Saturday, November 16, 2013

The stuff I used to judge ...

Before I was a mom, well, let's just say I wish I could go back and slap myself in the face for judging any other parent ever in the history of the world. Except when I judged "Mommie Dearest." I think that was the only one that was OK to have an opinion on.

The truth is, parents are doing the best we can. As much as I thought to my "wiser" (read: wiseass) self, "Oh, when I'm a mom, I won't _____(fill in the blank)___ like that mom over there," I had no right to even have an opinion. Even if it was a positive one. Because you don't know until you are a parent.

That said, I do a lot of things pre-mom Emily would judge. And as much as that was a burden to me, I'm also starting to learn to remember how naive I was so I can ignore some judgment I may feel from others. Even if there aren't any signs of judgment, I make a decision and feel like my decision will be judged by every single person I encounter.

"You let her pick out her own outfits? How is she supposed to learn style?"
My mom let me pick my own outfits. On not one, but two occasions in fifth grade, I wore a white button up shirt with teal polka dots tucked into a pair of black parachute pants with huge neon flowers all over them. My mom let me out of the house like that. I don't blame her, I think I deserved any ridicule I received and I needed that life lesson that I am not fashion forward. I don't have the eye for it. And it's OK. I'm OK with sticking with classics and maybe accessorizing with something I saw on Pinterest or a magazine. It works with who I am, my lifestyle and my budget.

She not only picked out her shirt, but mine as well that day.
She has a thing for pink stripes, I guess.

"You let her snack whenever she wants?"
I had a bad relationship with food because I secretly chose to stuff my face with snacks that weren't healthy. And, to hide from my mom that I was snacking so much, I would still eat a full dinner. It wasn't good. I hid my eating habits so much, it really had a lasting effect on my eating habits. With L., I've noticed she eats for fuel and sometimes because she just wants something that tastes good in her mouth. She has the option of fruits, yogurt and, our recent favorite, popcorn, which I keep pretty plain and just leave out and she grazes on it throughout the afternoon. And, when we're in public, sometimes just to get through the checkout line without a meltdown, there is a pouch of snacks in my purse at my disposal. Another thing she knows that I didn't was sometimes, she's just thirsty. I've gotten her to drink more water by means of filling up MY plastic cup with a straw and letting her think she's "stealing it." Somehow, stolen food and drink just tastes so much better.

"You're divorced? You should have stayed together for your daughter."
This judgment isn't said out loud. But I know it's there. Especially when people find out how young L. was when her father and I separated. I don't take these judgments too much to heart since the circumstances that led to this decision ultimately made divorce the only option. When we realized the marriage was not salvageable, we both had to put L.'s needs first. Soon, lifestyle changes, family pressures and emotions snuck their way in, but thanks to a mediator, we've gotten to a place where we can communicate and keep L. as our No. 1 priority. If we had stayed together because of L., we wouldn't be able to be ourselves. We would be living a lie and, ultimately, we would be unhappy. I lived with parents who prolonged their unhappy marriage for me and once they finally got a divorce, they were both much better people.

The list of judgments will always go on. I'll always hear them in my mind, whether they are spoken or not. And, frankly, with my personality, I'll always make up probably the majority of things I worry about because I hold myself to an unreasonably high standard, of which I usually fall short.

The Mark Twain statue/bench in downtown Fairfield
almost two years ago. I think it's time to revisit our old friend soon.

I finally started to realize how much judgment shouldn't affect me when I needed to go to Target for groceries and diapers and L. had her usual fit when I tried to put her in the seat of the cart. She does not like those seats. The only way I've gotten her to sit in a cart is by getting the cart made for FOUR kids and having her facing away from me as I steered this lunking thing around. This thing, if you've never used one, is probably equivalent to pushing around a small elephant on rollerskates. My other option is to shop and put her in her stroller while awkwardly carrying an overflowing basket.

Finally one day, I had it. It was probably in my one week a month where the filter on my mouth is gone and I instinctively seek out any solution that makes life that much more bearable. I had to go to Target and I wanted to actually enjoy my trip there.

Target, to me, is like church to others: I may not know what I'm going for, but I always feel like I've accomplished something when I leave. Insulated travel cup for $2 you say? Why, yes, in fact I completely forgot I've been looking for one for the past few months!

When I rolled the cart to the car door to get L. into it, she took one look and the screaming began. "No cart, no cart, no cart, no cart!" She clung to me like I was trying to put her in bubbling lava. I looked at the basket in the front. I knew she could sit still when told to. I grabbed some toys from the backseat to keep her occupied and had her sit in the basket of the cart. She thought it was awesome. A little pen all for herself. She had her toys, she was being wheeled around, when she tried to stand up, I would stop the cart and remind her to sit on her butt and she would. Are you reading that correctly? MY 2-YEAR-OLD WAS LISTENING TO ME! It was amazing! I didn't notice any dirty looks (I was too preoccupied having my hawk-like mom eyes on her anyway) and no one said anything. I got to put my clunky bag in the seat and L. had fun looking at everything I was placing in the cart.

Now we go to Target and I feel I get stronger every time. She sits in the cart and I usually find something in the $1 bins as we walk in that keeps her occupied the entire time. When she gets antsy at the end when we're waiting in line, I can hand her my phone or a snack and she sits down and waits patiently.

Before I had L. and probably even when I had L. and she was small enough to remain in her carseat safely harnessed within a cart, I judged parents who let their kids ride in the basket of the cart. But I had no idea the extent to which a 2-year-old's screaming would drive someone to give up casual experiences such as a trip to Target. And sometimes the giving up the idea of perfection is the only way to actually accomplish what needs to be done.
Not one but TWO happy Target shoppers!
The dream I didn't know I had
finally came true.