Please Don’t Judge My Parenting

I had planned on publishing a different post today, but after last night’s experience, I felt the need to vent.

My sister, my (almost) 16 month old son, and I went out for a very early dinner to our local diner.   It’s not as easy as it once was to take him out to eat.  My son has always had a desire to be on the move – he crawled and walked extremely early and would much rather be on his feet, free to explore and wander than strapped in to a chair.

So asking – or expecting – him to sit patiently in a highchair for upwards of an hour while there are so many fun new things to see and touch and people to walk over to, smile at, and babble to is a long shot.   The one thing that will usually occupy him and keep him entertained is food.   He loves eating and meal time is now another part of his independence – he has perfected the use of a fork (which he is very proud of) and is happy to spend large amounts of time feeding himself.    

However, tonight was one of those nights where he had no interest in eating, and therefore sitting. Maybe it was because he was up twice during the night or that his third molar just cut.  Maybe he was just cranky and having an off day.  Maybe he was being a normal 16 month old boy.  Whatever the reason, he had no desire to sit in the highchair or behave the way I’m used to when we are in public.

My sister and I tried everything.  Literally everything.  We took turns getting up with him and letting him walk around the diner (it was 5pm so it was still fairly empty) until our food arrived.  At that point, when I put him back in the highchair, he was a ticking time bomb – and I knew it.   I tried to distract him with everything I could – the three books I brought with me, my wallet, straws, packets of sugar.  Within a few minutes, he had had enough and let me know – he started throwing things – his food, his fork, his water cup (which managed to knock over a glass of water on the table)…At this point, I realized it wasn’t worth the temper tantrum that was starting to unfold or the struggle, so I asked that the food be wrapped up and for the check so we could leave.

Throughout the 45 minutes or so we were there, I heard bits and pieces of the conversation an older couple sitting behind us was having.  At first, I thought they were discussing a grandson or neighbor, but by the end of dinner, it became apparent that they were talking about MY SON.  Some of the phrases that I heard Did you see what he just did? Can you imagine what a handful he is going to be in a year or two?  I would NEVER let my child behave that way in public. 

My son is not perfect and I will never claim that he is.  I am not going to be a mom who makes excuses for her child every time he misbehaves.  But, he is a good kid.  He understands “no” and listens to me (most of the time!).  He is happy, cheerful, and a fun little guy to be around. 

So isn’t he allowed to have an off day?  

He is at the stage where he is testing his limits with my husband and I.  He has started having tantrums when we take something away from him or tell him “no”.  My mom tells me it’s a good thing that he is not a pushover – he knows what he wants and he is not okay with someone taking it away from him.  I see her point and it’s easy to agree with her in the privacy of our home.  But when we are in public and he’s having a tantrum, I wish he wasn’t so strong-willed.

I left the diner feeling embarrassed with how my son behaved and questioning my abilities as a mother.

The thoughts started running through my head.  It was the first time since AJ was born where I felt like I was being judged and looked down upon.  The tantrums are just starting – how am I going to deal with this as he gets older?  How will I function with two children in just a few months?  Am I giving in to him too easily at home?  Am I doing something wrong?  

After I allowed myself to calm down, I realized that I have nothing to be embarrassed about.  While I’m not condoning his behavior, it is expected and typical of his age.

I am not a bad mother nor is he a bad child.  I didn’t just sit there and let him make a mess of his food and water.  But I also didn’t allow him to have a total meltdown and ruin the other diners evenings. In my opinion, it was a lose-lose, so I chose to leave dinner and take him home.

Before my son was born, I would have likely reacted the same way that couple did.  But now that I have a child of my own, I have more of an understanding for parents whose child is having a tantrum in public.

I no longer judge.  So please don’t judge me. 

Have you been in a situation where you felt judged as a parent??  How did you react? 

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    36 thoughts on “Please Don’t Judge My Parenting

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    3. I was surprised to discover that one of the hardest things to learn as a parent is to ignore other people’s criticism about your parenting. People comment negatively about running doesn’t bother me; I’m working through an injury and people (non-runners of course) keep telling me, “You shouldn’t be running. Running is bad for you,” but I can ignore those comments no problem. Criticize my parenting, especially in that passive-aggressive/behind my back sort of way, and it will bother me for DAYS. My son is 19-months, so I feel your pain. I’m sorry I don’t have any advice, other than what everyone else tells me: It will get better! :)
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    4. I think you did the best you could in that situation. You tried everything and when it didn’t work, you left, leaving the other diners to enjoy their dinner.

