Last week I watched my neighbor's son for a few hours. She's been going through some mommy frustration and I've been wishing I could do something to help.
During a three hour stay at my home, the 4-year-old had four potty accidents. The accidents were caused by my slowness and his need to pee IMMEDIATELY and with my assistance.
"Help me! Help me! Help me!" he cried as he danced around me in the kitchen.
"Let me finish stirring this. You go start and I'll come in a minute."
"No, no, NOOO! I NEED YOUR HELP!"
As he danced himself into a frenzy, I would race him into the bathroom and pull down his sweat pants just in time for him to release all over the floor, sometimes all over the wall, and one time all over me.
Somewhere around the third accident, I had an AHA! moment. No wonder she's experiencing parental angst. If my 4-year-old was that co-dependent that she refused to even pull down her own pants or enter the bathroom by herself, I'd be full of angst too. My neighbor needed to teach her son to do a few basic things for himself or she'd go completely bonkers. I was so happy to have found the root of all her problems.
When she came to pick him up, I presented my findings.
"That's really weird," she said, "He never does that at home. Maybe he was testing you. You say he went four times in three hours? I wonder if he has a bladder infection."
That hadn't occurred to me.
So she took him to the doctor the next day and he did have a bad bladder infection and he's getting back to normal.
I felt bad that I had been frustrated with him. I felt bad that I hadn't stopped stirring the dinner and helped him faster. I felt silly for falling back into the trap of sizing up another mom, a really great mom, and thinking I had the wisdom to diagnose her child's problems and come up with a simple parenting solution that I alone was smart enough to devise.
I used to try not to judge other moms. It was difficult but with a little effort I could suspend my judgment. I'd read so many books, seen so many babies. For goodness sake, I had one of my own and she was perfect because I was perfect.
The further I got in my parenting journey, the easier it became for me not to judge other parents. I came to realize if I judged them or their obnoxious kids, my own kids and I would likely go through the same obnoxious stage about 15 minutes later.
How then do I keep slipping back into this pattern of seeing a mom in the grocery store and thinking that I know just the thing she could do to "fix" her kids? I'm pretty much always wrong and heaven help me if someone chose to scrutinize my kids' behavior at their worst and then come up with a pat answer to solve all my problems.
I'll tell you what would really solve all my problems — a nap, some new shoes, and a date with my husband. I bet it's rare that one of those judgmental mommies thinks of that. "Wow! Her kids are really out of control. I bet they just all need a nap. Poor thing. She could probably use some cute pink suede heels that don't match a thing in her wardrobe and a date to the bookstore with her husband."
I'm going to try that line of thinking next time. I'll get myself into far less trouble and I'll probably be more accurate.