Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Mom’s Code – Judging Moms: Don't Judge My Kids (Part Five of Five)

Written by Eileen Wacker

Judging me is one thing. Judging my kids is a weapon that should never be used. There should be a warning alarm, a fire alarm that goes off and someone sky writes ‘don’t go there! It will end badly!’ Every child has his/her moments—some are brag-worthy but more are awful, messy and stressful. I always hope my kids’ worst moments happen in the confines of our home. But when my child has an extremely unattractive moment, a look from a thin-lipped mom takes the situation from bad to ‘I want to cry in frustration!’

Moms Code Tenet 1: Stop the Mama Drama

When I’m struggling with an uncooperative child, I appreciate an offer to help or the person pretending she doesn’t notice the meltdown. So, I try to do the same when I see a child in meltdown mode. I don’t raise my eyebrows at a distressed mom or talk about it to other moms, pointing at her. I don’t judge her kid based on that moment. We all have unlimited love for our children, and they all crumple like broken accordions in times of high stress or pressure. That’s why happy hour, or wine o’clock as my friend Michael calls it, was invented and will perpetuate as long as motherhood exists.

A few of my friends contributed some of their ‘judgiest’ stories--

Misty, mind your own business
I went to watch my second grade daughter in a school play. She didn’t have a very big part and didn’t behave very well on stage. I watched intently, trying not to display any of the dismay I felt. Another mother leaned in and said to me, ‘you should have her tested. With meds, she could focus and not fidget so much’. I was so surprised that I didn’t answer. But as the play wore on and afterwards, I felt more and more angry. She’s not a doctor and her feigned concern was intrusive. Who is she to judge after a 45-minute play that my daughter has ADHD and should be medicated?

Audrey, raising a tough one
As a baby, my daughter never woke from a nap without screaming to be pulled out of the crib immediately. In kindergarten, when she was good she was so good, and when she was bad, she was horrid.  She was tough. She was a leader. She was creative at planning what everyone should do next - but became quite bored when things were not done her way. To be honest, she was not always the nicest or most considerate - but nobody walked on her. In third grade, other moms labeled her ‘queen bee’. She would go from being very popular to being “persona non gratis”. It was tough to watch. It was even tougher because many of the swings in opinion were propelled by the moms. Of course, our kids are a direct reflection on us. When she wasn’t nice - it was as if I wasn’t being nice and they talked about me behind my back. I said to her- “who are the girls that are never out?’ “Who are the girls that everyone always likes - and never turn on? Watch how they act with others -and try to treat others like they do.” She learned to observe her own and other’s behaviors. By the time she entered high school, she had gotten much better at being a leader in a humble way. She became the Editor and Chief of her High School newspaper and the Captain of the High School Tennis team. And, the best part is - all those moms that were tongue wagging now ask if one day - when she has a big job - can hire their kids!? Lesson – hang in there!

There are moms out there who don’t discipline or even watch their kids. They even pretend they are not with them. These moms don’t get a pass from anyone judging them. They make it worse for us moms who try to get our kids to behave! Stay clicked in moms!


Official judging – the preschool interview
Getting a child into pre-school, kindergarten and elementary school keeps moms around the world up at night. Any child can have a good day or bad, but so much rests on one isolated hour. Will he play well with others? Will she look the interviewer in the eye? Will he sit and focus on an exercise? Did she come off as happy and a ‘do-er’? Did I get the right recommendations? Moms kill themselves to get their child in the right frame of mind, bribing, cajoling, but in the end, it’s out of our control.

The only acceptable answer from Admissions to any mom is that her child is ACCEPTED. For me, with my first child, there was an audible exhale, high five and celebration. Thank goodness her life is on track! But another scenario unfolded for my second child, the one who had a hint of bad boy, even at age five. Mr. Mailperson only had a little envelope for me as I waited at the end of the driveway, trying to appear carefree and unaffected. My hand shook as I opened the small envelope bearing the school crest. With flowery language, my child was rejected! He’s judged as not measuring up, and that means I don’t measure up. I tried to hide my feeling of, ‘this feels like the end of the world’. My husband thankfully shared my disappointment and didn’t say I was making a big deal over something that won’t matter in the long run. This was a serious blow to my mommy manifesto.

Moms Code Tenet 8: Save your children when you have to

Since so many parents face this scenario, they figure out what the measures are and then how to meet or beat them. The tutoring centers find out what’s in the admissions interviews and they coach the children. Then the Admissions office changes things up so little robots don’t walk in the door. It’s become a game, and collectively, we are not winning.

