Once, in public, I saw somebody yelling at their child for misbehaving, and then making what was obviously an empty threat, should their writhing offspring fail to pull herself together. I exchanged glances with my husband, remarking under my breath that those parents would undoubtedly benefit from taking a Love and Logic course.
The next day, my daughter realized she had forgotten her lunchbox when we were halfway to the bus stop. Returning home to retrieve it would likely cause us to miss the bus, but she made a mad dash anyway. We missed the bus. I stood in the middle of the street, yelling with frustration, suppressing my “F’s” and “GD’s” with furious “JC’s,” and telling her that since I would now be late for work, she would forfeit a week’s worth of television shows.
Pot, meet kettle. It was not my proudest moment as a parent. In fact, I am nearly in tears as I recall my sensitive daughter’s response to my anger.
One morning as I drove to work through a construction zone, I cursed angrily under my breath as an oblivious driver attempted to merge into my lane at the last second. How rude.
Later that same day I approached the construction area again, this time as the oblivious driver who waited too long to merge. When the car next to me sped up and refused to let me in, I once again cursed angrily under my breath at his rudeness. Then I remembered that earlier in the day, I was the jerk who wouldn’t allow the late-merger to enter my lane. Hmmm.
As I was making my bed last week, I grumbled about my husband’s discarded jeans and shorts lying in a heap by the side of his bed. I mean, seriously, how hard it is to pick up your clothes and throw them in the laundry basket?
Then I noticed the pile of workout clothes and pajama pants sitting approximately one foot away from the laundry basket in my own closet.
Noticing a pattern here? Hi, I’m Stephanie, and I’m an actively practicing Hypocrite. Why is it so hard to refrain from judging others? Our spouses, complete strangers, and most typically, fellow parents are potential candidates for closed-mindedness, judgment, and lack of compassion. I think we all do it, and it seems like the circumstances are highly variable. On the one hand, it is easy to judge another parent for making a choice that is different from our own. (Mommy Wars, anyone?) But sometimes we pass judgment on those who may not be very different from us at all. As I gazed critically at the Angry Mom at Target who was berating her child, I recognized a quality about myself that causes me great shame- my temper and tendency to overreact.
The bad-traffic-manners incidents really gave me pause; clearly, there was no particular type of merging protocol that I found offensive- I was irritated when I was the merger, and I was irritated when I was the mergee. (Yes, that is now an official word to be added to the Driver’s Education Manual.) No matter which side I was on, I was advocating for my own well being. It was simply the other driver’s “other-ness” with which I found fault.
I notice this annoyance with “other-ness” frequently in my own home, most regularly when I evaluate the double standards I have with my husband. I can find it despicable that he leaves his hat and keys in the middle of my freshly tidied kitchen table, but I have no problem whatsoever with leaving my shoes/sweater/yoga pants in the middle of a walkway. It’s as though we all (ok, at least I do) go through our days unconsciously trying to protect ourselves from any enemy attacks- be they on our sense of morals, traffic efficiency, tolerance for clutter, or any other host of offenses.
Last year, during the height of the tired old “Mommy Wars,” I wrote a post called Mothers in Glass Houses. While I was greatly irritated by the continuing onslaught of media attention given to working moms vs SAHMs, breast vs bottle moms, and the never-ending discussion on the “barbaric” practice of sleep training, I also admitted something that made me uncomfortable. While I prided myself on not looking down on people for having different opinions than I did on childcare, feeding, sleeptraining, or educational choices, I was still prone to criticizing other moms for less crucial parenting decisions.
In Mothers Who Live in Glass Houses, I made a snide remark about the dad who was texting at the play area, knowing all the while that I was just as likely to eagerly open up Facebook on my iPhone as soon as my kids were playing. I rudely labeled the “Moms Who Were Trying Too Hard To Be Stylish,” when I too had spent an embarrassing amount of time getting ready for a night out with friends. Where was this hostility coming from? Surely these parents posed no threat to me, aside from their “other-ness?”
It seems that this sense of judgment is unconscious most of the time, so I am making an effort to bring it to the forefront of my consciousness. The next time I grumble about someone cutting me off in traffic, or leaving a pile of dishes in the sink, or losing their temper in public, I will try to remember to put myself in their shoes. Have I ever been guilty of the exact same offense? Chances are, the answer is yes. And difficult as it may be, I am going to try my best to quit flicking pebbles at this great glass infrastructure in which we all live.
Oh, and in completely unrelated news, aka “My Real Life,” I released my first children’s CD this week: Songs That Won’t Annoy Your Parents (Too Much). If you have ever attended my early childhood music classes (I’m a music therapist) you may be interested in checking it out! Or, if you are just dying to hear me sing old classics like Baby Beluga and Puff the Magic Dragon (I know- it’s awfully tempting) you can find out more information or even buy a CD on my website here.
And look at this awesome cover! My fabulous friend and FTSF co-host, Kristi of Finding Ninee, designed it for me! You should head over there and tell her what a great job she did… Thanks Kristi!
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post.
This week’s sentence was: “Once, in public, I saw someone…”
Next week’s sentence is: “The best part of my day is….”
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