I have always prided myself on being a fairly tolerant individual. As the saying goes, “you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes”.
Which is fine if he’s happy to lend you them, but I tweeted Nigel Farage last week to see if I could borrow a pair of his racist brogues and he hasn’t responded, so I have no alternative but to assume he’s a tosser.
But this isn’t about Nige. This is about me. And I recently underwent the rather shocking realisation that I am becoming the very thing I always promised I wouldn’t.
Someone who judges other parents.
It starts four weeks ago in a doctor’s waiting room.
There’s a three year old boy who, despite the extensive range of entertainment on offer (some dog-eared gossip magazines and a bowl of long-since fragrant pot-pourri) has decided to pass the time by flopping bored in his chair.
“Sit up straight” barks his mother.
The boy duly sits up straight and, his legs outstretched before him, starts to knock his feet together.
“Stop fidgeting,” she snaps.
Again, the boy acquiesces and instead begins to play with a small car he produces from his pocket.
“This isn’t a playground,” she admonishes, snatching the car from his grasp, tutting loudly and rolling her eyes extravagantly at anyone who cares to look in her general direction.
What a tw*t, I think. Everywhere’s a playground for a three year old.
Several days later and I’m at it again.
A mother is struggling to coax her pre-schooler into saying ‘au revoir’ to another child. The look of disappointment on her face is more appropriate to finding your child jerking off into another mum’s handbag, rather than not performing to order.
Who gives a merde whether he can say it, I wail inwardly. It’s not like nurseries have French exchange programmes.
The judgments just keep on coming.
I secretly hate the man who openly criticises his son’s football skills. I want to shake the woman who radiates annoyance when her daughter isn’t the life and soul of the birthday party.
In fact, I take offence at any example of overbearing parenting I witness.
It doesn’t take too much self-reflection to work out why; I am terrified that I might become an overbearing parent too.
There’s no denying I have a tendency to be a little hard on myself. I once underwent psychotherapy to get over the fact I thought I might need psychotherapy. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says ‘Only Human’. It’s my instruction manual for life rather than a statement of fact.
I ask the husband if he thinks I may be overbearing with the boy.
“Well, you’ve been banging on for months that he doesn’t know where his nose is.”
This is true. I read somewhere that by ten months old, your child should know where their nose is. As a result, he and I have been in intensive ‘Where’s your nose? training’ for the last 5 months. On a good day he can gesture excitedly in the region of his own face. On a bad one, he pokes himself in the eye.
Oh shit, I think. I am metaphorically sat in a glasshouse lobbing bowling ball-sized stones of hypocrisy and unfounded superiority.
No one sets out to make their kids feel bad about themselves. No one’s buying pushchair bumper stickers saying ‘my other toddler is prettier’ or wearing ‘my wife went into labour and all I got was this lousy baby’ t-shirts.
If they were, my eBay store would be doing a whole lot better.
But we might all of us (myself included) be guilty of confusing wanting the best for our kids as wanting our kids to be the best.
So I guess this is my clarion call to anyone who wants to listen. The last time I read any child psychology books, imperfection in childhood is not directly related to being an asshole in later life.
Having unrealistic expectations of your kids, however, IS.
Our children may never do what we want them to. They will behave in ways or do ridiculous things that make no mortal sense to man nor beast. And yes, they may even feel like they are ruining our lives from time to time (because they probably are).
But as Samuel Taylor Coleridge never said, “when you have a dead albatross around your neck, you may as well marvel at the plumage rather than bitch about the weight .”
And who knows, maybe one day the boy will discover his nose. He’s certainly managed to work out where his todger is, and he did that without any training at all.
[photo credit: DavidFuentesPhoto Judge Dredd via photopin (license)]