The Benefit of the Doubt

by Gigi Ross on February 25, 2013


This weekend, a post I wrote about Boy Wonder winning his Student Council election was syndicated by the Huffington Post.

It’s probably one of the posts I’m most proud of in three years of blogging. I didn’t imagine how anyone might find a way to call my parenting into question.

Naive dumbass, I am.

I was criticized for more things than I can count. It’s all a blur now, but the sum of the parts was: you are a horrible parent.

I let this all get to me. I cried, I vented, and many bloggers sent me amazing notes of encouragement, which truly, I will never, ever forget.

Mostly, I wanted to retaliate on the haters.

But then I thought back to when Boy Wonder was 2, and he had serious developmental delays. He couldn’t speak. He had sensory processing disorder. His body was out of sorts, and he was so frustrated over not being able to communicate. We would often experience screaming fits that would last up to an hour.

I thought back to the times we were out in public with him where I got THOSE looks. The looks of “what horrible parents they are, they can’t even control their son.” “Doesn’t that mother know what discipline is?” “If I were that child’s parent I would not tolerate that sort of behavior.”

Those looks hurt deeply.

From that moment on, I vowed to always try to give another parent the benefit of the doubt.

Because when you’re in a mall, or McDonald’s playland, or the park, you just never really know what is happening behind the scenes with any family. Having dealt with a kid with sensory issues, I can spot them a mile away now. And with that knowledge, brings compassion.

I like to think that each of us, as we grow as parents, as we trudge up that very difficult hill called child-rearing, become more and more tolerant and compassionate toward how the person next to us is raising their own. Because there is no one right way, there is no formula, there is no secret sauce.

What if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt? What if we trusted that we are ALL doing the best we can, whether we’re a SAHM, a WAHM or a corporate powerhouse, whether we breastfed or didn’t, whether we cosleep or not? The answer is simple: the mommy wars would end.

After I thought about that lesson I learned almost 7 years ago, I went back and  read one of the nasty  tweets again. It said my post was “the worst article on parenting” and that “labeling your child is horrible.”

I clicked on the person’s profile.

She writes a blog, too.

I was greeted with a story about how guilty this woman felt for feeding her children Kraft dinners.

I’ve done that.

And how bad she felt that she put Dora and Diego on TV rather than sitting and talking to her kids.

I’ve done that.

She admits she doesn’t have a clue sometimes.

Me too.

She is not perfect.

Neither am I.

She is human.

I am, too.

She probably hopes, somewhere in the darkest, quietest recesses of her heart, that her kids are forgiving of her mistakes, and those moments when life pulls her attention away from her kids, and the times when she sincerely does her best and it’s still not enough.

I can tell her, as a parent of kids much older than hers, that kids do forgive. They forgive and forget so much, and try to remember only the good. They give us the benefit of the doubt.

We don’t forgive ourselves as easily.

When our children give us that grace, we owe it to our fellow parents to pass that grace on: to give them the benefit of the doubt.

And that’s what I choose to do today.

I believe she tries her best to be a good mom and loves her kids and will celebrate their successes and mourn their hardships. I won’t slam her for feeding her kids processed food or plopping them in front of the TV.

I believe she doesn’t mean to be a hater. I won’t leave an angry comment on her blog or respond to her tweet.

I believe that someday, she will experience being judged. And she’ll be far less inclined to judge ever again.

I will give her the benefit of the doubt.







Amy ~ Eat. Live. Laugh. Shop. February 25, 2013 at 4:10 pm

The internet provides just enough cushion for people to throw some might inappropriate punches. I’m always amazed by hateful comments when such commentor must be aware that he or she does not know the whole story!

I loved your post. Haters gonna hate. But yes, everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. I always remind myself that I am not aware of anyone’s battles and cannot possibly imagine what set of circumstances brought them to any particular moment in time.

Jennifer H. February 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Excellent post. We should all try to give one another the benefit of the doubt more often.

Kim@Co-Pilot Mom February 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I just want to let you know that I remember that post – I loved it then and I love it now. It was a beautiful and loving tribute to your son and his wonderful achievement. I, too, believe in giving other moms the benefit of the doubt. We don’t know their stories. And in the end, don’t we all want the same thing? To raise happy and healthy children. That commonality should be enough to unite us.

Kate F. (@katefineske) February 25, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Congrats on being syndicated via Huff Post! That being said, with every success seems to often come some road block. It is true… the more I “mom” the more see that every mom has their way and that every way has a reason. The only way we can combat the mommy wars is by doing exactly what you did – give them the benefit of the doubt.

I love your statement: “… kids do forgive. They forgive and forget so much, and try to remember only the good. They give us the benefit of the doubt. We don’t forgive ourselves as easily. When our children give us that grace, we owe it to our fellow parents to pass that grace on: to give them the benefit of the doubt.”