It’s another intensified issue. I don’t remember the stakes being this high when I was a kid. My parents bought a house in a neighborhood with a decent school district and we went to school, starting with kindergarten. Children weren’t judged so early on. Starting kindergarten wasn’t a high stress-associated event.

Elena, I wish I didn’t care as much as I do
I went to a Girls Night Out right after hearing my son was not accepted to the private school we had hoped for. The other moms have kids around my child’s age. One mom, who I thought of as my friend, was going on and on about how her child had been accepted into all three schools. Another mom said, ‘he just has that ‘it’ factor and the mom agreed. I asked what she attributed her son’s success to and she answered seriously, ‘parenting of course’. I was so upset I had to leave the table. I collected myself and went back to the table. Another mom said to me, ‘you know, this school is not for every child’. I couldn’t accept this statement as all their kids got in. I could have accepted it from a mom whose child had not got in. Thank goodness another mom was driving me home because I pounded down glasses of wine until I was numb.

I have advice for a mom offering her friend advice when her child gets cut from a sport or denied admission to a school. Don’t say, ‘it’s probably for the best’ if your own kid got in. When my kids are cut or rejected, I’m bleeding for my child and wish I could change the outcome. I need a friend to offer comfort. Then help me strategize what I’m going to do next, because it’s all I’m thinking about.

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With four kids, we’ve survived many cuts from things like sports teams, school admissions and play tryouts. Trial and error builds character and teaches resiliency. I want my kids to try for things and when they don’t make it, put themselves out there again. But the actual moments of rejection really suck. Especially when my daughter’s face is twisted in fear as she listens in on my end of the conversation that she didn’t make the team or get invited to honors math.

I am the only mom my kids know. Even if I make a decision that I would take back, miss something important, or have a lapse in mom judgment, my kids don’t know it. Because what they live every day is normal to them. As the only mom they know, my kids don’t think about changing me out. 

So let’s be more like our kids and not notice all and point out a mom’s moment of weakness or embarrassment! Let’s bring the judging down a notch!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Mom’s Code – Judging Moms: Unqualified Judges (Part Four of Five)

Generally, in life you apply for and interview to get a job. But not the job of mom. I’m motivated to the degree I’d lay down my life without blinking. I always show up and work overtime constantly. My pay is a smile, a hug or a motivated child. The benefits I request are minimal—rinsing off every day and getting to wash my hair (and dry it) every once in a while. A Mother’s Day card with silly, loving and misspelled words. In short, I’m a superstar who works for affection. But somehow we’ve ended up with an incredible workforce of qualified moms.

Tenet 6: Check your "Judgeyness" at the door

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Most moms are like me. We don’t like to be judged. I take my job seriously. Sometimes when other moms judge me, it’s like being in a family business where the least qualified relative writes and enforces the workplace rules.

Bottom line there is too much judging going on. Some of my friends shared their stories. Note I will have a whole separate blog dedicated to mothers-in-law as I had too many stories to fit into this section!

Yune, it bothers me to be judged
I say to my daughter sometimes, “Why do you care what he/she thinks?” I mean it when I say it to my daughter, yet if someone criticizes my parenting, I feel very defensive and want to prove that person wrong. Why do I care what people think? And since I do care, I can’t help nagging my daughter about her behavior in a public space. I know kids can make a scene, but I always pray it won’t happen in front of others. Have you ever seen the monkey that eats all the bugs off the baby monkey, carefully picking at every bug? I feel like I pick all her imperfections off like a mother monkey. Only she doesn’t appreciate the bug removal. She shrugs her shoulders and tries to get me off.

Tenet 7: Nourish your soul with Girls Night Outs 

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Joanna, living with a big mistake
My friend was driving home after our mom group had salad and wine at a local diner with our kids. She was pulled over for going 35 mph in a 25 mph zone and she admitted she had a glass of wine. She failed the breathalyzer and the police took her keys and told her to have someone come and get her kids. She got dropped off by the squad car. She ended up in the town paper and her license was suspended for 30 days. The gossip amongst the moms was ugly. Even my husband said, “Her poor husband. How embarrassing for him at work.” What? Her poor husband, how about poor her? Then I imagined a police officer with a narcotics dog going through my mailbox and finding the envelope of pot my brother once mailed me. A respected third grade teacher being hauled off in cuffs! Our girls crew have taken ubers and lyfts for our nights out ever since. And we don’t judge other moms until we know the whole story!