      My now 14 year old daughter was the same way as a toddler. Three years old was the hardest for her and me. She was so independent and head strong! But she has grown into an amazing, self-assured young lady. She is a leader, not a follower. She does what is right, doesn’t give in to peer pressure and will stand up for herself and others in a heartbeat. I couldn’t be more proud of her!
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      • Thank you so much for posting your comment as a before and after perspective on a head strong toddler. It brought me to tears, because I only hope that my 22 month old will grow up to have all the qualities you listed of your daughter. He is head-strong alright, and I can see that he will be a leader. Others sometimes say that I give him way too much time of day, but I know what I’m “working” for. It’s nice to know that it paid off for you with how good of a teen your girl is.

    5. My son is almost two and a half, and I know that I’ve been in that kind of situation before too. Don’t take it personally, the people who comment the most are those who don’t have kids themselves and don’t know a thing about what its like to deal with a toddler. I recently had a friend of my moms comment about people bringing small toys and juice to church to occupy toddlers (which I do) during the mass and how she thought it was inappropriate and that she never did that with her kids. My mom quickly reminded her that she raised her children in communist Poland where toys were scarce and you only had juice if you made it yourself. That shut her up pretty quick. :) You’re an awesome mom and you little man is great! Kids have their own personalities and good/bad days, just like adults. I know I have days where I am cranky, so I can’t blame a little guy!
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    6. People always have a lot to say when it isn’t their kids in the situation! We’ve had to leave restaurants with Em and I definitely felt embarrassed but later knew that it was just tiredness or something like that. You are a great Mom….kids are who they are and at times are unpredictable….especially with not enough sleep!!
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    7. I know the feeling, it took me about 4 years out of the 7 I’ve been a mom to learn to block those people out. I consider myself a very logical, considerate, respectful person, the way I deal with my kids’ tantrums is nobody’s business and when they do it in public, I just deal with my kid and I do my best to block the stares and whispering, I have enough in my plate as it is. And actually one day as I was shopping at the fresh market my 4-year old started throwing a fit because he wanted something, he is now old enough to know that with that attitude he is not going to get his way, so I usually let him cry because talking to him doesn’t really always work. To my surprise one of the owners of the market came up to me and congratulated me on not giving in to his fit and told me how amazing us moms were for all we did, and that she knew how hard it was, etc. It was a really amazing feeling and different kind of feedback for sure! As moms we will always have that little doubt of whether we are doing the right thing or not, but sometimes we can do nothing more but our very best.
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    8. Michele,
      I think I know you and your husband fairly well. You are both good parents and nothing anyone else says should diminish that.
      On a more personal note, I couldn’t help but notice one item in your post (and I know I’m going to get dog-piled because I am a dad and, as such, don’t know squat about parenting). I found that most children who act out toward their parents do so by using the parents’ words against them (particularly if they are easy to say and they hear them often). I wasn’t around for this troubled portion of my daughter’s life – in fact, I was spending some of that time with you and your groom – but I was for my son (and doing most of that as a single parent – not complaining, it was much easier only having to impose my rules instead of worrying about someone else and their rules).
      On to the point – I almost never used the word “no” with him. It took some practice and patience on my part, but because I didn’t use it with him, he couldn’t use it with me. When I want him to discontinue some behavior, I say something like “hey, we are not going to do that – it is not nice at all.” What is the limited-vocabulary boy going to retort with? Something out of Emerson, perhaps? Doubtful. He will take it and move on.
      Just so you don’t think it is a fluke, the teachers at his daycare told me stories of him snapping back at them when they would tell him “no” – so did his mother, but that is another story. I let them onto my little secret and a month later, the teachers reported that he was well behaved overall and took instruction much better. They also tried it with the other children and saw great results.
      I am no genius and I’m pretty sure I didn’t invent this – that would take talent, skill and higher-level though. I was just looking for a way to establish dominance without being mean or forceful and I did it by expanding my vocabulary, talking to my children as adults (which is how I expect them to behave), and listening to them when they formulate objections (I was floored the first time my now 4-year-old son reasoned with me, explaining his rationale behind lima beans rather than green beans for supper).
      My children are not perfect. They are not always thoughtful or considerate. They do know that I love them and every time I deny a request or prohibit a behavior, they know the reason follows close behind.
      I wish you the best as you continue to inspire so many folks around the country (probably world…I just haven’t been “following” you long enough to find out).

