When I was a new mum it became pretty clear, pretty fast that if I wanted to establish meaningful relationships with other parents I was going to have to be a grown up and ditch the drama. It can be so tempting to judge away your own parental insecurities but, truly, the only way to get rid of those negative feelings is to find an awesome support group.
I wanted friends who had kids going through the same things and in the same schools. So, to make connections with other parents I had to open myself up and shut down the judgment.
I know it’s easy to make the decision to not engage, but harder to put it in to practice. I’m not perfect, but here’s some things I try to remember.
First off, we’re all doing our best while feeling like failures. This goes for SAHPs and working parents. Sure, she looks amazing in her power suit and his brownies are Ina-worthy, but how are they FEELING? Have you asked?
Empathize with other parents before jumping to conclusions about their pinterest perfect moment. Who knows what’s around their corner.
Secondly, try to apologize as much as you force your kid to. We’ve all made mistakes, said something we didn’t mean, or had seemingly innocent gossip catch up with us. I’ve spent so much time as a parent asking children to apologize over some inane thing, I decided to apply that to myself. If I go home from an interaction and feel weird about it, I deal with it right away.
Third, sometimes people brag about their kids. Let them. We ALL need a win! It doesn’t affect your child’s skills AT ALL. And if you have good friends they’ll let you do it too. Sure, as parents, the things we’re proud of are BEYOND ridiculous. If they can waterski, knit like the Pioneer Woman, or eat an oyster, none of these add up to the kind of human they’ll be, yet they’re the only guideposts we have at this point. Share in that parent’s pride, it’s the right thing to do.
Fourth, expand your bubble. It’s easy to start thinking one way of living, parenting, eating is the only way if you surround yourself with samesies. Start a conversation with that parent or grandparent you see every day and nod at on your way past. You know who I’m talking about. Your world will open up and your brain will have no choice but to be less judgmental. Sorry brain!
Fifth, treat other people’s children the way you want your's to be treated. A bad play date doesn’t equal a bad kid. In fact, five bad play dates doesn’t equal a bad kid. Kids are just kids and they might not all be your favourite, but you need to be kind and reserve judgment. The worst behaved child I ever babysat is a doctor now. Look at that! I might NEED him to chase me with a knife one day.
Finally, don’t be so sensitive. Your kid didn’t get invited to that party? That’s because your kid is genuinely not friends with the birthday girl. That’s okay. Or maybe he is, but, there are too many kids already invited. Your child WILL be fine, as long as YOU act fine. This applies to grown up parties too - not everyone can go to everything. Assume it’s not personal and move on.
Ultimately we get to make a choice. Are we gonna let our natural human insecurities get the better of us? Or are we going to, bit by bit, in tiny friendly increments, set a standard for our children that we can be proud of. I know you’ve told your kid everyone is the same inside, now prove it to them.