By Jayvee Fernandez
Weary nights and exhaustion for first time parents are nothing compared to the judgmental eyes of strangers. Especially if they’re also parents.
I’ve been alive long enough to see a demographic exodus on Facebook—from posts on libations to the YOLO gods to the “eat, pray, love” wanderlust sort. After finding oneself through a tumultuous but enlightening journey of self discovery and experimentation, many end up choosing to love someone. Then marriage. Shortly after for some, a family.
I’ve also noticed that the demographics of the online jury has shifted as well. The social justice warriors, armchair activists, the “woke”—these archetypes have migrated into the nesting grounds of judgmental strangers who raise eyebrows into the new realm of parenting. Case in point, when your child throws a tantrum at the mall or accompany a meal with the iPad so they can eat properly.
This is uncharted space. Never in the history of humanity have we a time when parenting skills are openly judged. No longer are they in the hushed tones of coffee shops and parlours. They have invaded into the realm of your Facebook news feed and online parenting groups.
“Yes we absolutely need to take our child with us on this plane trip. He’s crying because he can’t equalize, and the sound of the engines are new to him. If he stays home, he will be alone and die. That’s a criminal offense under neglect.”
“Yes it’s terribly difficult to feed children that can’t concentrate on their plates. The iPad helps. Tremendously. Would you prefer we send them over to play next to your table? Or would you call that bad parenting?”
Would you wish we berate them in public? “I pity that child, her mom’s so strict.”
Or would you wish we ignore these tantrums? “The dad isn’t a good parent because he’s not in control.”
“Well if I were a parent..”
You assume that short episode at the mall is a microcosm of what it means to be a parent. Always berating. Always losing your temper. Always struggling to be in control.
But there are things you do not see.
You do not see the torrents of wet kisses and tight hugs and the reading of story books for the bedtime regimen. You do not see the shared laughter and triumph from the first step, the first video game played. You do not see the first time a parent sees his or her child write down the letters of the alphabet.
When I see another dad struggling to control his child’s tantrum at the mall, I wish I could make eye contact and give him the silent fist bump. Better yet when he lifts that child (still bawling) and gets on his way, not budging an inch for that toy the son demands he buys.
Strangers may not understand. In fact, I forgive them for not understanding at all because they aren’t parents. But fellow parents, we honestly need to stick together. If you’re going to judge, please don’t judge the other’s parenting. You know how every home has a different set of rules, especially when it comes to cleaning the house? It’s similar. How about I impose the way I clean my home into yours? It’s quite similar.
Parents, give each other some slack. And to the others, you will never know until you’re there.