My husband and I once lived in a little 350 sq foot basement apartment. Our landlords lived above us. They had 4 children under the age of 5. It was Utah… that's super normal. The walls were thin. Very thin. This young mother and her kids were loud all the time and she counted to three constantly. Well, I should say, counted to two constantly. I actually never heard her get to three. She would do the whole, “One, two, two and a half…don't make me get to three” thing. It drove me nuts. At the time I knew EVERYTHING about raising children. We didn't have children yet but I was majoring in Behavioral Science and I had trained horses so I felt pretty confident.
We lived in that little apartment for two years. In that two years I made a promise to myself to never count to three. In my all-encompassing knowledge of child rearing I decided counting to three was simply teaching children not to listen to you until you started counting. I still stand by this logic.
But yesterday was a terrible no good very bad day. I threw out my back in the worst way. I couldn't bend over, stand up straight, or hold my 18 month old. Brian was gone all day and it was a mess. I decided that I would be in pain wherever I went and it might be easier to keep the kids happy at the park. So off we went. I just sort of hunched over and waved from the sidelines at the park. They both cried when I said I couldn't push them on the swings. They just ran in circles for an hour. It was a good thing.
When it was time to go, my three-year old adamantly refused. Typically I would be all savvy and use my immense knowledge (ha ha) to talk my girl into leaving the park “nice”. But yesterday I couldn't muster the strength. I just said, “if you are not in the walking towards the car by the time I count to three you are going to be in Big Trouble. One…Two…” and it worked.
At that moment, my brain shifted. All of the time I had spent judging parents for counting to three, yelling at their kids or doing other things I don't agree with was just plain ignorant. I don't know what their day has been like. I don't know how they were raised. I don't know their child. I don't know what works for them. All I know is what works for me and I can't expect everybody to agree with that. I'm sure that other parents are annoyed by me when I let my 18 month old son pick himself up after he falls. I bet they think I am being cruel. But to me, I think I am just teaching him to be tough and pick himself up. Maybe I'M wrong! Maybe I don't know what I'm doing. Maybe I am just doing what I've learned and being stuck up about it.
I am so glad I wrenched my back. I just now realized that I would be a way less productive parent if I were in pain all the time. I would grouch around and count to three and do things I didn't think I would ever do because I SUCK at dealing with pain. Instead of being a judgmental prick about other people's parenting I see that I need to be a little more forgiving and a little more patient with “bad parents” because you just never know what they've been asked to endure that day… or that life.