“One young mother[…]often felt people were sometimes patronizing, almost always without meaning to be, because the advice she got or even the compliments she received seemed to reflect nothing of the mental investment, the spiritual and emotional exertion, the long-night, long-day, stretched-to-the-limit demands that sometimes are required in trying to be and wanting to be the mother God hopes she will be.”- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, reading a letter from a young mom
When I became a mom, there were 3 things I swore to myself I would never do:
1. I would never judge another parent when their child is throwing a terrible tantrum-especially in public (unless there is obvious abuse going on). To paraphrase that well-known Forest Gump phrase: "Kids are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get!" I have learned painfully again and again that there are way too many people out there who think they are the experts of other peoples children! It drives me crazy when I see someone in a store have merely glanced at a child having a meltdown in a grocery store and make an arrogant comment like: "oh they just need to do __ and the child would be fine. Its really the parents fault the child is acting that way." Really? Are you kidding me? I think that maybe the parent might know their child a little bit better than you, a perfect stranger, seeing how they have been with them since day one and you have only witnessed a small moment of what I would call "one of those days." Now I am not saying that all parents are created equal. I know there are plenty of terrible and completely clueless parents out there and it angers me when I have to hear about them on the 10'o clock news. All I am getting at here is that we need to try to give people (especially parents) the benefit of the doubt before we make snap judgments. And I will admit, I use to be one of those people rolling my eyes when I saw a toddler scream back at their parents (and I didn't even have kids at the time!) But now that I have a very "spirited" toddler of my own and my eyes have been opened, I can appreciate and understand that most of us are really just doing the best we know how. So to all of you experts out there, if you see me at Wal-Mart with my son screaming because he won't sit in the shopping cart because he is overly excited with his new found ability of walking, please, please offer a sympathetic glance rather than a critical one. :)
2. I would never compare my child to another persons child. OK I guess I should be complete honest her: Every parent compares; its natural and immediate when we see or hear about someones child who seems so much more advanced (or behind) than your own. But I usually just tell myself that every child is unique and develops at their own pace, and try not to get caught up in it. Thus, I have vowed to never say to someone, "Oh she isn't crawling/walking/talking yet? That's weird." The implication of such a thoughtless statement is "There is something wrong with your child. My child is obviously superior or smarter than yours." If you read my last post, you would know that Toby is large for his age. And he looked really funny when at 12 months he was content to just crawl down the hallways at church, when most of the kids that were walking were much smaller than him. Needless to say I was ticked when a guy who had a son about Toby's age made a snide remark about how he couldn't believe he wasn't walking yet. I tried to point out that he was just barely a year old and that he still had plenty of time to join mankind- he was just enjoying life on all fours. Even still, he had to rub in that his son was walking at 11 months. I almost felt snapping back at him with "Yeah I and I am sure he's going to be a famous Olympic track star because he walked at 11 months!" But I remembered where we were and bit my tongue (and made a mental note to avoid that particular hallway of our church during Sunday School).
3. This last one happened just today and was the inspiration behind today's post. I swear I will never belittle or discount the struggles and challenges of another parent. Again, if you have read any of my previous posts you have probably gotten a pretty good idea about the rambunctious little boy that keeps me on my toes. Even my own mom (who raised 7 children!) admits that Toby is quite a handful to watch (and that's usually only for a couple of hours). I had to laugh when my dad watched Toby for about an hour while Nick and I were house hunting and upon my return said, "Wow Debbie, now I know why you are tired all time!" OK I am not trying to say that my son is the most difficult child ever born or that I have it SO much harder than other people because I know that is definitely not true. I believe every parent has challenges and hardships unique to their situation. I also believe that every parent universally understands what the words exhaustion and frustration take on completely different meaning the moment you become a parent. Thus, most parents should be able to sympathize better than anyone else when we have "one of those days" with our child . So you can understand my frustration when I am exhausted from a tough week with my son and then receive a remark from one of those "experts" who thinks my son is just going through a stage like every other 14 month old and she has seen much, much worse. I should mention this person is from my church and drops in monthly to check up on my sister and me (you fellow Mormons know her as a "visiting teacher"). I use to look forward to those visits because it gave me a chance to vent and just unwind about anything and everything. But I have learned time and time again from my VT that my son is no big deal and that I am really making a mountain out of a molehill. AHH! Again, I am not trying be a martyr. I am not avidly seeking to get an award that says "World's Toughest Child". All I want is a little validation. Someone to say: "Yeah I know. Its tough isn't it? I have been there too and know just how you feel. Hang in there though. Things will get better." I do NOT like hearing: "I have met SO many other kids that are much more difficult than your son."
*Sigh* OK I got that out of my system. Sometimes all it takes is one blog post to de-stress me. I feel much better now and think that maybe I should rely on my online writing for validation rather than my monthly visits. :)