She stood in front of me - all 30 pounds of her - her face red and contorted in sheer frustration. Tears were flowing freely down her sweet little cheeks. I looked down on her as she stood firm and refused to budge, and I felt angry and embarrassed. Both of us were standing in front of each other wanting the other to make it stop.
I could feel the stares. Their eyes burning a hole right into my back. I tried my best to avoid eye contact, but I could feel their judgment. It stung and brought tears to my eyes.
Our frustration levels continued to rise together as she grabbed and pulled at my sweater, and my mind raced between helping my daughter and proving the judgers wrong.
My head knew the way to make it stop. Logic told me that she was just getting over strep throat and still wasn’t feeling her best. I knew that she was just starting to get her appetite back and was probably hungry.
If I were a perfect parent, I would have ignored the strangers and focused on my daughter and her needs. I would have knelt down in front of her and given her a cuddle and a snack. I would have held her hand while we finished just the most urgent errands and then taken her home for a rest. I would have recognized that her meltdown was for a reason, because something was wrong, and that I could fix it.
Instead, I scolded her. I scolded when I should have given her some affection and some food. I scolded her because I was afraid that those around me were thinking me a bad parent. I scolded her because I was worried that these strangers - who knew nothing at all about my daughter - were making an assumption that she was a bratty and unruly kid.
My reaction was not the result of well-thought-out parenting. My reaction was based on the people around me who were passing judgment on me as a mother. The people who were making assumptions about my daughter. The strangers who didn’t know us.
It was not my finest moment as a parent, and I instantly regretted it.
How many times have I allowed the fear of being judged to impact the way I parent my kids? Does this happen to all of us at some point? Do we all have moments when we react to our children’s behaviour based on our fear of being judged by someone else?
I worry about what others are thinking of me and my parenting ability, because I know I have been guilty of passing judgment. I have watched a toddler throwing food in a restaurant and wondered why the parents weren’t stopping it. I have witnessed tantrums, fits, and outbursts, and I have sat back and thought "not my kid"... until one day it was my kid.
Until one day I realized that, instead of sitting in judgment, I should stand in support.
One day I was on the other side of the judgment, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t care about anyone else; I would attend to my kids needs instead of worrying what someone else thought about me or them. It’s a hard promise to keep.
I know that, eventually, I will find myself in a situation where I am overwhelmed and desperate and I will have to fight the urge to show complete strangers that I am not the weak parent they think I am.
I will have to dig down deep and find a way to show my child that I am exactly the parent that they need me to be, regardless of what anyone else thinks.