The Day I Became the Crazy Ape Lady and Stopped Judging People
I will never forget the day I stopped judging other parents. It wasn’t that long ago sadly. Of course, I’ve never wanted to judge other parents, but it happened sometimes. It happened when I saw a kid walking alone across a busy street dragging a family size bag of Cheetos. It happened when my fellow airplane passenger sat expressionless while her baby wailed for an entire 10 hour red-eye flight. It happened.
And then there was this moment, when I was playing chicken with my child, who would not get in the car. We were in a parking lot outside of ballet class. She had been terribly disappointed because she had an expectation that she would be hanging out with one of her friends, while her sister took her ballet class. Instead, we had to drop off the ballerina and go to an appointment with mom. Dreaded errands.
When I broke this news, she slipped out of the car like a wet noodle and sprinted across the parking lot toward the ballet room, determined to stay. The clock was ticking toward my appointment time, and my blood was pumping. I felt like I had no power.
My daughter has aspergers. She spends considerable time each day in fight or flight mode, either disappearing into our yard or under a bed, or fighting us. I’m not sure which is worse. Our primary goal all the time is connection, keeping our love on, as Danny Silk says. It feels like a Herculean task some days.
I weighed my options in that moment. And honestly, I didn’t want to be late to my appointment. I didn’t want to be inconvenienced, for someone else to think that I was irresponsible and couldn’t show up on time. I didn’t want to cancel another appointment for some weird reason that sounded made up. “I couldn’t get my kid in the car.” Or “We couldn’t find a pair of shoes that didn’t feel squinchy.” Whatever it was that day. I didn’t want any of it.
I decided my best hope was to corral. I bobbed, and I weaved, and I pleaded, and my voice got increasingly louder, as I made my way across the parking lot like an angry ape, and she (much faster than me) moved closer to the building and stayed constantly out of reach. My concern switched from being late to my appointment to having this ridiculous act burst into the ballet room for all to see.
In a moment of distraction, I was able to scoop her up and carry her to the car like a sack of potatoes. When I got her in, I turned to walk to the driver’s seat. As soon as I turned my back, she pushed the open button on the sliding door and hopped back out. We preceded to play this fun game three times.
It was about that time that I realized we were not alone. There were a handful of moms sitting in their cars waiting for their ballerinas’ class to end, all with a front row seat to my shame.
There we were, doing our dance, me getting loud, veins popping out. In that moment, I knew that I looked crazy. I looked like I was completely lost as a parent, maybe as a person. I was everything I never wanted to be. Angry, out of control of the situation, and really I was lost.
With her, I am often lost. It drives me to exhaustion and it drives me to prayer, sometimes moment by moment. Because there is no magic button to some challenges. And as much as we like to think that our pithy, savvy advice in the grocery store line about an out of control toddler is going to change someone’s life, it’s not. There’s usually more to a situation than meets the eye.
Many of our friends’ challenges with their marriage or their kids stay behind closed doors or don’t appear to be as bad as we think they are. Of course I’m not advocating for turning a blind eye to abusive or degrading parenting. That’s never acceptable. But now when a friend says, “I’m having such a hard time with….” anything, I listen and I try to show compassion. Because that is her experience. It doesn’t matter if I think it’s easier or harder than my situation. It doesn’t matter if I think it’s solvable or not. It’s just hard for her in that moment. And I know what that feels like. I’ve been in painfully tight spots. And I will hang out in that hard moment with her and feel her pain and accept it at face value.
Another thing that happened that day was that I was set free. I set myself free from caring what everyone thinks of me as a parent, what everyone thinks of my child. I decided to stop explaining it, unless I was trying to help someone or talking to a close friend. I know that I will likely be put into those or other uncomfortable situations again, and I am determined to be focused solely on her well-being, over my own ego. I accept the fact that, although I will try to not be angry, I will probably be the crazy lady again. I chose us, and whatever we need to make it through that day, and keep our love on, no matter what.
Have you found it difficult to not judge other parents at time? Let me know in the comments!
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