    9. People really irritate me when they think that making rude comments betters the situation. Do they not realize that their behavior is even more appalling as they are grown adults who should know better than to make people feel bad. I have absolutely been in your shoes. I have left an entire grocery cart full of food so that I could get my kids out of a busy store ASAP. I have had tears in my eyes when I know people have thrown looks at me. Babies and kids do not understand that they are frustrating, they are acting that way because they are frustrated that they can not to communicate with you that they need something. Most often my daughter’s worst behavior happens when she is sick (like your little guy was cutting teeth and missing sleep) and even as she gets older her behavior may not be the same as a 1 year old but you can tell when she is having an off day and I still get just as frustrated. Hugs to you Mama! I would have sat there, eaten my dinner and smiled at the damn rude people. :)
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    10. I couldn’t sympathize and agree with you more! Before I became a parent I was quick to pass judgement on other parents, thinking that once I became a one I would “do a much better job.” Now that I am a parent of a 2.5 year old I know the truth;-) And that is that I can be the best mom as my ability allows, but my daughter ultimately is a free-willed individual. I can’t control her completely. To do so, I would probably have to instill a sense of fear in her, and that is the LAST thing I want for my daughter. I want her to be independent and thoughtful, not fearful. I want her to understand and respect boundaries. To respect authority. To respect others. I can teach her and guide her along the way to learning these things, but I cannot force them upon her. If I did, they wouldn’t become intrinsic traits, which I want them to be. I have to remind myself of this CONSTANTLY (it all sounds so nice;-) since she is in the “I do it myself” phase (which comes with a whole host of tantrums and boundary-pushing). Its obvious that you are a mom who wants the same for your son:-)

      PS you’re not alone in thinking “How the hell am I going to handle two?!?! if I have one and there out of control?!?!” 😉 That has been my constant thought for the past month;-)
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    11. I am so sorry you had to go through that. Those people had no right to judge and their thoughts were wrong. One day we will have to take your son and my twins to that diner and let them all run around together!!! Just to prove that all children have trouble sitting down to dinner sometimes.
      I had a similar experience on our last plane flight. The weirdest thing was that it was another mother. Her child was quiet and sleeping and mine were awake and talking … she kept mumbling to her husband that we should put them to sleep. As if it was just that simple. Ugh. Some people just judgy … it makes me feel sad for them, it must be awful to carry around that much anger.
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    12. First of all, he is not even a year and a half old?! I am more surprised when I see kids who are that age NOT acting up. If he was 5, I’d get it…but really? He is a baby still! James has started throwing tantrums over the past few months and is still pushing us. I foresee this continuing for a while as he is rapidly approaching the dreaded “terrible twos.” That older couple never had a child or blocked that age out. I also get so embarrassed in public when James starts to lose it. But, i truly think that, although some people are probably judging me or my parenting, we are our worst critics. I like to say that “the stars have to align” in order for James to be on his best behavior….he must be well rested, not sick or teething, and hungry (bc he, too, needs food to keep him seated). And if we go to anyone’s house where they do not have small children, then we pack a ball. He is perfectly content with a throwing a ball and running after it. You did exactly what many parents have done, including myself. And THAT makes you a good mom….knowing when to throw in the towel.

    13. I feel so much empathy. Being the mother of strong-willed twins I have run into many, many similar circumstances. How I have come to peace with this is… there is no right or wrong way of parenting. I get judged for so many things, most recently for having a blog and running (“how selfish of her to take time away from her children”). You are pregnant right now and that leaves you feeling emotionally vulnerable. Build an imaginary shield around yourself as you get through these next few years. I am so very sorry that there are such unconscious people out there. A devilish part of me wishes your son had chucked a big wet meatball at them..(OK not the answer but a nice visual, huh?) Your parenting style is a personal choice and it is never anyone’s place to judge… not unlike running, there are different styles, barefoot, trail, road. We as runners do not judge..there is no right or wrong. I find the most judgmental are those who are much older and have not been around children in many years and the very young who are so self-absorbed they have no way of understanding how difficult it can be. Sending you a big bubble of protection and unconditional LOVE, LOVE.
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      • Thank you, Lisa…Honestly, I don’t know how parents of twins do it – I have my hands full with the one little guy that I can’t imagine two – the same age! You are right now – parenting is a lot like running – there’s so many different things you can do or not do and who is to say that one works or doesn’t work? He has been a strong-willed child from day 1 – it’s something that I love about him and it’s why he has developed on the earlier side with so many things (he doesn’t want to give up!) – and I know that no matter what I did from when he was an infant, he would be very similar to how he is now.

