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.
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.