Parental judgment is real

When people look at your child’s behaviour, your parenting is on trial

In Summary

• Children are a reflection of the upbringing they received 

A toddler during calmer times
A toddler during calmer times

As adults, we claim to be independent and free. We do what we want without caring what people think about us… That is, until we have children.

As parents, we cannot help but mind other people’s opinion of our children. You see, when people look at your child’s behaviour, they are judging your parenting and, by extension, you. Parenting is essentially how we bring up our children to be functioning, respectable members of society. If our children are menaces in society, the fault primarily lies with the parent.

Parents are more critical of other parents than people who do not have children. For example, if your child is being a menace on the plane, people without children will just grumble about how you need to control your child. Meanwhile, people who have had children will analyse and criticise (even if it's to themselves) how and what you are doing wrong as a parent.

I did not think I would ever be in a position to feel so judged as a parent, but this week I experienced it. As you know, I have to accompany my child to daycare for a few weeks to integrate him into the system. The first day went well but on the second day, my child had a full-blown tantrum! Not only were we in the presence of the lady who runs the daycare (who watches everything we do like a hawk), we also had a new parent who was spending some time with her child there.

The new baby was only one and was terrified of my son’s tantrums and meltdown. His crying made her cry. I had to take him outside the playroom and hold on to him until he calmed down.

Meanwhile, this week, as he recovers from the flu, for some annoying reason, any time we arrive at the daycare, that is when the snot starts flowing like the Nile. And I’m talking yellow, gooey, stretchy snot. The kind that keeps pulling out more every time you try to wipe it off. I kept telling my husband that my child, who is the only black kid there, looks like he could model the ‘save an African child’ posters for the big non-profits.

Meanwhile, the daycare coordinator still has her eyes on us. How my child plays, how he interacts, how I deal with his tantrums, how he eats, plays and so on. Now she might actually be innocently observing, but as a human, I know she’s quietly judging.

I’ve also recently mastered ‘the looks’. You know, deciphering what looks people give you and what they mean? Yeah, there’s a whole thesaurus of looks parents give each other and what they mean. From your regular sympathetic looks, like “I feel you, mama,” to the curled lip “why can’t you control your child?” look.

We know parenting is hard and we try as much as possible to not care what people think of us, but we cannot help it. We are tasked with the responsibility of raising well-behaved children as they are not only a reflection of the upbringing they received but a reflection of their parents as well.

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