Wait, I Got Judged for THAT!?

We recently took our first plane ride with a toddler. Super fun, right? Yep, until take-off was over. Mistake #1 from my corner was booking a red-eye with two under two… but that’s what happens when sleep-deprived people make crucial decisions. They think they’re booking an 8:30 AM flight. I tried to change it once I realized, but the fees to do so would have been astronomical. (Sidenote: shouldn’t there be some sort of grace policy in most organizations for stupid decisions their customers make during the fourth trimester???)

So yes, I made a big mistake, but apparently, that wasn’t my biggest. We’re on the plane, and our almost two-year-old is getting crazy overtired, but he can’t sleep. So he’s squawking, fussing, crying, shouting no to everything, squirming, kicking – just generally being everybody’s nightmare when they get on a red-eye. Everyone on the plane hates us. There’s a family in the row behind: mom, dad, baby, and adorable four-year old. Our kids were playing in the departure lounge before boarding, and we were all chit-chatting. They were pros at taking plane rides, the four-year-old letting me know with great pride that she had been on nine planes in her life. And when the seat belt sign went off, this family had the routine down. Cozy blanket tucked in, tray table set up with water and snacks, tablet playing cartoons propped in front of her, headphones on – and that little traveller did not move or make a peep for the whole four hours of the plane ride….

…except once to ask her mommy, gesturing to our son, “Why is he so upset?”

To which her mother replied without missing a beat, “Well, I guess some people didn’t think to bring a screen for their kids.”

What?! I thought not having a tablet filled with cartoons for my toddler was one of the mom-things I was doing okay on. I know I do a lot of things as a parent for which I would be judged by a good many people (my two-year old still goes to bed with a bottle, cries it out, eats more fries than he probably should, has fallen five feet off a play structure, has dropped a couple of f-bombs…), but based on du jour parenting, I definitely thought that heavily restricting my toddler’s screen time was something I would never get criticized for.

But what I learned that day on the plane was that you truly can’t make any parenting choices that insulate you from judgment.

Parent-to-parent judgment is rampant. It’s a problem in the virtual world of mommy blogs, online forums and comment threads; it’s a problem in the living world of parks, workplaces and family get togethers. And it’s not surprising – the stakes are made to seem so high for every little decision. So when your kid’s behaviour isn’t pleasant (read: easily ignorable for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with it) and earns you a snide look or remark, it can feel like you must be doing something wrong, like if you just did instead of y, then you would be getting it “right.”

But there is no “right” in situations like these. It’s definitely right to love your kids and wrong to abuse them, but these big ideas are not usually where the judgment is.  It’s in the little things. And whether or not a kid has screen time, eats pablum, naps regularly, co-sleeps, breastfeeds, throws a few tantrums… these things have no “right” answers. So whatever is best for you and your kid, your family, your life – just do it. Don’t worry about the Judgy McJudgersons of the world – because they’re going to judge you no matter what your decision is anyway.

1 Comment

  1. Oh man that’s a load of crap judgment on you there! That sucks! They had no right to say that!

    When I fly with my kids, I make a point of giving as many sympathetic smiles and nods to every other parent on that plane. And the one time I’ve flown without my kids since I’ve had kids, I went up to the mom travelling alone with an infant while we were still in the waiting area at the gate and told her I’m a mom too and if she needs anything, to let me know, even if it’s just knowing that not everybody nearby is mad if her kid cries.

    There’s no reason to be jerks at each other during stressful times. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. YOU ARE DOING A GOOD JOB.


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