IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This post about judgement is not intended to sound judgemental. It represents the official views and opinions of the voices in my head.
It was a Monday. Everything seemed to be working that morning. Parker ate his breakfast and 99% of the food was in his stomach. There wasn't egg in his hair, smeared on the door, thrown at the dogs, or sitting on a spoon waiting for the ol' "one more bite and you can have some fruit" trick. I packed the diaper bag the night before. As usual, our Stylish Dad had our lunches and outfits all organized. We were actually going to get out of the house on time. Scratch that. We were going to be early to our Gymboree class. I was halfway expecting a ticker tape parade upon arrival. #epic
I went to Starbucks for a green tea latte before class. After all, we were early and prepared. The barista got my order wrong, not once but twice. She didn't apologize and had this horrible attitude. And, she kept looking at me funny. I kept thinking, "How rude. You chose to be in the service industry. I would never treat customers the way you do." I almost said something, but instead opted for the passive-aggressive eye roll and silent judgement. I'm sure she got the point.
We arrived at class 10 minutes early (no ticker tape parade, but whatever). The class is always packed on Mondays. It was time to get the party started, so I put Parker down in the gym area. He walked over to a little girl, and she didn't even respond to him. "Her parents should teach her to be nice," I thought and judged. Parker waved at this one mom with his cute, shy wave. She was on her phone and didn't wave back. "Who's on their phone at a Gymboree class," I judged. Side note. I'm constantly fighting my own addiction to my phone, but judged anyway.
When I attend these classes and events, I'm often the only dad in the room. My social ineptitude is even more severe than normal. I find it hard to strike up a conversations, because I struggle to move beyond the inevitable "how old's your kid?" icebreaker. I get wrapped up in my own internal dialogue and make assumptions about what people are thinking. This day was no exception. I noticed that there were lots of stares in my direction, several side-eye glances, moms not acknowledging me, and uncomfortable silences when I did make an effort to engage in conversation. I knew it. They were judging me. They were judging the big gay dad in the room. So, I judged back. Outfits, parenting style, how coordinated a kid was--it was all up for grabs. After all, they were judging me. Hmpf.
Then, this one mom looked at me and giggled. I judged her back real good. I'd had enough.
I went to show the entire class how advanced and coordinated Parker was. I had him walk over the bridge without holding on to anything. He must've known what was happening, because he responded with an Olympic worthy performance. As he was preparing to dismount, that's when I saw it. My zipper was down. Not just down. Wide open. It had been since we left the house. The only saving grace was that I was wearing cute underwear (coming soon on the Dad's Style Guide section--but I digress). I was mortified.
I recognized, in that moment, that it's impossible to judge others when your barn door is wide open. I started replaying every interaction from the time we left the house. How many people noticed my zipper blunder? Why didn't someone tell me? What the...
Then, I was suddenly and abruptly pulled out of my own head and forced to shut down the internal conversation. The little girl that didn't acknowledge Parker at the beginning of class had fallen and was crying. Her mom (whom I had judged) was sitting down comforting her. Parker went over to his favorite bin of balls and picked up two. He walked over to the little girl and her mom. My kind and amazing son offered her both balls, as if to say, "I'm not sure what happened, but you're going to be ok." That's all it took--a little empathy from a 15 month old. He connected with her on an emotional level and she stopped crying.
I felt like an ass.
Judgement is a funny thing. It takes up a lot of energy and prevents us from sharing human experiences with one another. As I thought about it more, I realized that judgement is:
- Human Nature. It's true. Every second of every day we are judging life's experiences and the people that we meet. You're judging this blog post as you read it. I read somewhere once that judgements are natural, but they aren't final. So, wait until you read the whole blog post!
- Self-defense. It's a built in response when we feel like we are being judged by others. It's a way of protecting our silly little ego. It's a subtle way of confirming or validating ourselves.
- An Internal Reflection. Carl Jung (the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist) said, "everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves.” It's our way of projecting the attitudes, thoughts or behaviors that we do not like about ourselves onto others.
Instead of judging others and protecting ourselves, why aren't we all more empathetic? Why are we so caught up in our own insecurities that we often forget to engage with others through compassion and kindness? We all have struggles, fears, and self-doubt--especially as parents. Why make it harder than it has to be? Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to worry about all of this? What if the world was so full of empathy, there was no space for judgement? Now, that deserves a ticker tape parade! #trulyepic
PS. At the end of the class, I watched Parker (my empathy guru) shove another kid away from the bucket of balls. Whatever. His work was done for the day.