Judging Responsibly

This is not a light and fluffy post.  This is about judgment.  More specifically, it is about the kind of judgment passed on parents, and mothers in particular.  It’s about the fact that we need individuals who are informed of the way things work and informed of our lives in order to help us through tough decisions and double-check our value systems.  It’s about the fact that we also need the morons who think they are informed of our lives and are in a place to pass judgment (but actually aren’t, if you can’t tell by my tone here) to step the *!@# back.

This is what I’m talking about: take a moment to remember your best friend from college.  I’m willing to bet that if your BFF told you that your hair was a hot mess, you’d find a mirror as soon as possible and change it.  If she told you that your jeans made your thighs look huge, you would change them.  If your boyfriend’s mom told you those same things, you would probably cry and wonder why she doesn’t think you’re good enough for her son.

There are two important differences between your best friend and your boyfriend’s mom.

1.  Knowledge of subjects surrounding what is being judged

BFF knows what is attractive and suitable for you, because she knows what looks good and is appropriate for someone your age.  She knows the hairstyles that would make you seem like a train wreck to your friends, and she knows how people in your generation wear jeans.  Boyfriend’s mom’s standards are from a different generation (outdated), and you probably shouldn’t care about them outside of when you must be around this obviously rude woman.

2.  Knowledge of the person being judged

Your BFF knows you.  Beyond what’s in for the season, she knows whether or not you actually care.  She knows that you’d probably welcome the criticism about your thunder thighs from her- rather than walking around looking like that all day.  Boyfriend’s mother’s comments are totally inappropriate because she’s dismissing your sense of style without having a better understanding of it and you, and she has no idea if she’s calling someone with bulimia or anorexia “fat” and therefore sending that girl into a tailspin.

Common sense, right?  Oops.  Too many people didn’t get that memo.

Goofball statement number 1: “I don’t think anyone should be judged.”

EEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNHHHHHHHHHH.  We need our BFFs, sisters, close cousins, and yes, even our mothers (assuming you have a close relationship with your mothers) to keep us in check.  Human beings are social creatures- we’re still around and living in communities because survival sometimes depends on it.  While, yes, that does include our early ancestors who found safety in numbers, we need to realize it has developed into much more than that.  Our emotional health often depends on others.  We need emotional support, we need acceptance, we need love, we need people.  Those people we need need us, too.  These needs translate into relationships, and relationships need solid foundations of mutual understanding and respect.  When understanding and respect are established, a person can identify when you are operating outside of your principles (or maybe that person’s principles, which she may ascribe to you while she identifies you as like-minded and worthy) and point it out to you.  Don’t even try to pretend that you never need your mistakes pointed out to you.  We’re all human, we all screw up, and we all need to be pulled back in line every now and then.

Don’t agree?  Well, what if your sister lost it and beat her children?  Wouldn’t you need to judge that situation, let her know she screwed up, possibly offer to get her and her family help?  What if your brother turned into an alcoholic and cheated on his wife?  Wouldn’t you speak up to him, let him know he could do better?  I would hope the answers to these questions would be “yes” for everyone who has a real relationship with their siblings.

I would also hope you’d  tell your best friend if her jeans made her look bad.

Short Story Part 1: You’re a mortal human being who will screw up, and you need people to judge those mistakes so you can address them.

Take the principles described above and apply them to the following statement.  Goofball statement number 2: “I think it’s up to every parent to decide what is right for his/her child.”

Even in addition to the obvious objections regarding parents who physically and emotionally abuse their children, this can’t be right.  Consider for a moment how our culture is different from older cultures.  If you take a quick look around the world at populations that aren’t described so much as “melting pots,” you’ll find traditions.  You’ll find entire communities parenting their children in the same way.  You’ll find less disagreement and more acceptance of traditional wisdom.

I am not saying that traditional wisdom is necessarily what is right in our culture; rather, I point out that we have nothing like that.  What some people would consider “traditional” child rearing in America today is probably a set of guidelines introduced by the new medical community beginning in the early 1900’s.  Our traditions and instincts were then called into question and expelled from society (bad idea).  As a result, we have certain groups of people who still stick to following child rearing advice introduced by these inexperienced “scientists” years and years ago, which may have been soundly and scientifically refuted by now, simply because it’s what the last generation did; and on the flip side, we have families who are educating themselves on how things were done before the “scientists” intervened and turned family life upside down.  Members of the latter group often identify with principles of AP (attachment parenting) and align with knowledge gathered from more traditional cultures and recent studies on infant and child development.

You’re not going to like what I’m about to say next.  There is a right way and a wrong way.  I’m not going to even pretend that all the facts are in, but think for just one second.  If Pediatrician A says that strawberries are bad for infants, and Pediatrician B says that strawberries are good for infants, your good sense tells you that one of them has to be wrong, and one of them has to be right.  It’s the same with our differing opinions on child rearing.  One camp says babywearing is right, and one says it’s wrong.  They can’t both be true.  You could cop out of using your brain by saying, well, one could be true for some families and one could be true for other families.  Then why do most traditional cultures wear their babies?  If it does not benefit the health of the people involved, why in the world would it be so widely practiced across cultures?

Babywearing is only one example.  There are so many choices a parent has to make that fall under the same category.  But instead of coming together to realize the best solution for all of our children, people get defensive.  They feel guilty.  They try to deter any judgment by making the blanket statement, “The parent knows best.”

So, if you really think you don’t need anyone to tell you when your jeans are horrible (or you’re doing something with your kids that could be improved upon with a little help), think a little longer.

Short Story Part 2: In such a confused and scattered culture, it simply isn’t possible that every parent is correct.

Goofball statement number 3: “I don’t know you, but I don’t think you should be doing that.”

If you witness violence or negligence, that statement could have some merit.  However, it mostly doesn’t.

I’m going to share the story of this morning with you, dear readers.  It’s juicy.  It started at breakfast.  There was a question raised over a family friend.  It was something like, “What caused John’s divorce?”  The party fielding that question proceeded to describe a family who suffered the death of a newborn and of a child being torn apart by a mother’s decisions.  The mother decided that she wasn’t happy in the relationship and needed space.  She moved out, partied some, and a year or so later realized that she really was happy in her marriage, and wanted to work on it.  By then, her husband had moved on, and she attempted suicide.  The comments that followed ran along the lines of, “I can’t imagine being that jealous,” and more judgment.  The people discussing the situation had obviously never suffered such a traumatic life, and didn’t think to consider that her seemingly selfish actions could have stemmed from pure pain.  It took everything I had not to scream at these people, and break into tears for this woman I had never met, being dissected by relative strangers.

My point is this: if you don’t know the whole story or the whole person, it really doesn’t matter what you think.  That statement, I believe, warranted profanity, but I have relatives reading whom I respect very much.  So just take my word for it- it does not matter what you think.

Your philosophy favors unmedicated, natural childbirth, so you have disdain for a random Facebook commenter who (unbeknownst to you, went through 5 days of unmedicated labor) got the epidural?  It doesn’t matter what you think.  You know that breast is best, so you look down on the mom who couldn’t produce enough milk due to thyroid issues and feeds her baby formula?  Doesn’t matter.  You think it’s disgusting to cloth diaper a baby, and roll your eyes at anyone who does?  Very vehemently, I say it does not matter what you think.

Don’t be the boyfriend’s mother, going around hurting people unnecessarily.  Just stop and think!

Short Story Part 3: Grow a brain, and connect it to your heart.

Image

In summary, I am very exhausted from writing this post.  It’s all so obvious and should be common sense and second nature- so what are we doing?!

That’s all I have tonight… maybe a nice recipe for the next post, huh?

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