I've been thinking a lot lately about parenting in public. I've noticed that I tend to be needlessly harsher in public; but my strictness just makes my child defensive, making the situation worse. If I just followed my instincts and respectfully met my child's needs, the situation, in the end, would be much better.
But I take the bait.
I let what I think other people may think of me trigger a fear-based response of harsher "discipline" toward my child that only serves to escalate the situation. Lose-lose, right?
I've more recently decided to retrain my brain.
Instead of assuming I will be judged, criticized, outcast, and otherwise ruined by the alert glances from passersby who see my child having a hard time, I AM GOING TO INSTEAD ASSUME THAT THESE ARE RATIONAL, EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT, SOCIALLY GENEROUS PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT MY COMMITMENT TO RESPECTFULLY RAISING MY CHILDREN.
I'm sorry to shout, but the retraining is challenging, and I need all the help I can get.
But do you see how this shift in mindset puts me in a place where I can focus on my child, and not be worried that my social survival is threatened by a meltdown brought on by an unavoidable collision of tiredness, hunger, and over-stimulation?
I no longer worry about being judged, and instead can meet my child with respect. Everyone is happier. Win-win.
So what happens on the rare occasions that someone actually says or does something to express their displeasure with my parenting? An obviously snide look? A passive-aggressive jab? Well, that's the best they can do.
Now I'm not defensive. Now I'm not so hurt. Now I have empathy for the person that I felt was rude to me. This person is doing their best, and it's rude. You know? I've been there.
I can self-righteously point out that the other has so much opportunity for growth, and that may be true, but who fucking cares? Someone else's journey is not my journey. It doesn't motivate me to be a better/more loving person. Just like you checking something off your list doesn't make my list any shorter. It just doesn't.
But realizing that I've been a rude, judgmental, sanctimonious twit - as bad as any other? Well, that there is common ground; shared experience. Empathy grows here. I know to get out of the funk that makes me feel rude, I need either time or kindness (ideally both).
It's the best they can do.
So parenting in public: try to be just as respectful, responsive, loving, gentle, and firm as you would be on your best days at home; assume the support of those around you (you'll be as surprised as Dorthy was to learn you've had it all along), and on the rare times someone challenges your assumption of goodwill, respond with kindness (because you've been a dick, too, and being a dick to a dick just makes for bigger dicks).