It had been a surprisingly smooth outing. We played at the park and it was pleasantly cool in the shade. We laughed and we sang. Then we went to Target. I let the 3 year old walk instead of being worn or going in the cart. We practiced turning up our listening ears. And we did pretty well despite some hiccups…until we didn’t.
The seating section was my sweet toddler’s undoing. She wanted the furry chair, she wanted the purple chair, she wanted me to haul down metal chairs from the top shelf (sorry baby, I might hurt your sister), she wanted the sofa RIGHT NOW *foot stomp*. And that was it. She couldn’t reconnect in that moment, she had feelings and they needed out. I probably should have intervened sooner. She’d been struggling to listen several times but we were having fun and I didn’t want it to end. I probably set her up for failure. She hadn’t had lunch yet and she was probably tired because no one has been sleeping well lately. Regardless of the “why”, the meltdown happened. My baby was drowning in the moment. The volume was earsplitting, the tears were pouring out and she was scaring me running off in her angry rage.
Sometimes gently parenting is swapping the baby to your back to get on the upset child’s level, carrying them with strong arms and gentle words as they flail and scream, enduring the judgment and disapproval in most of the faces you encounter as you abandon your cart for much more important work. This business of raising emotionally healthy people. No, I won’t yell at or hit my child to meet strangers’ approval, but getting used to the disdain I encounter for so many of my parenting choices is definitely a season of growth for me. An exercise in self confidence. Probably something I’ve always needed, but I’m getting plenty of practice now.
I’m not sure what makes people judge those who choose not to harm their children. Probably, if we look closely, it’s cognitive dissonance. The impossibility of lining up their own childhood experiences or their own parenting experiences with what they are witnessing. Because if what I am doing could be “right” or “better” that would mean their experiences were “wrong” or “not as good”- this is a painful experience for most people, so it is easier for them to look down their noses at my choices and “poorly behaved” children than to try to understand me. However, there are those willing to see, listen, and support this journey. To learn from me and to change their own inner beliefs. For those people I am grateful and they make me hopeful for the world. And that’s a beautiful thing. Thanks for being my tribe, you know who you are.