I think it was George Carlin who famously said anyone who drives slower than you is an idiot and anyone who drives faster than you is an asshole. It’s funny, like so many things, because it resonates. You are your own frame of reference. You’ve decided the “right” speed limit. Maybe it’s a bit under or a bit over the posted MPHs, but it’s your “correct.” Everyone else is some type of wrong.
It’s the same thing with parenting. You are the norm. You’ve decided which battles are worth fighting and which are worth letting go. You’ve struck what you’ve come to decide (through so many painful lessons) is the right balance. Others, in comparison, are either controlling their schedule too tightly or controlling their children too loosely. They are either letting nap time rule their life or letting their children ruin every one else’s. These are the assholes and the idiots of parenting. Except you’re not just sharing the road with them, you’re sharing society.
This is rarely a problem. We may mutter under our breath or bitch to our spouses in what is the protective rolled up car window of our lives. We rarely enter into road rage-equivalent territory because we can simply cocoon ourselves into our nuclear family world with a turn of the key or a click of the garage remote.
That is, unless we share any significant amount of time with anyone who is currently, has been, or has ever HAD a parent. All these folks, whether they admit it or not, have opinions about the right speed limit, which battles are worth fighting and which are worth letting go. And it’s doubtful that it’s the same as mine. I remember this on every family vacation and every get-away with friends. I feel it as the nanny and I watch each others’ child care decisions.
In my case, I’m more wondering if I am being seen as an idiot or an asshole than judging others – though that often comes into to, if I’m being honest. I feel it when I am laying down the law (“you will NOT get that lollipop until you finish you dinner”) and causing a small person shriek so loud that polite conversation is impossible or when I am giving in to a tantrum to quiet the noise. I’m either letting my inflexibility get in the way of everyone’s good time or a sucker to my kids whims.
Truth is I’m lucky. My family or in-family never call me out on ANY of my parenting decisions. They don’t meddle and they don’t seem to judge. But I know they have opinions.
OK. Granted, I’m a touch neurotic and insecure, so that plays into this. Maybe other people confidently plow ahead with their parenting credo, onlookers be damned. But I don’t think I’m entirely alone here either. We all feel judged a bit.
I’ve said this before, but I think this is one of the fundamental stresses of modern parenting. The fact that we all forge our own distinct parenting style, choosing from dozens of different disciplines and philosophies, means we are playing off different scripts. It makes it harder to have any kind of a village raising a child and it makes you more likely to be the object criticism and to harshly judge others. I know more structured parents who literally cannot hang out with the free-rangers.
What do you guys think? Am I alone here? Do you feel judged or do you no longer care? (I’m getting there) Do you judge others?