Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Upstairs and Downstairs Parents

The title of this post isn’t a reference to Downton Abbey, although that would be a fun post to write.  It’s a reference to our local library, where the children’s section is downstairs. 

The other day, my mom told me that a librarian friend of hers, who frequently is the one to check me and the kids out upstairs, commented on what a great mom I am. 

I’m fairly certain the downstairs librarians wouldn’t agree. 

You see, the last few (three?  four?  it all blurs together) times we’ve gone to the library, Isaac has had a complete meltdown of one kind or another right when we were leaving.  It’s involved things like running away from me, crying, and screaming…super fun stuff.  So I’ve been the one chasing him, strapping his flailing body into the stroller (which I still bring in to make our entrance and exit go more smoothly), and calmly telling him that we do not yell in the library. 

I’m “that” mom to the downstairs librarians.  You know, the one who can’t control my kid.  The one who must be doing something terribly wrong in order to make my kid behave that way.  The one who clearly did not prepare her child that the library is a quiet and calm place and that we would have to leave soon. 

I’ve seen the looks.  I’ve seen the judgments from the parents of innocent little 15-month-olds who swear that will never be them.  I’ve seen the looks from parents whose children have mastered impulse control and obedience at a younger age than my son.  The looks and the judgments sting. 

But then we go upstairs.  And by the time we go upstairs, Isaac has calmed down and is no longer screaming and appears to have been sitting calmly in his stroller for quite some time.  So the upstairs people see my smooth checkout and think that I’m the mom who’s got it all together, whose angelic children never disobey and wouldn’t even think about screaming until they were red in the face in the library. 

So, whose judgment is right?  Maybe both.  Maybe neither.

They are judgments made based on the briefest of interactions, the most limited amounts of information. 

They are judgments made with no context of relationship, no incentive to believe the best about someone, and no good intent.   

On the receiving end of these judgments, it’s far too easy to be overly pricked and pained by the negative ones and overly encouraged and validated by the positive ones.  It’s also far too easy to parent in public out of embarrassment, shame, and fear of what judgments will be made. 

I am the one who knows what kind of mother I am.  My kids know what kind of mother I am.  My God knows what kind of mother I am.  We are the ones who are fully aware of what goes on both downstairs and upstairs.  We see it all. 

And in the context of these safe, long-lasting, loving relationships, I will find my anchor and my hope and my guidance.  

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