Thursday, September 3, 2009

Being judged sucks

I wish I could just shrug it off. I wish I weren't already judging myself so harshly anyway. I wish I were not so sensitive and hurt when people judge me in public.*

I wish I could even pretend it doesn't hurt. It's embarrassing to admit it hurts, and I feel quite vulnerable as well for yet another "weakness" of mine.

But it hurts. And even though there's a period where anger flares and I want to reply with a pointed comeback (afterward, of course; always delayed reaction--and I wouldn't say it anyway), my final reaction (after the embarrassment, the guilt, some anger, and then more guilt) is always sorrow.

Sorrow that I'm not being a "good enough" mom. Sorrow that someone else--who doesn't know me, or all my children's ups and downs--is making a snapshot judgment based on maybe a 30 second slice of observation, and from that quick observation, perceives my children to be hooligans and/or me to be a lenient/negligent mom.

Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words (and even just looks and/or whispers) hurt much, much more.

*What happened tonight:
It's the very end of summer, my boys have spent all their time with me while school is out, and being in and out of stores while I run my errands is the last thing that they want to do. Tonight I ran in to Walmart for a handful of items after we had shared a lovely dinner and browsed through BabiesRUs. The boys were bored and bouncy, and I let them each push a cart, which they thought was hilarious to connect the three together by holding onto each succeeding cart.

I didn't see any harm in this, because it kept their attention and they were playing together (key emphasis on PLAYING, not FIGHTING) so that I could focus on my shopping. I did reprimand them several times whenever I thought they were being too boisterous or not courteous if someone else was in the same isle as us. I also let Jeffrey take the other two to the bathroom to buddy system so Nathan could go potty, and they were very playful as they came back.

However, the store was nearly empty, it was almost 10 pm & was our last stop of the evening. (Remember it's the end of summer, and Rob's at work anyway; there was no incentive be home and in bed by 8 pm. Plus, managing time well is certainly one of my HUGE deficiencies)

I paused as we were walking out, and showed Jeffrey a magnifying glass in an office supply isle, and we all enjoyed seeing how cool it was, and I mentioned he could come back and buy it with his money if he wanted to.

Then I said "Come on, we're leaving," and started heading out of the isle. Because my children do not come (clearly another shortcoming of my parenting skills) immediately, and I am impatient, I just start walking toward the checkout, saying, "Well, it was nice knowing you," which for some reason is normally a cue line for them and then they come.

Except they didn't. I got around the corner from the isle, now out of sight, and walked past about two more isles, then paused and turned back when I realized they hadn't followed.

At the same moment two employees passed me and quickly overtook the isle they were in. Apparently, my kids had *just then* decided it was fun to jump in and out of the carts. The employees were swift and firm in stopping the boys, which was appropriate, and I appreciate, even though I was mad at myself they they had to intervene since the children's parent, me, wasn't right with them like I should have been.

I was only 2 feet from the employees & my kids, barely blocked by a middle-isle display, opening my mouth to thank the employees and apologize for having walked away from my kids.

Right then, a woman who must have come closer when she heard the boys being reprimanded, turned to the two employees and said, with much disdain in her voice, something to the effect of "These boys are just awful. I've seen them all over the store," and a few more sentences pretty much saying they were out of control (and inferred that they were completely unattended).

I just caught a glimpse of her hair and clothes, because I didn't step forward enough to see her face or let her see the mom she was scathingly judging (and goodness forbid I was going to let her see I was pregnant with yet another child and think "What's wrong with her? She can't even handle the children she has! And she'll let the next one run wild too!"). But even though I didn't see her face, I know I had not seen her one other time in the store, and can only assume she saw the boys going to or from the bathroom, which I do admit they did quite jovially (which was actually sweet to me; I thought they were cute).

Anyway, her words still shouldn't affect me. I certainly wasn't being an effective mom; if I had been right with my children I would have stopped them immediately if they had attempted jumping into or out of the carts. This woman was a stranger. The employees were in the right, and, in fact, I was quite grateful for their intervention and was embarrassed that not 10 seconds from the time I walked away from them, they were being dangerous. I should have stayed with them, and of course now will not leave their side, nor will I allow them to buddy system to the bathroom without me anymore.

