time I’m toting my toddler anywhere in public and she starts screaming at the top of her lungs. I’m eating crow every day for ever judging the moms and dads who I’ve seen disciplining their kids in public and thought, “Can’t they just do that when they get in the car?”
Don’t get me wrong, there are parents who discipline their children the wrong way in public. You’ve probably seen them. The parents who are physical with their kids or scream back at their children. The parents who curse at their kids to stop acting up. To those parents, no, I’m still not sorry for judging you. You need to do some self-evaluating and consider the standards you’re setting for the humans you’re raising.
But to the moms who have paid a bill mid-meal and walked out because your kid was acting up or the dads who have stood strong and not bought their daughters the Barbies they begged for, I’m sorry. And I now know your pain.
My husband and I thought we “had a good one” and that our daughter was somehow different from all the naughty kids we saw around us. She always sat still and quiet at restaurants and stayed in her stroller when we were out for a walk. Until about a month ago when we recognized she had some behaviors starting that were B-A-D.
Parenting with another person is extremely difficult and entirely changes the dynamic of your relationship with that person. In the heat of a moment when your child is about to smash a rock through a glass table, you just have to know which way the other person is planning to discipline him/her (are they going to threaten to take away all Lucy’s toys or put her in a 5-minute timeout) and then you have to agree with him/her to keep a united front even if you don’t. About 9 out of 10 times my husband disciplines my daughter I disagree with what he’s saying or how he’s doing it, but it doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. It’s just not the way I would do it.
The one thing my husband and I do agree on is never to call our daughter a “bad girl,” even when she’s really being one. Like when we’re at a toy store and she starts opening things before we buy them, or when we’re at a library and she starts ripping pages out of a book. She’s “not being good” but she’s not a “bad girl.” Because fundamentally, she’s not a bad girl. She’s a growing girl, a learning girl still navigating what behaviors are acceptable toward other people and in public places. But this learning phase of hers comes with a learning phase of mine and as a result, I’m feeling all kinds of feels toward the moms and dads I scoffed at before. I’ve had to be that mom who disciplines her daughter in public very often already, and she’s only 2 which means I have MUCH more of it in my future. I’ve counted to three, I’ve taken toys away, I’ve threatened no dessert. And I’ve felt awful about it every. single. time.
So I want to say “I was wrong” with a letter of apology, and this time admitting I was wrong isn’t so hard. Here goes:
Dear Moms Who I Judged for Disciplining Their Children in Public,
I’m sorry. I’m sorry I stared at you. I’m sorry I scoffed at you. I’m sorry I whispered to my friends shopping with me, “Why won’t she just buy her kid that toy?”
I know why you won’t buy your kid the toy and I wouldn’t either. Because buying the toy doesn’t help, and you’re busy training your child to be a decent human being who doesn’t think acting up deserves a reward.
And further, for every time you need to watch your child cry because they’re disappointed they can’t have what they want, for every loud tantrum that brings looks your way at the mall, for every, “GET OFF OF ME!” they yell as you try to grab their hand for safety in a parking lot and you worry people will think you’re a child abductor, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have to go through that. I’m sorry we have to go through that, but it will make our kids safer, stronger people.
I’m sorry for ever thinking, “Well, why would you bring a bad kid out in public? Can’t she just leave him at home?” What a stupid thing to think. As if you don’t have zero time for yourself, let alone time to clean your house, think about what your son eats for lunch all week and how to get him from birthday party to birthday party on the weekend after swim classes, I know you need to bring your child to the grocery store because sometimes you just need to. And it’s not like you knew he would throw a fit once he sat in the cart. Or maybe you did, but what are you going to do? Not eat food for a week because your son is 30 minutes late for nap-time and possessed by a demon now at Shop Rite? I’m an idiot for ever thinking it and had no idea how complicated a task like grocery shopping could be.
You’re doing great.
Keep it up,
While we’re talking about judging other parents, one last thing. OK, a few things:
- I’m sorry for judging the moms and dads who forget their kid in the car for a couple minutes running into Rite Aid. I’ve never done it, but I can see how it can happen.
- I’m sorry for judging the parents who forget essentials in their diaper bags. Having to leave the house with at least x number of diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, a binkie, a bottle, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, water AND a snack at the bare minimum every single outing is just exhausting. My kid has returned home pantsless after puking on herself many times because I just can’t even.
- Similarly, I’m sorry for judging the parents of kids who are dressed like hot messes. I have no idea if thats the kid’s second, third or tenth clothing change of the day, or how many human bodily functions mom and dad have been covered in to get to a point where Johnny’s walking into Target with Mickey Mouse jammie pants and a pink tank top on.
- I’m sorry for judging parents who curse in front of (not at) their kids. An f-bomb can slip out super easy when you live a frustrating life like us.
- I’m sorry for judging the daddies of daughters whose hair is a disaster when mom’s out of town or out of the picture. I’ve watched my husband attempt a high pony and it’s worse than a My Little Pony mane that went through the wash, but it’s really sweet that he tries.
- I’m sorry for judging moms who feed their kids McDonald’s… or really any food ever. Getting your child to eat anything is a feat some days, and you know what you’re doing.
- I’m sorry for judging parents who say they only give their kid a bath every other night or more. Take away the hour-long production that it is, forcing a slippery screaming child into water is no fun for anyone and not worth them staying clean for about 6 hours until they just color themselves all over with marker anyway.
- I’m sorry for judging parents who are on their phones at the playground. This is a tough one to apologize for because a.) I’ve been this person but also b.) I know I shouldn’t be as much as I am. Live in the moment with your kids but also take an adult break for a few minutes if it brings you happiness. Just make sure you peek up from Facebook often enough to make sure he/she didn’t fly off a swing into a metal pole. And…
- I’m sorry for judging parents who looked away for a second while their kid fell and got hurt. This feeling sucks more than anything ever. You know, where you were looking directly at them one blink ago, you turn your head and next thing you know she’s gushing from the nose and screaming like a wolverine got her? It happens, I’m sorry.
Of all the parenting things I was quick to dismiss or judge before I was a mother, one of the biggest was a saying. It’s a phrase I was sure wouldn’t feel real and I thought of as just a dumb mom cliché. Now I can’t stop myself from saying it all the time to new moms because I was definitely wrong in thinking it wasn’t the truest truth of being a parent.