    14. I’m sorry that you had to face that-there are just some people who believe children should be seen and not heard! Maybe that’s how they were raised but this is the 21st century! I learned that no matter how well behaved your children are in other places, two things you can count on, 1) Kids always act up when it’s most inconvenient, and 2) There is always something more interesting than what’s in front of them. EVERY parent goes through this at least once and this will likely not be the last time. When I had my second child-putting my first child in charge of helping mommy was one way to deal with an unruly child. It didn’t always work (and my first born was a girl) so trust me when I tell you she had as much spunk and fire as one of the boys. One thing I know is-you’ll survive and someday you’ll look back and laugh, tell the stories to the kids and they will shrink into the furniture and then see for themselves when they have kids. My two are 26 and 23. When they come home with a story about a child in a restaurant, I remind them of what they did and next time, they think about that before they judge parenting skills. Take a deep breath, keep your cool and remember you are not alone!!!

    15. I actually find other mothers to be much more judgy then people without children (the OMG she just fed her child the F WORD IN PUBLIC). It’s bad, no one deserves to feel judged.
      We travelled from Toronto to Vancouver and arrived late, but everyone was starving, so we went to a pizza place, 10pm with 2 18 month olds, boy did we get the stares and the pointy fingers (especially as me and my husband were drinking a pint of beer).

      Oh well, forget them and continue to enjoy your dinners out!
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    16. I just went through this, this morning at the bank! My daughter was starting to have a tantrum and all I could hear is ‘I have a 2 year old”. The lady at the bank I was dealing with asked me if my daughter had a fever as she looked “red” in the face….nope, she’s just not happy right now after waiting in line (they had 2/3 tellers open and it was extremely busy). I realized that I had to manage her and my banking – not the other people in the bank. I hate when people judge my parenting skills.
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    17. UGH!! That is SO wrong. I am so sorry you had to deal with that. I hate judgmental people, period, but when it comes to being that way around a child that cannot help if he’s having an off day, well, that’s just stooping low. You are a great parent.
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    18. Momma, let me tell you something…you are not alone and you are doing a FABULOUS job. He IS 16 months old – you’re right. I’ve been through situations once or twice where some stupid, entitled person felt the need to just-loudly-enough voice an opinion. I was 8 months pregnant, at a family pizza place, with my sisters and their kids. Their little boys, same as as yours, turned around to flirt with a lady behind us. She laughed, played, etc. and was absolutely fine with them. This nasty woman and her older children (quiet and mopey might I add) came up behind her in line and said, “I’m so sorry you had to go through that. People don’t know how to control their kids.” Seriously, at 8 months pregnant, I was livid. Was this what I was going to have to endure as a parent?!?! So I let her have it. “Excuse me, but what are you apologizing to her for on behalf of us? I’m sorry you decided to choose to come to a family pizza place with your own children and expected to have a quiet, fancy dining experience. They didn’t once bother you, did they? Why don’t you keep your yuppity mouth shut and mind your own business!” She scowled at me and told me that her children are obvious signs of good, controlled parenting, and I just said, “Yep, and it looked like they enjoyed EVERY bit of your company, didn’t it?” She didn’t have anything to say after that. One other time an old lady frowned at me when my first daughter was singing and said, “You know she’s LOUD right?” “No, really? I hadn’t caught that. How would you suggest I silence my cheerful one-year-old?” I’m not patient with people. If you discipline them, but not up to THEIR standards, you get crap from them. If you don’t discipline them it’s the same thing! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!!! I don’t take crap from people who have something to say…I’m cool at first, but I don’t like people who feel entitled to criticize parents who are obviously trying. Wait, don’t take them out in public? Sure, so then when they’re teenagers, you can yell at us for them not being public-trained, right? And oh wait, no one had to take your whiny, one-year-old (or two-year-old, or three…) butt out in public when YOU were a kid?

      You’re doing your best, dangit, and that’s what matters! :) I say screw ’em! I’m sure at their age they’d been in your shoes. And the younger people without kids? Ohhh, I can’t wait for them to experience it. They might second guess their entitled attitudes. 😉 End rant, sorry momma. I’m passionate about being a parent. 😉
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    19. UGH!! I swear, the most judgemental moments happen when someone decides that “they” would never raise their kid that way, “allow” their kid to do xyz in public, etc. etc. etc. WHY do people feel like its perfectly within their right to judge away when it comes to parenting? Every child is DIFFERENT. And like you said, every child is going to have a moment or two of imperfection. They are CHILDREN. No wait -they are human, none of us are perfect, regardless of age. I would have been FURIOUS if I had been there and heard those comments made. It’s a good thing I wasn’t there or I’d seriously have made a scene on your behalf. For reals. PS. you’re an amazing mom, don’t ever doubt that for a second!
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    20. BTDT. It sucks when people judge. If it makes you feel any better, when my oldest was about 12 months, we went to a rehearsal dinner. My husband and I spent the entire dinner trading off who followed my son around the private room. One of my friends (whose 12 month old was sitting happily in her high chair the whole time) commented on how we should make him sit (for the HOURS this thing took). 10 years later, our son is an extremely well behaved child, theirs is a willful, whiny kid who is constantly disobeying. All I can say is karma is a bitch…

