When it comes to Facebook, we can pretty much control how we are seen by our 'friends'. I don't know about you, but I would never post a photo of myself that wasn't flattering. Even if it was the most beautiful photo ever of another person in the picture. If you can see my belly fat, or that my face is loosening up, it is gone like it never existed. I want you to see me a flattering light. I care what you think. In light of that confession, I don't think of myself as overly-vain. I think my vanity is about mid-level. I will get a facial but I won't get Botox. I will eat well and exercise enough to be healthy and look attractive enough, but not to the extent that I could run a marathon or have someone wonder if I am perhaps a model.
When it comes to parenting, I learned a long time ago to check my vanity at the door. I learned to do this early on. I swear my epidural hadn't worn off before the bombardment of questions began. Did you go natural? (Not a chance in France, but why do you want to know that?) Oh, your letting her have a pacifier? (You're looking at it in her mouth so….yeah.) She's not potty trained yet? On and on until SAT scores and college admissions. I am not talking about the supportive talk of fellow moms who are friends. I am talking about strangers and people I barely know. You know, the ones who know that if my kid has a pacifier, and hers doesn't, she is a superior mother. Her kid is going to turn out. My kid doesn't have a chance. If only good parenting were so simple.
And if that wasn't bad enough, then we went and adopted kids of a different race, from a different country. You're keeping his name? Is he healthy? How do they do in school? Any attachment issues? The judging that goes on is fierce.
I think my four kids are awesome. I also think all four of them are (or have been) hard. Two have such hot tempers that they lose their minds. They do and say things so awful that it appears that I haven't tried at all. They push my buttons on purpose and in the worst ways they can think of. It's as if I grabbed a magazine, put my feet up, and told them to go ahead and raise themselves.
One of them, in a fit of rage, once called me Freckle Eye. Seriously, I have a freckle on my left eyeball, that until that day, I was not terribly self conscious about, and that kid called me that, just to be mean! You don't think that sounds horrible? Okay, here's another one, that same child, in the middle of what could have stayed as a simple disagreement between parent and child, stormed upstairs, and dramatically threw every item of neatly folded and organized clothing out of her dresser onto the floor while yelling, "THIS is how mad you make me!" Some people run on Dunkin', I run on organization. She was trying to ruin me.
Another one, humbles me by making me look like the worst mother ever. If this child is mad, embarrassed or whatever, he says the kind of things that make other parents' heads whip around. Like, "I hate you." "Don't touch me." Or, "Shut up." Here's what I do when this happens: nothing. I ignore it. I act like it didn't happen. Or, if I can catch his eye, I shake my head 'no' and carry on as normally as I can. And I only do this because I think it makes me look less lame. I know it has no effect on him. My lack of forceful and visible response feels pretty awful. Not because I think I am wrong. But because I feel myself being judged. I say nothing because it is the only way not to make it worse. When this kid is mad, he cannot stop his anger while he is in the middle of it. It has to run its course. His dresser emptying sister was the same way. Dealing with it has to wait.
Sometimes, I get, "Wow. You're better than me. I would not put up with that." When clearly the person speaking means "I am better than you. If your kid was my kid, I would handle it differently and better, and therefore it would never actually happen to me. At least not more than once."
Luckily, most of the verbal judging goes on in a gossipy behind the back fashion. As in one mom to another mom, "That behavior would not fly with me." The other mom saying, "Oh yeah. Can you imagine?"
So, If I helped a mom in 1988 feel superior because I had an epidural, great. If I helped a small group of parents at the soccer field in 2013, feel like they are on the right track in their parenting journey, you're welcome. And if you are like so many parents who are simply awesome and supportive, and not judging other parents to figure out if you are doing it right, I thank you.
Parenting is a hard and often embarrassing job. There is little room for vanity and no chance for perfection. So, If you happen to notice my kids not listening to me, or if you overhear one of them telling me he hates me, go easy on me. No, on second thought, forget it ever happened, and send me a friend request on Facebook instead, okay?