Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Judgments or Treasures?

I was at the grocery store this morning with my kids and Jude crawled into the bottom section of the cart, laying flat as if he were Superman. A man passed us and said to me, "he is about to get hurt". I smiled at him and said that I had just said the very same thing to Jude. He walked away, shaking his head at me in judgment. I assume the message was that I was too permissive or not protective enough. We moved on to the checkout line. Ronan said aloud that he wished he could have one of those balloons that were floating at each register. As the woman stopped checking us out and prepared to cut two balloons down, I interrupted her, thanking her for her generosity, but said that the kids behavior in the store did not win them a balloon (I left out the part about the fact that balloons always lead to tears at my house). Of course Ronan protested, but the woman momentarily gave me a look that seemed to say something like: "lighten up lady, don't be so strict." Hmmm. Too strict or too passive? Maybe both in different scenarios. While I don't expect people I meet in the grocery store to applaud me down every aisle for my parental consistency, for following through on my word, for allowing my kids to learn (some of) their own lessons when it won't kill them, for the decisions that I make based on my values and intentions...I wish that we, as a society were not so quick to judge others.

Judgements about parenting starts during pregnancy (or even before if you wait too long or start too early!). There are so many decisions to make and they many of them come with a certain degree of anxiety or guilt. Because there is so much anxiety and guilt, these decisions are typically made with plenty of consideration...and the opinions of others. Natural childbirth or epidural? Breast feeding or formula? Circumcision or not? Go back to work or stay at home? These decisions are just during infancy. There are thousands of decisions that follow those, and an endless supply of people to let you know how you are doing.

I can stress out about how the world views my parenting (and in my more difficult moments I confess that I do), or I can smile, thank the person for what I know is a good intention and see if I can learn anything from it as I walk away. Frankly I judge myself harshly enough (and so do my children) that I don't find I often need unsolicited outside consulting on most parenting decisions. I am not afraid to ask or read to educate myself when I feel I need help - in fact I am almost always in the middle of a book about some aspect of parenting or teaching.

A new friend recently gave me this beautiful idea for a project on finding the good in people. It is a Treasure Hunt involving people and the basic premise of the game is to talk to people you don't know, tell them that you are on a Treasure Hunt looking for the good in people and that you are looking for a compassionate person, a brave person, a thankful person, etc and ask them if they are one of them or know of someone who is. Then you listen while they share the good about themselves. I love how this looks for the good in people, how it emphasizes the importance of character in a non-judgmental way, and gets my family talking and listening to others. They guy who told me about this did it with homeless people and since we feed homeless people several times a month, it seems like a reasonable place to start, but it doesn't have to be the only place to find people with some good in them.

It is said that you get what you put out in this world. Perhaps looking for the good in me will allow me (and perhaps others) to see the good in me. Surely it will more good than be judgmental and that is reason enough to do it.

1 comment:

  1. Great post - I love the treasure hunt idea! I think the world would be a better place if more people had that outlook.

    I used to be so judgemental of parents BEFORE I had kids, and now I'm not (lol, I've learned how NOT easy it is ;) It's a matter of perspective - you can't really understand a situation fully from a brief encounter, so how can you judge? As parents we know our kids better than anyone, and have our own method of raising them, even though it may not make sense to the person walking by.