It’s been a while since I wrote. Maybe you missed me or maybe you didn’t notice. I did write, but like most writers, only a small percentage of what I write ever shows up where others will read, and lately, most of my writing was crap. Writing is one of those things I file under my mom-judging practice. I know…. there’s no point in that. (My self-criticism was mitigated after listening to the inaugural episode of #AmWriting With Jess and KJ as they celebrated procrastination and writing.). A story on the Today Show this week reminded me how unproductive mom-judging is, no matter what the source, so it was time to stop judging and revise some writing.
Most of us do shame and judge ourselves at some point unless we work hard to combat the tiny heckler that rides on our shoulder. When I’m aware enough to notice that heckler, I try to say hello and then I say goodbye. Sort of like welcoming an unexpected guest to a cocktail party and quickly dispatching them on an unsuspecting guest who will engage in conversation with them when you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do it yourself.
I’m also aware of how often we – parents, teachers, caregivers – all judge each other and ourselves. My curiosity was piqued by my friend Cynthia’s post, Keeping Things Cool, where she identifies the many flaws in Judy Judgers‘ visits and why we need to keep our own Judy under wraps, or at least far away from us at the internal cocktail party. Judging others rarely serves us, right? If you really feel the need to speak your truth to friend or foe, then for goodness’ sake, take a deep breath and find a way to do this respectfully, maybe even in the future when you can respond rather than react. Nothing wrong with constructive criticism nor speaking the truth, but there is also no need to rush to judgment, inflict shame, or rip someone apart just for sport.
If you’re a parent, you know this happens, and not just with kids. I’ve witnessed moms in coffee shops look at strangers and wonder aloud how she got out of the house “like that.” I’ve heard parents muse about how one could simply “not” get their kids into SAT tutoring as high school freshmen. I’ve heard men speak unkindly about the physical appearance of another guy’s wife. As a teacher, I’ve wondered what makes a parent send a first grader with a lunch that is 97% refined sugar. And then there was a period when people wondered how I let my four-year-old son out of the house in a Disney Princess bikini (in retrospect, the bigger issue was why we even owned such a sequined-get-up).
I’ve also witnessed, and participated in, the self-shaming that comes when Judy Judger looks in the mirror.
- “Ugh…should I bring my kid his homework/lunch/cleats?”
- “My daughter hates me because I took her phone away.”
- “I really need to make my kids a more healthy snack/dinner/breakfast.”
- “My teen hates me… I can’t seem to say anything right.”
- “I should really purchase clothes from this decade.”
These are real and they could even be your thoughts. Some of these are old-fashioned natural consequences – often hard for kids and parents to accept. Forgot the homework? The kid will learn new skills so she’s more likely to remember next time. Take a phone away? If it’s related to the misbehavior, he’ll learn actions have consequences. Need more healthy meals – enlist the kids to help out since you’re definitely not the only one who eats.
The point is, we are all imperfect. We mess up, we learn to fix things, we learn to move through the tough stuff. It’s easy for Judy Judger to show up when we’re feeling stressed, vulnerable, and human. But that does not mean you need to engage in conversation with her.
Parenting and family life is messy for everyone. It doesn’t need to be complicated by judgment. We each have skills, strengths, and flaws. Our kids, whether they are four or seventeen, need to see us as flawed humans who are doing our best and who are lucky enough to have the support of others. They need to see us struggle, fail, and pick ourselves up. They need to see us exercise the compassion to help others do the same.
Even though you feel like you have so much control and influence over your kids’ lives, the day will come (very) soon when you will not be able to shield them from struggles. They will need the skills to navigate challenges on their own and they will experience failure. Our mission as parents is to raise them to fly solo – with us to observe, listen, and coach.
They can’t do this if they see witness us judging ourselves and others as if we expect perfection.
Let’s make room to allow ourselves and our kids do their best, live with natural consequences and learn from the process. We’re all in this together – and we will be better – if we just sequester Judy Judger and instead, act with compassion, honesty, and integrity towards ourselves and others.