Why do I let myself get so wrapped up in a stranger’s judgment of my parenting?
The other day I had a doctor’s appointment, and Peeper came with me. It went long, and then it turned out I had to get blood drawn. Peeper had been a champion the entire time, but I didn’t know how much longer her good behavior would last.
As the phlebotomist was taking my blood, Peeper played in the little room, which was shared with other patients. She was entertaining herself quietly and I couldn’t believe my luck. When she got down on the floor and started scooting around on her belly (“Pool! Swimming!”), I didn’t object. I figured pretend breaststroke was better than her throwing a fit or my ineffectively telling her “no” while literally hooked up to a needle.
Another phlebotomist walked in and scowled. “The floor is dirty. The floor is really dirty,” she said to no one in particular.
I was incensed.
That kind of passive-aggressive judgment is unhelpful and presumptuous. I can’t think of a single parent who needs to be informed that the floor is dirty. Common sense tells us that, but if we let a child play on the floor anyway, there’s probably a good reason—like the fact that there’s an empty vial stuck into one’s vein.
On the other hand, Peeper and I went to lunch the next day at Whole Foods. She finished eating, but I still had half a sandwich to go. She got down from her seat and had pushed our cart next to the silverware station.
When another diner got up to put away his plate, I went to move the cart. “Don’t worry about it,” he smiled. “Kids will be kids.”
The stranger’s compassionate understanding made my afternoon. I hadn’t been feeling great, Peeper had been bopping me in the face with her new balloon, and all I wanted was to finish my meal.
Maybe it’s a new(ish) mom thing, but I spend more time than I should worrying that my child is inconveniencing others. A certain level of courtesy should be standard, of course, but I so appreciate it when strangers extend that courtesy to her.
Peeper, as an 18-month-old, is learning about the world every second. Today’s lesson was in moving a shopping cart back and forth, not in making sure a lane was open for strangers to throw away their forks. She also saw someone shrug off a minor inconvenience and offer a smile instead of snark. That has to teach her something, too.
Perhaps the lesson I need to work on is not gracing the rude comments of others with my attention. I have too many other worthwhile things to think about—why waste my energy on the negativity of a brief encounter? (I’ve been working on this one a while—see my earlier post Swearing Off Parenting Advice—and I’ll likely continue to struggle with it.)
While I work on that, I’ll soak up the oh-so-welcome kindness strangers pass to this often-harried mama. Thank you, guy at Whole Foods. And thanks to all you others who smile or laugh or assure me my whirlwind of a daughter isn’t bothering you. On a rough day, it means the world.