My baby had a doctor’s appointment today and I woke up dreading it. This is atypical for me. First of all, my pediatrician is the bomb diggity. Seriously. A fellow patient once described her as being “your best friend with a medical degree”. And it’s absolutely an accurate assessment. I usually look forward to doctor appointments, if for no other reason than I get to chit chat with our awesome doctor.
And this is hardly my first rodeo. I have been taking babies to the doctor for a while and though some circumstances may give way to some anxiety on behalf of my children (Please let the nebulizer treatments help. Please let that mole be normal. Please let it be strep throat and not a stomach virus.), this anxiety wasn’t for my children. It was for me.
You see, I knew that in addition to the baby, I needed to take her two older brothers. Again, taking siblings to the doctor? Not new. I’ve been dragging my gaggle (no, y’all, I legitimately have a gaggle. A gaggle is defined as five or more. Did you know that?) of children to appointments of varying sorts for over a decade. It is not something that typically causes me stress. I don’t pack a bag of books and snacks and Amazon gift cards to keep them happy. We go, we survive, we come home. And it’s always been okay. Until the last year.
Almost a year ago, my sixth child became a legit toddler. By the time he hit fifteen months, it was clear he was going to be a handful. His personality is a perfect storm of amiable qualities (he is intelligent, focused, determined), amplified by a thousand. If Beethoven and the Incredible Hulk had a baby and then that baby ate a radioactive spider, the personality of that baby would likely be similar to my son’s.
Now imagine, in this scenario, that there is a walking, talking catalyst, following this brilliant, explosive little creature around ALL the time. That’s my other son. Oil and water are not a suitable analogy. These two are more like baking soda and vinegar. You can probably see why the idea of sticking the two in a tiny exam room for thirty minutes, while simultaneously trying to hold a wiggly infant, seemed somewhat comparable to a stroll through the seventh circle of hell.
And guess what? It was.
The boys were unruly and loud. The baby was fussy from her shots. For the first time in my twelve years of parenting and hundreds of appointments, no one got a sticker. No stickers. None. This resulted in me dragging a miserable baby, two wailing toddlers and an unsightly diaper bag through the parking lot to load into our van covered in dog hair, cracker crumbs and more than one dirty sweatshirt. By the time I got everyone buckled, the sleep deprivation tugging on every nerve of my body, all I could do was sit in my van and cry.
I can only imagine what the casual passerby could have thought of the sight. “That woman is a hot mess.” And they would be right.
Later, as I was cruising through social media, I noticed a post someone had made on Facebook about her own experience in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Her experience was not like mine. She sat with her well-mannered, eleven-year-old son and witnessed the deplorable behavior of several younger children. Her post scolded these parents, citing the reason for this behavior as a total lack of discipline. Obviously, she mused, these parents didn’t understand the concept of “the belt”. My heart broke in that moment. She was not talking about me, but she could have been. She could have been talking about my babies. Because in the ten minutes she spent with them in a waiting room, she thought she knew them. She thought she knew me.
To this woman, and any who have shared her views (and I, in my shame, am among them), may I offer a simple plea? Stop judging other parents.
I have been there. I get it. I still do it. It is as easy as breathing, to point that finger, to say, “I would never let my child act that way.” Ever been in a restaurant, an airplane or a grocery store and thought to yourself, “Why don’t they DO something about that kid? Spoiled brat.” I have. I have thought those things. Ever seen that kid wandering the neighborhood kicking a mailbox and turned to your spouse to huff, “Where are his parents? Don’t they even care where he is?” I’ve done that one too. I need to stop. We all need to stop.
There is no way that a five or twenty minute view of someone’s life can possibly qualify us to determine what kind of parent they are, or what kind of child they are raising. It would be like watching five minutes of a movie and trying to write a synopsis of the plot, or walking into a hospital and wanting to perform open heart surgery after taking BIO 101. We are not qualified to judge each other, nor should we make it our goal to become so.
We need to stop the mentality that we are only succeeding if someone else is doing worse than we are. My failures do not make you a better parent and your failures do not make me a better parent. We only succeed when we love, support and encourage each other and ourselves. We need to be more patient with the children we encounter, including our own. We need to be more patient with ourselves. Chances are, we all just need a graham cracker and a nap.