Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Judging the other parents who are likely judging me

My son LOVES to go to the playground, and he is incredibly social and verbal, and has been from a very young age. So when we go to the playground or on walks, he looks for other kids to engage with and often approaches them and says hi. The problem is that most kids his age, so far anyway, haven't been quite like him. They either aren't very verbal yet, or still aren't very social, and they get uncomfortable and he gets upset. It's tough because I understand their level of development and his, and I often am the one who encouraged him to say hi in the first place. So sometimes I try to run interference so he doesn't get his feelings hurt or they don't get freaked out. I talk him through it - out loud, "It's nice to say hello, good job!" "Some babies have other ways to say hello" "That was nice of you, K, now let's go play over here..." And often, the other parent says nothing to me, to my son, or to their kid. Which feels weird and awkward. K will also say hi to adults, or just start talking to them, and many just look at him as though they don't get it or do not care, they won't even smile. If they don't, I guess that's okay. But it's hard for me to watch him feel a little defeated and it actually pisses me off. I'm not asking them to pay for college, but really - would a "hello" kill them? These are people with their own kids, do they not see that it has an effect on a kid when you ignore them outright?

Playground visits nearly kill me. I'm, 99% of  the time, on my own with him and am usually surrounded by partnered families or mom duos or groups. All of which are just fine, but also all of which leave me feeling isolated. I have encountered a few solo moms when the playground is less crowded, and can engage with them sometimes - if they aren't buried in their phone. It's just not easy - and it really should be. Why aren't we totally ready to band together? With access to information 24/7 and a barrage of  different parenting experts at the ready to tell us we are ON IT or are complete FUCK UPS, we are instead set up to be defensive immediately, to compete with one another and distrust one another's styles, and we already feel inadequate on a daily basis being so totally and completely responsible for raising a good citizen of the world. And then there are some who don't care so much about what kind of person they are raising, and aren't paying enough attention - which opens the door to the dreaded bullying. And we have seen the desperation caused by being bullied.

I know not everyone feels this way, just to make my point exactly. We are all different, raising different kids, with some cultural variations, in a commercial society fixated on one-up'ing each other or beating the crap out of each other. Breastfeed vs Formula, Helicopter vs. FreeRange, Vax vs Antivaxxers, Homeschool vs Private vs Public Schools, Stay at Home vs Working outside the home, Thrift store vs Nordstrom, Wholefood home-cooking vs processed store-bought ready-made, and the list goes ON and ON. It's relentless.

I know some can just deflect the looks or not give the criticism a second thought, but I find it really hard - I think especially as a single parent. Because I chose this, the bar feels exceptionally higher for me than it is for other parents. And I worry that my angst over these encounters will be absorbed by my kid.

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