Judgement & Criticism… & Paranoia

Had a bit of a revelation this week. The thing is, being a parent you are learning how to manage new stuff every day. And just as you get one thing under control they change their habits, likes, reactions, whatever and you are back in the dark again wondering what to try next. I think that’s probably true even if you are doing it for the second or third time. They are each their own little parcel of crazy contradictions and joyous mayhem!

So, with that in mind, it’s easy to feel that you never know what you’re doing. Meanwhile, everyone else seems to be in total control. It’s the perfect storm for feeling that everyone is looking at you and wondering what the hell you are doing!

My husband and I recently attempted our first hotel stay away since baby K was born. He’s 14 months so it’s been a while. We’ve done visiting parents and family and friends, but this time we had booked a posh hotel and were looking forward to a proper mini-break. Ha ha ha!

First mistake was booking a posh hotel. One year olds don’t care where they stay and have little respect for other people’s property, or other people! We spent all his waking hours herding him back towards us and trying to stop him from bothering anyone else. I was convinced that every guest – none of whom had children and all of whom were there just trying to relax – hated us and thought we were totally crap at controlling our boy’s behaviour. I even wanted to shh him when he was laughing too loudly at breakfast! Later I decided we were probably worrying too much, perhaps they liked the laughter and were judging us for being too controlling and hovery. Either way I was very conscious of everyone else and almost forgot we had gone there to relax ourselves… In case you were worried we found the bar once baby was in bed and all was well! But it got me thinking – perhaps most of the criticism was in my head!… especially when it was time to say goodbye any everyone wanted to wave to little K and wish us well!

My inkling that perhaps we were not being judged as much as I’d imagined, was then reinforced by a blog I read. It was a very well written and amusing blog about how annoying ‘helicopter’ parents are in parks. In a nutshell she said she went there to let her kids feel free to play, but felt that other mums gave her evils (or ‘stink eye’ as she called it) if her children were left to it. I thought I agreed with her, but then I read the comments… Other mums had said they felt bad as they might be seen as that parent but they never meant to seem judgey, only that if a child asked for help they would help, or if they seemed lost they’d look around for the mum. Some said they only hovered as their little junior always climbed too high and had no sense of fear or that they’d had a bad experience before. I suddenly realised the writer had been judging the ‘helicopter’ mums and they felt just as paranoid!

I remembered a moment in a supermarket some time ago where a mum was clearly close to tears as her daughter screamed and launched a packet of new potatoes all over the floor. As the little summer delicacies rolled along the aisle I sent her what I thought was a look of sympathy and support, and was about to go over and help her pick up the escaping potatoes. But before I could she turned on me: “What are you looking at?” she barked with narrowed eyes. At the time I’d thought bad thoughts (I admit it; she was mean I was trying to be kind!), but now I realise she was feeling awful and assumed that I was judging.

It’s dawned on me… 99% of the time we are probably not being criticized. No one else can do it better. They all know it’s hard! And even if you are being judged, there’s very little good that can come out of thinking about it – better to assume you are not! I’ve discovered if I smile and say something to the person I feel is casting aspersions, they generally admit they’ve been there, they have five, or that they’d find it hard too if they did and then… ‘isn’t he cute’ and ‘how old is he?’ And suddenly none of it mattered anyway!

I know I’ve written this about parenting, but it occurs to me this might apply to lots of things. Perhaps my worries about my writing, house keeping, friends, fat bits, work, dress sense, husband, family blah blah are mostly in my head! Wouldn’t that be great? Let’s pretend it’s true even if it isn’t, it’d save us a whole heap of worrying!

Found a great saying the other day: My worrying is very successful… 99% of the stuff I worry about never happens! It seems an appropriate close to today’s blog!


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