When It's Not OK To Judge Other's Parenting

Bringing up children, whether you have one, or seven, is hard work. If you're single, it's tough, if you have to agree on the way in which your children are raised with a co-parent, it's tough. Bringing up children on a budget is difficult, but the real trouble, the grind and hard work, is still there with wealth. There's no such thing as an easy ride when it comes to being a Mother, a Father, a Step Parent, a Foster Carer, or even a hands on Grandparent. It's bloody hard.

("family" cookie cutters are from Tesco, discontinued but you can get similar here.)

Which is why it surprises me that we all (and I include myself in this) like to have an opinion on how other people do it. We'll all sip a coffee with friends and start our sentences with "Now, I don't like to judge other people on how they choose to raise their children, but..." - and we compare our choices endlessly to those of other people. You can defend yourself on this one if you wish, claim an impartial "each to their own" attitude and assure me that you don't judge other parents, but here's the thing, if you believe that you are doing the right thing for your children in the manner that you choose to raise them, whatever that might mean to you, then your opinion is that you're parenting well... and as such you can not help but believe that there are others in the world who do it badly.

We judge people every day, based on how they look, what they are doing, how they speak, the book they're reading on the train, or what's in their shopping basket, it's perfectly normal human behaviour and we don't have to apologise for it - but when it comes to other people's kids... we're sometimes way too quick to jump to conclusions. 

There is a girl of about 8 or 9 whose brother goes to one of Seb's out-of-school-clubs. Whilst her brother is busy, she is largely left to her own devices, which, as far as I can tell, involves being revolting towards her Mother. This has been annoying me for weeks. I sit, takeaway coffee cup in hand, and listen to her berate her Mother for at least 30 minutes, on everything from why she needs money for biscuits to why it's only fair that she is taken to this event or that event, or that she must be bought new trainers. I don't like the child. Every week I want to grab her Mother by the shoulders and shout in her face "why are you taking this crap? Please. Make her shut up." I want to know why she sits there staring vacantly in to thin air whilst any other human makes demands upon the contents of her purse, without so much as saying please; least of all why she puts up with it from a child who she's going to release in to the adult world as a repugnant, rude little urchin who expects the rest of society to barf up her requirements. 

Then, other things happen, things that make me feel really bad.

 On Tuesday of this week I picked Seb up from school after he'd spent the previous night at his Dad's. It was one night, and actually, I got a good night's sleep and didn't have to run around in the morning panicking about breakfast and book bag, but there's nothing fun about being separated from your only child, and I'm still getting used to this arrangement following my separation. It aches and it's horrid, and I know that anyone who's ever separated from the "other parent" of their child(ren) will be familiar with that sick feeling that comes with having "a night off".

Once I'd picked Seb up and cuddled him profusely, we went to Tesco. Unremarkable, I know. Seb asked for doughnuts, I couldn't tell you whether or not he said please, I bought the doughnuts. He also wanted some ridiculously priced Danone yoghurt drinks, which I'd usually have objected to, but they went in to the basket. As we walked around the shop he said, and I quote "do you have work to do today Mummy?" to which I replied that I had some to get done, and his response, was, "do it when I've gone to bed. I want to use the computer to watch Clifford." This should really have lead me to drop-kick him head first through the self service checkouts and in to the collection bin for the local food bank, but alas, I just ruffled his hair a bit and smiled. 

I thought after this shopping episode, about the Mother with the appalling daughter. I realised that anyone listening to or watching me shopping with Seb on Tuesday must have thought exactly what I think during that 30 minute coffee drinking session. I realised that maybe I shouldn't be so quick to shake people by the shoulders. For all I know, that woman collects her daughter from her Dad's on the same day every week, just like me, and would give all of the cookies, dance workshops and new trainers in the world to spend every day with her forever. 

I can't promise that I can stop making unfair and irrational assumptions about people based on how they and their children behave around one another, but it comes back to that golden piece of advice:

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

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