I’m not really sure if I was judgemental before I became a parent, or if parenting has just given me more to be judgemental about, but it’s true. I judge people. I hold strong opinions on lots of parenting choices. I don’t imagine any of these opinions are particularly surprising – for example, I don’t agree with women smoking while they are pregnant, I think ear piercing babies is vile and if someone gives a young child a fizzy drink it makes my blood boil – but I keep quiet about it and let people go along with their (crappy) choices regardless.
Possibly the strongest opinion I hold is that people should do the best they can for their children. Again, not really a shocker. I don’t mean in a financial sense at all (in fact I’m more likely to judge people who spoil their kids, to the point I was quite frustrated with my other half for going a bit mental in Toys R Us before Christmas). I mean in terms of encouragement, respecting a child’s needs (sleep, nutrition, routine, structure, discipline, etc) and I bloody hate it when I hear/see parents being ignorant about what is best for their child (such as vaccinations, for example).
A few days ago, I was openly judged on my parenting choice to be informed. I was told I ‘read too much on the internet’ when I was mid-explanation about why I won’t give my almost five-month old daughter rusks. I don’t want her to eat gluten before she is six months old (studies show if gluten is introduced too young, children have a higher chance of developing coeliac disease) and I don’t want her eating anything high in sugar, which rusks are notorious for, as I want her to enjoy a varied and healthy diet – at least until she hits two and insists on pizza for breakfast and eats ketchup with a spoon. I didn’t get to explain myself, not that I should have to, because I was shot down mid-sentence and felt quite shocked by the tone in which the statement was flung across the room at me.
Perhaps I deserve to be judged because I judge other people – however I am fully aware that it really isn’t any of my business what people choose to do with their own offspring – hence those judgements existing only in my head (until now). I almost felt like I was being judged for trying too hard and it made me wonder – is there such a thing as ‘trying too hard’ or ‘caring too much’ when it comes to being a parent? I want what is best for my children, I’m passionate about being a good parent, and I’ve been criticised for that.
On reflection, I’ve realised this is a long way away from being the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of parenting-related judgement. I know the question was asked of why I ‘gave up’ breastfeeding our youngest daughter, I’ve witnessed smirks when I’ve corrected my oldest daughter’s pronunciation, and when I’ve reminded her to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ too. I’ve also been given the impression that I’m thought of as being too rigid with having structured bedtimes (our 4 month old has been going to bed at 7pm from about 10 weeks old and our 2 year old goes between 7.30 and 8pm) and there have been jokes made about me not being happy if my children don’t eat well – and my cage has well and truly been rattled by this realisation. What’s wrong with wanting the best for my children? A healthy diet, good manners to stand them in good stead in life, respect for other people, a solid routine and good quality sleep – which (I’VE READ!!) is vital for growth, learning and development. And as for the breast feeding, well, that was 50% down to not being able to spend any time with our toddler as our newborn was relentlessly feeding and 50% down to the pain I was in (relentless feeding + poor latch = bleeding nipples).
As harsh as it was to be informed that, in someone else’s opinion, I’m an over-protective parent, there are many areas I feel I’m failing with at the moment and I judge myself on those things. I’m guilty of not recording milestones that our second child has reached like I did with our first, our toddler’s TV time has dramatically increased since our youngest arrived and so has her chicken nugget consumption. I feel a constant need to justify our toddler’s dummy still being in use (it’s only for sleep and her speech is excellent – see I’m defending myself already) and I really must curb my yelling (as our toddler’s hatred of bedtime has increased, so has my shouting. I know it’s completely ineffective, but I. Just. Wish. She’d. Sodding. Sleep).
See, far from perfect. In fact I don’t think perfection exists when it comes to raising children. In my (strong, of course) opinion, if you can safeguard your child from something known to be detrimental to them in some way, you should. That is your job, as a parent. If that makes me overprotective then fair enough, I can live with that – in fact, ‘she tried too hard’ really isn’t that bad a legacy to leave behind, is it? I utterly adore my girls, I’m confident I know what’s best for them, I’m aware of where I need to make improvements and I judge myself on failings so don’t need anyone else to do that for me. Now keep your opinions to yourself and let me get back to my reading – didn’t your parents teach you any manners?