You know what I don’t do? Fold wash cloths. Or underwear. I don’t care if my 3-year-old goes out to swing in his underwear. I don’t exercise every day. I don’t feel guilty when I tell Latefordinner that I have to get out of the house ALONE. I don’t make my boys keep their rooms clean. I don’t keep my room clean. I don’t keep a garden. I don’t take for granted that Latefordinner supports my need to get out ALONE. I don’t stress if I eat ice cream. I don’t like negativity. I don’t want to keep writing about what I don’t do….
Except for this one thing I didn’t do yesterday–I didn’t do what I swore I’d never do (stay with me), and that’s NOT JUDGE ANOTHER MOM, EVER.
I ran into the drug store yesterday for some things, and was deciding on which gum to get, when I heard a mom two aisles behind me say, “No, we have that at home. Put it back.” I heard a tiny person whining, and then, “I told you to put it back. I’m going to count to three, and if you don’t put it back you’re getting a spanking.”
Then I heard “Three, two, one.”…….Smack!
And the baby boy cried and cried, and said “Ouchie! Owww! That hurts!” And the mom walked by, baby on hip, sobbing two-year-old in tow.
And you guys, I did the thing. I did that thing that is so devastating to mothers everywhere: I looked her in the eye and shook my head at her. And she looked me in the eye and I could read her mind, “you bitch, you don’t know me.” I could have just minded my business, but I broke my oath to never judge a mother, and I judged. Openly. I’ve been given that look before, but not for hitting my kid. I get that look when my kid is acting up, and I am not dealing with it the way the glaring woman would. I get that look for what I don’t do.
So, here’s the thing: she spanked her baby boy in a public place. He was sobbing, and my heart hurt for him. Why, after all my years as a seasoned mother, and firm believer in non-judginess, did my heart not hurt for her? Maybe she didn’t know any better. Maybe she thinks she’s doing the right thing. Maybe she just doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing and needs to get her damn head on straight before she messes her kid up…uh, I mean…ugh,there’s the judginess. She didn’t beat him, she smacked his butt. She didn’t yell at him, she counted to three. She didn’t look angry…and that’s the thing…why would you be violent if you’re not angry?
First: I don’t believe in hitting children. It is psychologically damaging; and does nothing to teach, nurture growth, or effectively discipline.
Second: Even though I don’t believe in hitting children, I have lost my temper and smacked a butt a few times. It very rarely happens, I’m not proud of it, and I have apologized to my children each time. I have explained that mommy can make mistakes too, etc. Of course we also talked about his behavior, but a child’s behavior is just his way of asking for help. It’s HARD to remember that sometimes, seriously, like when they’re being complete jerks and you just want to SMACK them. But you don’t (99.9% of the time). Because you don’t believe in hitting. Because you are the grown up. Because you want to lead by example. Because hitting hurts.
Third: I have never hit my child because he wouldn’t put something back on a shelf by the count of three. In a public place. Or in any place. That’s just ridiculous. Yeah, I’m judging.
BUT, Shaking my head at her probably just made her angry, and hurt, and probably did more to isolate her more than maybe she already is. Shaking my head disapprovingly probably did nothing to help her. Judging her, even if I do disagree with her actions, does nothing to help. Maybe she felt sorry, and helpless, and hopeless. Maybe she needed a hug (even though I just wanted to hug that baby boy). Maybe she is looking for another way. Maybe no one is supporting her. I wasn’t sure where this would go when I started writing, but now I know: What I don’t do is feel good when I judge. What I don’t do is help when I judge. What I don’t do is really know anything when I think I do. What I don’t do is withhold compassion where it seems to be undeserving.
Because those who need compassion are the ones who act out. Because a mother’s behavior may be her way of asking for help. Looking again at her non-angry face, I can now see that she was just as scared as her boy. She really didn’t know what else to do.
I firmly reaffirm my resolve to support other moms, even if I don’t agree with their actions. I hated what I saw. It broke my heart. But, I don’t know her. Who knows her story?
So here’s what I DO do:
I do yell at my kids sometimes.
I do sometimes yell into the backyard like a redneck so the neighborhood can hear me.
I do follow through with what I say, even if I regret having to do it.
I do not like it when Binker sticks his tongue out at me and runs away. Wait, that’s a negative.
Ok, um, I do feel helpless as to what to do with him sometimes. He’s like a honey badger. Seriously.
I do feel helpless when Tuna loses his temper at Binker and tackles him to the floor while screaming in his face about making annoying sounds. Binker silently provokes, Tuna loses his temper. Tuna gets in trouble. Binker gets reprimanded……and on and on until I sometimes lose my temper and send them to their rooms with no solid discipline or clear idea of how to handle it from there.
And every mother feels helpless sometimes. And every mother needs help sometimes. And sometimes that help is silence. A nod. A smile. A hug. A look of solidarity, even if you know what she should do when she doesn’t have a clue.
What I don’t do is agree with that mother’s choices.
What I DO do is have compassion for her.
Because we all make mistakes in the great oneness of motherhood,
and I hope to receive that compassion when I would otherwise be judged by Smug-Faced Bitchy McJudgerton (me yesterday).