As mothers, we’ve probably all been judged by other moms, dads, in-laws, our own parents, or even perfect strangers. But what do you do when your parenting style is being judged by another child?
A few weeks back, I was my daughter’s date to a fellow 2-year-old’s birthday party at a local park. For a good couple of minutes, my daughter ran around the park to other people’s parties asking if they would share their ice cream cones with her. I told her that: A. We don’t know these people, and B. The ice cream cone is a personal treat. Not something you can share with a stranger.
Now this is the same girl who will approach other parents and ask to share their Goldfish crackers, or apple slices, or pretty much anything edible. I try to discourage the park-time begging, but she asks very nicely, and we have been the donors of many a park-time snack to friends’ and strangers’ kids alike. So, I figure this is just a part of being a toddler and another way to learn about sharing.
But even after I rationally explained why she couldn’t have those ice cream cones, my 2-year old, being a 2-year-old, continued to run after random kids and asked, “Can you share, please? Can you share?” as they all darted away. And while it was very sweet that she was asking so nicely, I kept explaining that basically, the answer is, “no,” and that we had to go back to the party to which we were actually invited.
There was a group of about five 10-year-olds who sat around a tire swing watching all of this unfold. I could hear them laughing at my daughter’s failed attempts to garner ice cream. And if having my daughter laughed at wasn’t heart-sinking-to-the-bottom-of-my-stomach bad enough, I heard them laughing at me every time she’d run off to talk to someone else.
I tried to ignore it all until one of them yelled at me, “That’s just bad parenting. You’re a bad parent.” I turned with a scowl to see the young crew shift their eyes away and laugh once again.
Rage boiled inside of me and through gritted teeth I said, “Excuse me?” And the group pretended they didn’t hear me as they giggled.
I then took a deep breath and thought, “What is my end game here?”
I couldn’t actually engage in a war of words with a group of 10-year-olds… could I?
No, that would just end with me getting a few (albeit deserved) zingers in and a kid crying, followed by a parent (albeit deserved) yelling at me.
But it hurt. It hurt that someone was laughing at my daughter. My playful, sweet, ice-cream-loving daughter.
It hurt that someone was questioning my parenting techniques.
Yes, I knew these kids haven’t even hit puberty yet and weren’t the most reliable sources for parenting advice. I knew I shouldn’t care about their opinions. But the truth was I did care. I cared that the words, “You’re a bad parent,” were being directed towards me.
I knew it certainly wouldn’t be the last time I was judged as a parent, and I knew it wouldn’t be the last time my daughter was laughed at for being herself.
I am just so thankful that she did not seem to understand that she was being laughed at. Or maybe, just maybe, she knew it was happening, and she was confident enough in herself that she just plain didn’t care.