What a good mom! Taking her kids to the zoo on the first sunny day in ages!
If you were to observe me out in public with my kids, you'd think I'm an incredible parent.
Or an indulgent one.
Or an angry one with a terrible attitude.
Or a completely average one.
Because I am all of the above. As well as an emotionally sensitive parent (both in the good and bad way), a tired parent, a hilarious parent, an immature parent (both in the good and bad way), and a frazzled parent.
Today, for example, I had looks from people that gave me the feeling they were summing me up based on whatever five minute snippet they observed.
The woman who smiled kindly at me as I laughed with my kids at the goofy sea lion doing tricks. "What a good mom, taking her kids to the zoo and having so much fun with them."
The other woman who raised an eyebrow a few minutes later as I checked my buggy phone to see if my doula client had called. "Why can't parents today stay off their phones and play with their kids for ten minutes?"
The guy who glared at my kids as they ate ice cream at 10:45am because it was punishingly hot, I was tired of fighting the battle, and I didn't realize the splash park that my kids were dying to enter wouldn't be open to the general public until 11:00am. "Does she WANT her kids to be obese? Ice cream BEFORE lunch?"
The employee who beamed at me as I walked around with Sam, getting drenched with water to make sure that he didn't walk up the water slides or run wildly into the other kids. "Why can't other parents keep an eye on their kids like this woman? Look at those unsupervised brats reeking havoc on everyone else!"
The grandmother who watched me hover over Sam in the water park, picking him up when he cried and pulling him into the shade to get him some water to drink. "All the parents today are helicopter parents! It wouldn't hurt that boy to cry a little bit."
The dad who gave me the side eye as I barked at Sam to stop kicking me as I buckled him in his boiling hot car seat, then later barked at Stella to PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, go ahead and buckle her seat belt so I could get Sam home in time for his much-needed nap. "Geez. Those poor kids. It's the zoo! Why can't she loosen up and have some fun?"
Of course, it's highly possible that some or all of these people thought nothing of me, that they were busy with their own lives and couldn't care less.
But if social media has taught me anything, it's that people are VERY keen to judge parents they see in public based on five minute windows. Friends on Facebook moan about incompetent parents who sit on the subway and do nothing as their kid screams (even though I know it's possible that the parent has tried every trick in the book and is simply hanging on by a thread). Moms on parenting message groups moan about the parents who bark at their kids in public, wondering why those people need to procreate at all (even though I'm fairly certain we all have those moments, though some of us try to contain them behind closed doors). People post pictures of babywearing dads and crafty parents who create intricately staged photographs of their kids during naptimes and moms who take their kids to Comic Con to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ParentingDoneRight (even though we know absolutely nothing else about how those people parent).
What you see in public is but a drop in an enormous Pointillist painting. Of course, if a kid is being hurt physically or emotionally by a parent, we as a tribe should intervene to help. But otherwise, you should take that five minute snippet of parenting you see with a grain of salt. That wonderful/mediocre/terrible parent is probably a little bit of all of the above.
What a terrible mom! Leaving her toddler unsupervised for a moment on that horse so she can fiddle with her phone!