So VERY true and so very well said.

Jackie February 25, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I read your post about Boy Wonder when you originally posted it here on your blog and then again over at HuffPo and neither time did I ever think that you were horrible parent… actually in all the years I’ve been reading your blog have I thought that.

I can’t imagine that your kids aren’t anything but amazing, well adjusted, and perfect.

Oh… I let my kids eat mac & cheese and not always Kraft. I’ve let them (and still do) watch TV just for a few moments to myself. After almost 18 years as a mom I still have no freakin’ clue what I’m doing.

Kerry February 25, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I loved your post. You were vulnerable and voiced what was in your heart. I suppose those posts can open you up to criticism, but ams writers we need to be strong. It’s so easy to throw stones from behind the computer screen. Good for you for being the bigger person.

Sandra February 25, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Oh please Gigi, I just went to read your article it is fabulous, as it only could be, because you are AUTHENTIC and well, fabulous. Those HuffPost commenters love to hate. I don’t know what it is about them, but honestly, I’m almost relieved to read this post because I thought it was just me they hated. You are extremely lovable, so it’s not us Darling! I know, not the point you were trying to make, but I’m tired, and I don’t have it in me to exhibit the grace you did here….maybe I should momentarily delete the “Christian” part of my Twitter bio, until I stop PMSing…

Poppy February 25, 2013 at 11:13 pm

You take your kids to McDonalds? Clearly, you are a terrible parent. Wendy’s is much better.

Don’t let the haters get you down, Gigi.

Joann Woolley February 25, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Good for you in taking the high road. Entangling with negativity will get us nowhere. We all have our imperfections, whether it is in parenting – scratch that – there’s no perfect parent – and criticizing others for theirs does not make our own disappear. I’m very curious to go read your HuffPost now.

Lara February 26, 2013 at 5:54 am

I was just telling a good friend the other day what a beautiful post that was! It is hard to imagine anyone would have bad things to say…you were honest, loving and so supportive of your son. You are brave to be so honest and it is a wonderful gift to other moms to see and hear the truth. And a big congrats to Boy Wonder!
Keep on writing!!

Lea Ann February 26, 2013 at 6:47 am

You are a queen my friend.

Elizabeth Flora Ross February 26, 2013 at 7:37 am

I am so sorry you had that experience. It is always a possibility when we share our lives and hearts online, but the bigger the audience, the greater the chance of judgment and criticism. I love the way you chose to respond and this post. It is beautiful!

We can’t control the behavior of others. Only ourselves. But, if we take the high road and set a positive example, it’s possible we can effect change! Thank you for helping lead the way!

Carolyn West February 26, 2013 at 8:05 am

I think it is so much easier to judge a person when you’ve never even met them in real life. You are an amazing mother and your pride in your children shines through every time you write about them. People are gonna hate – whatever. Your family and friends know the truth. You rock!

tracy@sellabitmum February 26, 2013 at 8:34 am

I love that post. The HuffPo commenters would find issue with a cute fluffy white bunny bounding in a winter field at sunrise. Seriously. Good for you for taking the high-road.

San Diego Momma (Deb) February 26, 2013 at 9:00 am

I’ve noticed exactly what Tracy writes. Seems HuffPo is a magnet for malcontented critics. BUT you are above that and your piece was real, parental, and beautiful.

MrsFun February 26, 2013 at 9:26 am

I LOVED this post!! Yes, kids are so forgiving!! Mine are forgiving me for getting their daddy fired from a job he loved, a job where he had lots of time to spend with them. And now I am the mom feeding my kids kraft dinners and letting them play xbox for hours on end….. you can judge but you shouldn’t because you don’t know their story. everyone has a story.

Lucy February 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

When people judge others, they are really only judging themselves. We must start by being kinder to ourselves. YOU have already started by granting the benefit of the doubt to someone who obviously needs it.

Anne (@notasupermom) February 26, 2013 at 10:13 am

You are the nicest person I know for not blasting her.

I think knowing I’m a screw-up has really helped me empathize with other mothers who do things differently from the way I do them. Being very aware of my glass house keeps my stone-throwing arm out of work.

Julia February 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

Wow, good for you! I am still a new blogger and so far have found the blogging community to be supportive and lovely, though I’ve heard the horror stories of when it isn’t. I’m so so sorry you experienced the un-lovely part but am inspired by the way you’re handling it.

