Moms judge other moms.
Heck, dads judge other dads and non-parents judge parents and EVERYONE is going to judge you based on how your kids act in public. It's a fact. But I had a few incidents in the last week where I felt pretty convicted to reserve my judgment.
Last week, I went with Rob and his family to Los Cucos, one of our favorite local Mexican places with great food AND a patio with a playground. It's perfectly okay for my boys to play, run back for a bite, play run back for a bite, and so it's one of the only restaurants I like going to with them.
It had just rained, so the playground was full of puddles and just generally very brown and wet. Rob told the boys not to run or jump in the puddles, but they could play around them or in the dirt. (They love bringing cars and making roads in the dirt. Generally we come home very brown whether it's wet or dry.) A few minutes after we got there, this other large family arrived with kids a few years older than ours. They were all dressed a little bit too nicely for a muddy patio, I thought, but the mom let them play. Except she gave this warning: "Now don't you get dirty!"
Are you judging? I totally was.
[I will make a brief aside here--I DO think as parents we should do our best NOT to set our kids up for failure. Sending them in fancy clothes out onto a muddy playground and saying don't get dirty? That's setting them up for failure. Sometimes we just don't think through what we're asking of our kids and should make sure we are being realistic for their age and the environment.]
Now, back to my judging. I definitely snickered and Rob and I kind of shook our heads. During the middle of dinner, I heard the mother loudly saying, "Excuse me! Excuse me!" It took me a moment to realize that she was talking to ME. "Your children," she said, "are playing IN the puddle."
Rob and I exchanged another glance (which was a step away from another snicker) and he leaned out of patio to see what the boys were doing. The boys were not IN the puddle, but were sitting at its edge, running their cars into it and around it. Rob and I were both totally okay with that, since they were obeying his rule of not getting INTO the puddle, so we thanked the woman with a wave and went on with dinner.
Lincoln came in from the patio saying, "Help, Mommy!" Dirty, dirty boy.
I've recounted this story several times since, and every time, made it clear that I felt the woman was being unrealistic. Everyone agreed with me. But every time, I felt guilty because I was passing down the same judgment on her that she passed on me. In fact, she may genuinely have been trying to be helpful, not judgmental, when she told us our kids were in the puddle. They were around the corner of the playground so not in our direct sight. Whereas there was nothing at all helpful in my scoffing attitude.
Today I had another run-in with a parent of a different variety. While Saw was in school, I took Linc shopping and then to Chick Fil A. He was playing on the playground and another little boy sort of attacked him, scratching his arm until it bled and grabbing onto and pinching his face. It happened so quickly that I was barely able to get over and rescue Linc, who bravely endured while saying, "NO! NO!" rather than striking back. The mother had just disappeared outside of the play area because another of her three children had intentionally dumped an entire 16 ounce container of OJ into the floor.
I told the little boy he needed to be kind and gentle, not to pinch, but about ten minutes later, he again went after Lincoln and tried to tackle him into the floor. At this point, the mother stepped in and told all her children they were leaving. Then one of them ran and tried to hide, leaving her scrambling to get all three kids out of the play area. She looked like she was about to cry.
Generally speaking, we all kind of make assumptions about parents based on how their kids act in public places. Sometimes those assumptions are true. Sometimes not. And you know what? Unless we know them really well and see the backdrop of their life, we won't know for sure.
Maybe this mom needs to discipline her kids more at home. Maybe she does a great job but they are just really willful. Maybe their Dad just walked out on the family and everyone is acting out because they're hurting. Maybe she's embarrassed to correct her kids in public, or because the other moms there were not having the same issues. Maybe she's not doing a great job and her kids are just kind of jerks.
The thing is that I DON'T KNOW.
I have no idea what happened this morning to that family, or last night. I don't know the joys and struggles or the events that might shape their moods and influence their behavior.
Years back I remember having breakfast with Amber, one of the girls in the youth group when Rob and I were dating (happy birthday, Amber!!) and talking about Oswald Chambers's My Utmost for His Highest. I won't remember the context or the part of the book, but in one passage, Chambers said basically just this: we need to extend grace because there is a whole world of back story that we just don't know. Here's a more amazing thing to think about: Romans 5:7-8 says that while we were still his enemies, Jesus DIED for us. How about that picture of extending grace? He knew our back story, and our back story was not that we deserved grace. Yet still he gave it fully by giving his very life.
I wish today that I would have helped this mom out, or at least offered a hand when she was struggling to get her kids out. I have had a few times where my kids have made it really hard for me in public and I have wrestled them to the car and just cried. I may not have wanted help in those moments, but an offer of help is an offer of grace, and that is always preferable to just seeing people stare, not knowing if they are staring in judgment, or because they feel sorry for you, or, like me today, because they were wondering if they should help.
I will most likely always let my kids get dirty, unless it's a special occasion. I will do my best to discipline them and not let them go nuts in public or at home. I will try not to set them up for failure. But I will also FAIL. And they will fail. I will have disastrous outings and times at home where nothing goes as planned, even if my planning is excellent.
I hope that you will have grace with me. And I want to have that same grace with others. That grace means reserving my mom judgment, EVEN if we don't do things the same way. That grace means extending an offer of help to another parent who might be in need. That grace may also mean not taking it personally if someone is passing their mom judgment on me.
Have you been a victim of mom judgment lately? Or like me, the perpetrator of it? Not to be too Kumbaya, but I think the world might be a little better if we passed grace on, not judgment.