But it does affect me. I'll never see this woman again, yet now I wonder if the other handful of Walmart shoppers were also disgusted with my boisterous children and thinking, "What a terrible mother. What terrible children."

And I shouldn't care whether or not they think that. People are always judging, and I admit that I judge too. We all do. But I also try to stop myself and say, "You know what, I don't know their situation, and it's not mine to judge." Or give people the benefit of the doubt: "It may be that if they knew some effective techniques, they would be so happy to know they have the power over many teaching situations." I know how thrilled I've been every time I learn new tools and techniques in effectively raising my children, and sometimes think, "Oh, if I only knew this last year!"

Regardless, I shouldn't care what other people think. I know when I'm a good mom, and I know where my strengths lie, even if people don't happen to see the snapshots of the effective moments. I am also quite self-conscious of my ever-frustrating weaknesses. And then there are areas I don't consider myself deficient, but where I am quite lax because I don't see them as "deal-breakers" (i.e. dangerous situations) or battles I'm going to pick. I am ok with that, because I know my children, and I know how much they learn from natural consequences, and I try not to let it bother me if others are unapproving of those situations. So why do I care what other people think? And why does it hurt so much?

Maybe because usually I don't hear it spoken out loud, I can only wonder if someone might be judging, and quickly assume that they're probably thinking quite little abt. me and more abt. their own life?

I just wish people would realize that most of us are judging ourselves pretty harshly already and we don't need other people to heap on more judgment so we can feel even more guilty and disappointed in ourselves.


Katie said...

I think that you are a great mom. Sorry that you were hurt.

Emily said...

One of my friends just posted about a similar experience- someone judging her out loud in a store. So frustrating! I know what you mean- I am really affected by what people think of me, too. I think you're a wonderful person and mother. It's a good reminder when something like this happens to me that I should always give people the benefit of the doubt instead of judging them based on the 20 seconds I've seen of them.

Kimbooly said...

Thank you Katie and Emily for your words; I wasn't fishing for compliments or affirmations, just needed to process my feelings "out loud," if a blog post can be considered out loud. Usually Rob can be my soundboard, but right now he's so busy with work. I don't think he got home until 2 am.

Kimbooly said...

ps. Emily, I'd like to read your friend's similar post.

Rus said...

I'm so sorry Kimberly! You are a fabulous mom, don't listen to her. If it's any consolation I know exactly how you feel. I think people have a tendency to think they could do my kids better than I can, especially Xander. We love you!!! Kelly

Brig said...

The delightful woman at the store has proven the axiom:

Be silent and be taken as a fool; open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Did she think she was doing you a favor? I just don't understand some people. Oh well.

P.S. My boys are hooligans too. Join the club.

Nana (Lonna)and Grandpa (Max) said...

So many people judge situations without knowing the facts. We have all had experiences like this with our children. I'm pretty sure this woman has had them too. We all know that you are an exceptional mother, and you know you are doing your very best . . . so open that little garbage can in your thoughts and toss in this woman's words, then slam the can shut and enjoy your precious boya!

Shelly said...

Obviously the woman was never blessed with children.

I was wondering if this might be a political piece (from the title).

I think it's one of Murphy's laws that strangers with bad attitudes only catch your kids doing bad.

Good battle picking!

Robert said...

I love hanging out with you, Rob & the kids at family reunions; your family is super fun. 'Good behavior' is all relative. I was at TJMaxx shopping and some kids were pretending to shoot me with plastic guns, so I played along and had a mini-pretend battle with them. The mom was upset when she saw what her kids were doing with me and snatched them away as though she were embarrassed but I wasn't bothered at all by it. Kids will be kids and you ARE an awesome mother cousin Kimberly.

Becca said...

Sounds like a wonderful shopping trip! Just the way kids should be, actually, and in the middle of the night--well, that's exactly why I shop at night, so the kids can be kids and not get in trouble. Too bad somebody is a) caught up in control and judging (since that only makes misery for all around) and b) doesn't have the joy of raising children. In the long run, she'll cry and be jealous while you rejoice and your children will thank you (and still want to be with you when you're 90--I doubt her kids, if she has any, will want anything to do with her!)