Lanie, please look in the mirror
Do you know a mom who claims, “I don’t judge anyone. I try to stay away from all that. I’m not into all that overparenting. I’m really laid back and apply no pressure whatsoever. And so on.” But then she proceeds to knock all the other moms, their practices, and their kids! And her kids are the most uptight and over-scheduled of all the kids I know. I’m not sure if she’s clueless or just thinks we don’t notice.

Brooke, some of my best friends are judgy
My friend Lanie makes proclamations about many things. She says she can never trust three kinds of moms—ones who don’t drink, ones who are anti-pets, and ones with bumper stickers on their cars (especially ones that say ‘my kid is an honors student’ when the child is in third grade). She has very well developed arguments for the three. She swears dogs can sense if someone is a good person or not and has countless examples of when her dog has growled at a questionable character (sometimes it’s a child, who she then refers to as a ‘bad seed’). She feels anyone who won’t share a glass of wine is boring, not willing to be open and therefore untrustworthy. She labels these countless moms as uptight and competitive. She also swears bumper sticker people are secretly angry, but use their ‘cause’ to look like a Good Samaritan of some kind. So she is very judgy. She is also very smart. She has an MBA from University of Chicago although she chooses to be a yoga instructor. I don’t always agree with her, but she is so funny that my stomach hurts after most of our conversations. She can dish it out and she can take it. Sometimes though, she chooses the wrong people to share her opinions with. People who don’t understand her sense of humor. Or, worse, teetotal moms with pet allergies and an array of bumper stickers. It’s easy to cross the line to judgy-ness.

Tenet 5: Stand up to "Mom Tormentors"

Louisa, I’m just being careful
My kids were lobbying hard for a dog and my husband chimed in (mainly to rile me up). I know I will end up taking care of the dog and I’m not even a dog person. A friend of mine told me over time most owners come to resemble their dogs. She pointed to the character Jay in Modern Family and how he was coming to resemble Stella the bulldog (and that’s only a TV pet!) I had to think long and hard about what kind of dog would be right. My kids really wanted a Bulldog they would name Snorty or a German Shepard named Ralph. Out of the question!!! I can’t start to resemble a chubby bulldog or a German Gestapo. So, I agreed to a dog only if it was cute and tiny. We ended up with a Malte-poo named Bella. She’s adorable and the kids love her! My husband, not so much! But I don't feel bad as 90% of taking care of Bella is on me. As a tiny bit of revenge, I make my husband walk Bella around the neighborhood with a pink ribbon tied on her cute little head! And I let her wander freely into his poker nights and listen to his friends tease him!

Steph, we have bad Barbie dolls and Disney movies at our house
My friend Amy is all about girl power. Her #1 toy foe is Barbie. She is against everything a Barbie stands for. Her little girl was never very interested so it wasn’t an issue. Then her little boy developed an insatiable urge to play with Barbie dolls. At every play date at our house, Connor makes a beeline to the Barbie dolls. His mom gives him a lecture right in front of me about how playing with Barbie sends a bad message to girls. She glances my way as if I’m ruining her child by owning Barbie dolls. My kids look up at me, confused and I plaster a smile on my face. She is also anti-Disney, believing the movies are violent and give kids nightmares. My kids love to have movie nights with Disney movies and watch them over and over. Their current favorites are Mulan, Frozen, Kung Fu Panda, Moana, and Lion King. Of course, toy weapons are also on the taboo list and all her daughter wants to do is play with our plastic swords. So play dates with her kids are challenging. She’s a great mom and her kids are sweet. I just wish she’d ease up with the opinions.

It’s hard not to judge, but I’m working on it
I make assumptions sometimes; we all do. When my neighbor had a puffy face, I guessed she had a little work done. Turned out she had her wisdom teeth out. I apologized profusely but she didn’t speak to me for a month.

Tenet 1: Stop the Mama Drama

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After becoming a mom and understanding the pounding nature of the job every day (and the strong little willful beings that are our children), I’ve developed natural filters. For example, I wouldn’t say, ‘the way your daughter dresses is an absolute crime. What were you, and she, thinking?’  I don’t offer parenting advice unless it is asked for, or, part of a wider discussion over wine at a mom dinner. I want and value advice on everything to do with my children - phones/electronics/toys usage, movies, eating, bedtimes, or any other topic. But if I’m being honest, I want it when I ask for it or are open to it; that is not usually mid-crisis when I’m stressed out and doing my best to keep from going stark raving mad.

I’m trying to be less hypersensitive to advice too; the exception is helpful hints from my beloved about how I could be more organized so things could be smoother and quieter for him when he comes home. For the most part, I take the constructive parts and don’t flinch and feel like my parenting is being called into question.  

What do other moms experiences with being judged? Send them to me and I’ll post them.