Kristin @ What She Said February 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

Julia, there’s the “blogging community” and then there’s HuffPo commenters – and they’re a different breed entirely. 😉

jennyonthespot February 26, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Um… What Kristin said… What She Said, said 😉

I have had a similar experience with a Huff Po piece of mine. Also… 100 times amen to giving the benefit of the doubt, Gigi… I equate these commenters with our IRL bullies. Something is going on with those folks. It’s not about you… it’s about them. :)

Also, you are an incredible woman. So there’s that.

Darcy February 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

I read your original and never thought it showed bad parenting? It is true we rarely know the full story of someone else we come across. I think being 100% judgemental-free is very hard to be BUT keeping the comments and looks to ourselves is more appropriate. We can disagree on choices but it doesn’t automaticly mean people fail at what they are doing.

Frugalistablog February 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

Why are we so hard on ourselves and other women?? Sheesh. Good for you. We need to give the benefit of the doubt more often.
I just wish people could be nicer on the internet.

Kristin @ What She Said February 26, 2013 at 10:30 am

First, congrats on being syndicated on HuffPo! And secondly, sorry about the backlash you got. I just read the article and its comments and most of the negative ones (that weren’t obviously spam) seemed to focus on the fact that you “labeled” your child as “ordinary.” Methinks those people were taking a bit too literally your use of the term “ordinary.” It was obvious to me (and many others) that you were talking about a kid who is not gifted and not special needs. He’s just… ordinary. He has gifts and he has flaws, just like the rest of us ordinary folks (and I say that as someone who was also always very “ordinary” growing up). To assume you meant otherwise is simply reading way more into the piece than necessary.

And also, some people will find anything to complain about.

Wendy February 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

Gigi, You amaze me. I aspire to be like you in so many ways. I’m sitting here thinking I wish I would have do what you did here after facing much criticism over a post I wrote a while back. I don’t know what else to say other than I’m proud to know you!

Nataie February 26, 2013 at 11:31 am

Awesome. You are awesome. Well written- both this and your original post. We need more of YOU in the blogosphere, that is fo’ sho’. <3

Katie February 26, 2013 at 11:43 am

somebody actually judged me the other day when I “stood up” for someone (whom I didn’t know) that was mentioned in a fb status. All I did was give her the benefit of the doubt and the rest of the commenters were like “THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THAT! YOU MUST BE AS SHAMEFUL AS SHE IS!”

I was like O_O

Being judged sucks. Especially by the internet who has no idea. So let’s just stop it.

Great post, Gigi.

Robin | Farewell, Stranger February 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I still fail to see how there’s anything to be judged in what you wrote. Really – even after reading the comments there isn’t a part of me that can sort of see what they mean. I just don’t get it.

Anyway, this post right here says a lot about who you are. Be proud of yourself. Always.

julie gardner February 26, 2013 at 2:04 pm


Nicole @MTDLBlog February 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm

The way you put words together sometimes Gigi….so well written. I don’t really know how else to compliment this post. And, I’m also so proud to know you. You are remarkable.

Katie Hurley February 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Good for you for choosing to find the good and give the benefit of the doubt. It’s maddening that there could be such a simple solution to these battles among moms, and yet people choose not to do it. Kindness – that’s all it takes.

Josephine @ Josephine Craig Photography February 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Perhaps I’m a little naive as well because any time my kids throw tantrums in public, I don’t notice the dark, judgmental looks that I know for sure I must be getting. Perhaps I could care less what they think. I’m sorry for the mean, hurtful comments you received. As moms, we’re all under pressure to be perfect, proper, poised, and just be superwoman. Well, we can’t! And there’s nothing wrong with not being superwoman! :) All that matters at the end of the day are the hugs and kisses we get from our babies. That’s it. Definitely following your blog now <3

Alison February 26, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I loved your piece at HuffPo. I love this too.
Any well-written piece on parenting will have their fair share of detractors and haters. It’s like they can’t stand that an article only has encouraging comments. So they nitpick and they derive from your post what they will. It’s their interpretation, their opinion. It’s a reflection on them, not you. But you already know that. Good on you for not judging them back. You’re better than that. But you knew that too. :)

Kathy at kissing the frog February 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I’ve found that Huff Po breeds nasty comments on the most innocuous posts. I’m so surprised, though, that one came from a mom blogger who admits she’s not perfect. I think that’s really sad. I admire you for not calling her out or responding in kind on her blog.

Chris Carter February 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I agree with Kathy and can’t believe that one of the nasty comments came from a mom that thinks she isn’t doing well and yet slams you for not being a good mom? Mama say WHAT???!!! I will never understand people that need to slam other people. Never.
I am so sorry that you have to endure this. I have such great respect for you, Gigi. :)

Missy February 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm

So I’ve been in a cave, apparently, and missed some social media posts, because I just got to read your HuffPo piece today. It was wonderful, as is your sweet boy.

