We’ve all been there. The supermarket, the fancy dinner, the pediatrician’s office (don’t even get me started on that one), the department store. And there, lurking in the aisles, dining room chairs, waiting rooms, are the critics. I’m not talking about those famous two-thumbs-up guys. I’m talking about the eye-rolling, under-their-breath-sighing, I’m-trying-to-mask-my-obnoxiousness-with-a-smile MOMMY critics.
Disclaimer: not all strangers/family members fall into this category. In fact, many of them don’t. But when they do, whoa Nelly. You’d be better off rolling your eyes at a starving rabid raccoon.
I used to judge moms. Not all the time. But I definitely fell prey to that ridiculous ideology: If your kids are screaming in the store, it’s because you don’t discipline them well.
Yeah. Because everybody knows that a good stern warning is all it takes for the halos to reappear. Silly, silly me.
Perhaps because I used to judge that mom, the one with the screaming kid, God blessed me with one. And yes, she is a blessing. A terrifying, determined, nervous-breakdown inducing blessing.
Now that the tables have turned, I am appalled when I encounter the Mommy critic. Really, lady? You’ve never seen a two-year-old throw a tantrum? There are three possible explanations for that:
- You don’t have kids.
- You have kids, but you also have a live-in nanny. Poor you.
- You somehow scored one of those super easy-going kids whose idea of a tantrum is scrunching their face and maybe, maybe sitting on the floor. Silently.
If I wrote down every incidence of snide remarks and unmistakable judgmental glances, I’d have something akin to Norton’s anthology, which was the bane of my existence when I took British Literature. Much like Mommy critics can be the bane of my existence now.
Picture, if you will, a nice social dinner. In someone else’s house. Which is the opposite of child proof. Someday my house will be like that. Wait, no it won’t. Because once I’m a grandma, I’m totally going to be that grandma with awesome toys and nothing breakable where the kids can eat cookies and stay up late at sleepovers. Anyway.
Here, little two-year-old. You can sit right here, just don't touch anything. That won't be too hard, right?
We have been to numerous houses that weren’t child proof. Which I understand if you don’t have kids. But maybe, perhaps, you could not act like it’s May 21, 2011 and the world is ending because my precocious two-year-old touched ceramic angel number 2,371. Maybe you could not say things like, “Gee, she keeps touching my things. Could you get her to stop that please?” Because two-year olds – they touch things. They touch everything. All. the. time. And try as I may, I have not yet figured out a way to get a toddler with the energy of a nuclear power plant to sit still for 3 hours straight. I know, I know, parenting fail on my part.
And then there’s the supermarket. The local supermarket, with a toddler in tow, is kind of like the unwritten circle of Dante’s Inferno for moms. Because they want the car carriage, but the car carriages are all gone, and are kind of like steering an 18 wheeler without power steering, and I just don’t have the patience for that right now. Cue tantrum one. And then the aisle with the whole grain crackers is the same aisle with the cookies you can’t have because they ALL have high fructose corn syrup and that makes your head explode. Cue tantrum two. Oh look, grapes! You want to eat them all now? You can’t, because I have to pay for them first. Cue tantrum three. By the time I’ve reached the check out line, we’ve experienced 3-5 full-blown tantrums and frequent bursts of whining at irregular intervals. And now the lady with no kids in tow is looking at me like I’ve never said, “No” to you in my life because the ONLY plausible explanation for your behavior is my complete and utter failure as a mom.
I'm not entirely sure what that is on the cover, but it looks like aisle 3.
Oh, and my favorite. The pediatrician’s office. Listen up people, because I’m about to unveil the cold, hard truth about doctor’s offices: sometimes they do things. Medical things. With cotton swabs. And *gasp* needles. So if my three-year-old is crying with abandon, I’m going to assume that your asking me why she’s crying is a rhetorical question and not a veiled attempt at asking, “Isn’t there something you can do to shut her up?” Because your tone really indicates otherwise. But I have to believe that, while sitting in a pediatrician’s office, you don’t actually need an explanation for the vocal cord extravaganza coming from the waiting room as I pay the copay.
I suppose I brought it on myself. I never should have, in my child-free naivety, judged those other moms. But here’s a lesson for us all: you don’t actually know why that kid is flailing his arms about as though he’s in a fight to the death with a swarm of killer bees. Maybe he has food allergies and someone gave him an orange cupcake. Maybe he has autism and that’s his only way of communicating right now. Maybe he’s just … two years old. Because sometimes, kids do that. They throw tantrums. In public. At fancy dinners. In the doctor’s office. And guess what? That mom over there, holding it all together despite her utter mortification and your judgmental stare? It’s not her fault.