      Hang in there. It does get easier, but guaranteed people will always judge, no matter what the situation.
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    21. You have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about and I’m so sorry that this happened. There is no reason to question your parenting skills. We have ALL been in the same situation before. Like Erica said, it wasn’t like you were letting AJ throw things around and misbehave while ignoring what he was doing. I think that people forget what it’s like to have a baby/toddler. It’s ridiculous to think that our kids will be perfectly behaved just because we’re out to dinner. I mean, I am not perfectly behaved half the time!
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    22. sorry that you had that experience; HOWEVER, the best mommies have that experience at least ONCE if not more. my hubs family got together at Olive Garden, (there were 9 of us) our kids were not quite 2 and they were talking and playing & walking about; and like your son did not want to sit and eat, they wanted down and explore. we were able to corral them at the table, however, my sis in law’s son was louder than my son and there were two young girls sitting next to us, talking about us the entire time; when we got up to leave, I just simply apologized. The girls just rolled their eyes; I said well this is a “family” restaurant and they are little kids. I too felt judged but as soon as I walked out, I forgot about it. WE did not stop taking our son, who is now 6, out to eat, we just made sure we had food, and things to keep him busy… sometimes it worked sometimes it didnt; but I can say, my 6 year old is very well mannered little boy in restaurants now. So don’t be embarrassed or feel like you NEED to explain anything to anyone….EVER you are doing a wonderful job, I’m sure of it. :)

    23. OH goodness, I am glad you voiced this. I think that couple might have forgotten what its like to have an almost 2 yr. old. You are a wonderful parent to YOUR son. That’s the most important thing to recognize and all that matters.
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    24. Try not to worry about the opinions of others in terms of parenting and your kids. That’s not always easy to do.

      I find non-parents and older people to be more judgemental. They don’t understand or remember what it’s like to be a parent. Kids have their own minds and desires. You can’t control everything your son does, thinks or says. He’s his own person and has to learn about the world in his way.

      I have a 6 and 7 year old now and there were many times when I went through a grocery store with one or both of them screaming their heads off about something. You just have to ignore it as best you can and move on.

      You’ll do just fine with two. You’ll have your moments, but you will all survive!

    25. Lucky you! You made it to 16 months before feeling judged!
      IMHO you did exactly the right thing and no, you are probably NOT giving in too much at home. Tantrums are much easier to deal with at home. Your kiddo can protest his little heart out and no outsiders have to listen to it.
      I, too, have a strong-willed munchkin (3 years and she can throw a wicked tantrum) and there is a fine line between teaching appropriate behavior and squashing her will. It’s a work in progress and probably will be…well, forever. 😉
      That being said, 16 months is a little early to expect excellent behavior. Ignore the old people. It’s been a long time since they’ve walked in shoes like yours.
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    26. I’m sorry you had that experience! I mean really, how inconvenienced could they really have been? I find it’s usually people w/o kids or kid experience who are the first to judge. I know I used to hate to sit next to babies on planes until I had one. Now I get it and I’m always sympathetic to those w/ little ones. You did nothing wrong, nor did your son (who at 16 months really can’t do things wrong!) so try to let it roll off your back.

      And I love the pic of him in his little man shirt!
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    27. I am so sorry you had that happen to you. Those people were beyond rude and I am sorry that you had to experience that.

    28. This is a great post, Michele. We don’t have kids yet, but it’s something I notice a lot – people judging other people’s families without knowing ANY OTHER information about circumstances! It’s just rude. I don’t get why people think they’re so much better than anyone else. Nobody’s perfect!!

      You’re an awesome mom!!
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    29. That must’ve been really tough. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I’m not a parent yet but I have been out to eat and around parents who let their children roam free and misbehave and do nothing about it. That’s wrong & disrespectful of those around them. BUT that isn’t what you did. You did you best to handle the situation and when nothing worked, you made the decision to leave. There’s nothing wrong with that and you shouldn’t question your parenting skills because 2 people you don’t know judged you. Whenever I hear someone say something mean or rude about me, I remind myself that it’s not about me. It’s usually a reflecting on or about the person doing the talking. Just keep that in mind next time you feel judged :)