There will always be those who judge, and never enough benefit-of-the-doubters. I know it would make me cry, too. But you have the full support of MANY people who know you through more than just one or two blog posts. We are with you!

Nina February 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm

ugh! So sorry this happened. My most recent HuffPost article was mocked on a big blogger’s facebook page, complete with the picture of my kids in the HuffPost link. Underneath her status update mocking my words? Like 200 mean comments in support of her opinion. Yeah–I hear you!! You’re being much more gracious than I felt at the time. It really felt like such a mean-spirited thing to do from her big platform to a much smaller blogger like me.

Connie @ Real Food Family Meals February 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm

When I read the beginning of your post, I thought, “Wow- Huff Post!” I am so sorry it turned into an ugly experience. I guess when a beautiful parenting moment is exposed to the masses, you are bound to find a few judgers. Your post about your son was genuine and beautiful. I would not dream of slamming it online even if I found fault with it. Do people not realize there is a real person behind the story? Very rude, indeed. Keep up the good work – your kids are lucky to have a mom who GETS them.

Jamie February 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Ugh… that was a wonderful, well written post that was very personal to you.. To me, it was a very proud parent moment.

and love your attitude about giving everyone the benefit of a doubt… keeping an open mind about others opens you up to some wonderful conversations and learning opportunities… our way isn’t always the right way, and our way doesn’t work for everyone… but everyone is a trying… one step at a time.

Thekitchwitch February 27, 2013 at 5:25 am

Oh, I am so sorry that you got Trolled. I know the feeling, because I get it all the time when I post about my parenting fails or try to joke about being C-minus mommy. You’re the bigger person.

Adrienne February 27, 2013 at 6:18 am

Why do people love to hate? Your reaction is admirable! The post came full circle. I wonder if she’ll read it. I guess it doesn’t matter, but I wish people understood the weight of their words before they hit tweet.

Tanya February 27, 2013 at 7:12 am

Wonderful post. I went back and read the original one and you made me cry. It was beautiful and honest. Thank you for sharing.

Stephanie @ Hugs, Kisses and Snot February 27, 2013 at 7:13 am

I’m so sorry you were dumped on. It’s amazing how the claws can really come out on the internet b/c people feel safe and protected in their homes and they don’t have to look the person who they are trashing on in the eye. My favorite quote from Bloggy Boot Camp last year was “Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer”
My son has SPD also. Sometimes you can feel so alone and that nobody understands and they think your just making it all up and all you need to do is discipline your child better. Blegh. We all just need to spend a day in each others shoes and the hating would stop.
Blessings to you!

Elaine A. February 27, 2013 at 11:12 pm

I love that you went to her blog and found that she is imperfect too. 😉 We are all in this together, whether we like it or not and once we realize that we should BAN together and not fight each other, it will be a whole lot easier. On everyone. But of course, we are humans so that day may never come…

misszippy March 1, 2013 at 5:22 am

Amen to this! Thank you for writing such an eloquent, mature post. Your kids have a great mama.

Brian Sorrell March 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I discovered your blog from having read the HuffPo post. It is an excellent post, regardless of what the cynics have to say about it. My feeling is that *trying desperately* to be a perfect parent actually teaches children the opposite of what we mean, namely that *trying desperately* is an effective strategy. It isn’t.

Your comment that “they give us the benefit of the doubt” hits the nail on the head, I think. It recently occurred to me that we can UN-learn a lot from our kids. In particular, we should unlearn our cynicism — the idea that the world is full of bad intentions. The world isn’t like that for kids. And look how amazing their worlds are!

So, thanks for an excellent post and follow up here.

Lady Jennie March 4, 2013 at 5:12 am

I can’t tell you how much I agree with you, and how disgusted I am that people were quick to judge you.

It occurred to me that it’s possible they would have been more understanding had they read the article on your blog. Maybe they felt like you should be speaking as an authority figure since it was posted on Huff and that they therefore had the right to be more condemning.

I’m of the mindset that anything done in love is bound to turn out ok.

Jen @ After The Alter March 4, 2013 at 5:44 am

Great post. I too was one of those moms that looked and judged BEFORE having a child. I admit it now because I feel regret that I was that mom. You are so don’t know what goes on behind closed door so who am I to judge. Not to mention I have been that mom with a screaming toddler straddling him on the floor trying to get him to put his coat on. Oh boy did I get looks as I screamed! i am going to win this!! I’m sorry you had so many bad responses to your post..

Erin May 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Such a well written post. I totally hear you. My son has sensory processing issues and was just diagnosed with Aspergers. I’m always getting THOSE looks. It’s been hard. But my son is awesome, and he’s teaching me so many things I need to learn,including patience, unconditional love, and like you said, the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt.

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