Avocados get pointed: On parents and making judgements

3 July, 2013

Not me at you, reader. I love you. I’d never point anything at you let alone an avocado.

But you know who I pointed my avocado at recently? The mum whose little girl was having a whale of a time on the swings at the park who got so annoyed with the kiddo’s wriggling and giggling that she yelled “IF YOU DON’T STOP PLAYING GAMES WE’RE GOING HOME!”. I chuckled mirthfully (“Games! At the park! Ha!”) then pointed my avocado.

Huh? You are going to make me explain all these references to my berry gesturing? (It’s true- an avocado is a berry. The Internet: blowing your mind since sometime in the nineties.)

This brilliant article Glennon Melton wrote on judgemental parents went viral on Monday and it is pretty clear that “avocado pointing” is now the new “judging.” I loved the article, it made me laugh and love wise dads and the world. I found it liberating- YES! It’s true! Thinking everyone is judging you IS meglomaniacal! Of course they aren’t!

I moved around on a Cloud of Feel Good for a few hours, floating right along to the park where I heard the mum and daughter interaction on the swing and fell off into a Puddle of Judge.

My thoughts- along the lines of “Blimey, if you can’t play games at the park where can you?! Poor kid, I wonder if she just gets bawled out constantly”- were uninvited and I worked hard to replace them with more gracious ones such as “I bet that mother’s having a tough day.” and “Ha, it is a bit like that time yesterday when Ramona wanted to dawdle home, and I, er, REALLY didn’t”.

But you know what? I did judge, and I do judge and I KNOW people judge me. Hello, I pull out some of the most strange parenting practices ever. People are DEFINITELY rolling their eyes and thinking I’m crackerjacks.

Hey, here’s a picture of last night’s delicious walk around the park. People probably weren’t judging me then. If they noticed us and DID judge it was a good kind of judgeyness. We were playing in the meadows, picking daisys, having fun.  Judgemental Parents

And then this happened:

pebble up nose

A sharp edged, little stone, the perfect fit for Ramona’s nostril.

And sure as the sun rises people were thinking what in the name is that mum doing to that child at a time WELL past bedtime, binding her hands tight, lying her down on that bench, probing around in her nose while that poor, POOR, toddler weeps and wails?!

And if they weren’t judging me then, well, they would if they had heard what I said a few moments earlier when Ramona showed me the pebble and showed me how perfectly it fitted. I couldn’t help myself, I was in a fabulous mood, high on life, I jovially exclaimed “Wahey, it’s the perfect fit!”  And in it went.

Right in, poked sooo far up. Truly, the perfect fit.

(Thank goodness for our wonderful friend who lives around the corner who is a paediatric A and E nurse. She showed us the Mothers Kiss – get that trick under your belt, parents.  Yes. The name is a little sexist. )

Sometimes we make mistakes. We have hard, tired days. We have days when we are rubbish and sweary.

Sometimes we make decisions that others don’t choose to make. People have different preferences and values and circumstances that require another choice.

Sometimes we live in a way that provokes curiousity and comment. Parenting or lifestyles that seem strange or just too different for people to handle.

All of these things do mean that people will judge. They’ll see something, weigh it up, and make a call about how they feel about it.

Of course, it’d be amazing if every initial judgement was followed up with an internal discussion about how that person is just trying their very best. We should all try and do that, as the world would be more beautiful.

Why do I feel the need to write this post? To encourage others to step off the cloud of Feel Good? I guess for two reasons;

The world probably does feel less heavy if you just pretend people aren’t judging. But it’s a much deeper liberation if you can acknowledge that you might be getting judged and still feel okay about your decisions.  When it comes to parenting, people need to think about what path is right for their family, and deliberately go for it, and be proud of it, and find a community of other’s doing it that way who can support you when criticism strikes. When you get a feeling of being judged,  those raised eyebrows or brazen remarks, you can stand tall knowing you’ve made the choices best for you.

Then I also think that the process of judging helps us figure all of that stuff out. Finding someone’s response to something weird has made me think about what I would do in that situation, and I’ve been ready for it. It’s also helped me understand my own instincts and value certain choices. And, you know what, conversations with people that have begun as a “I wouldn’t do THAT” have led me to come round to their way a little, to concede and feel okay about trying something out. (An example of this for me involves the Pikler/ RIE Freedom of Movement for babies thing- being so on board with The Continuum Concept I couldn’t understand the need to keep putting babies flat on their backs- they should be 100% of the time tucked up with their mamas! Now Juno has a little bit of time lying down, with me right there, and quite enjoys it. Yesterday she even went to sleep like it! YEAH I KNOW! Without a mammary gland IN SIGHT!)

So. Point your avo at me. I can handle it. I’ve made my bed and I’m lying in it. (Not literally. But crumbs, it is where I want to be right now. I love my bed.)   And if this helps you figure out your own way then grand. And if you can learn from my errors – you all know EXACTLY how not to respond when your kid is holding a tiny object up to their nostril hey?- then perfect.

Would love, really would love,  to hear your thoughts….

Pssst- I have a new youtube channel!

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  • Janine 4 July, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Judging helps us determine our own values, I agree. If I am self-conscious about being judged, usually it means that I am not being the parent *I* want to be. Because if I feel I’m at my best, I don’t care what others think! (Actually, not true – When I’m at my best, I hope I’m inspiring others to be better, maybe try something new.)

    I used to judge just to judge. For fun. To feel better than people. Now I judge because I feel, being a mother, for everyone else’s children. I have, unfortunately, a file in my head of sad children I’ve witnessed. Those whose parents are ignoring them or yelling at them or otherwise breaking my heart along with theirs.

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Yeah, my sister tsaid the same thing.
      That she only really feels that judgementalism when she is doing something she is not proud of. I can resonate with that. With other things, things I have chosen and am proud of, I am able to say “Screw ’em!”

  • Jo 3 July, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Hello 🙂
    I don’t comment a lot, but I thought this was a lovely post! The whole trying not to judge thing can be difficult sometimes! 🙂 I think that if we all made the effort not to it would be better, But to be fully comfortable and accepting of your own decisions is such a great thing! In all walks of life, and not just motherhood.
    You’re hair is looking fab by the way 🙂 and I hope Ramona is ok!

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Thanks for your comment Jo 🙂
      Yep it is difficult and while I think judging is only natural I do think we need to make an effort to do it less!! x

  • headinbook 3 July, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    I love this post so much that I can’t really formulate any coherent response. Three children in and I am a firm advocate of Whatever Gets You (All) Through.

    So, I will just say that our pebble-in-nose moment was, thankfully, a yoghurt coated raisin. Yoghurt melts, so there was no need for the Mother’s Kiss (though that is, disapprovingly, filed for future reference).

    It’s almost a(nother) metaphor for all that judginess…

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 11:53 am

      Hehe, fab comment not incoherent at all!
      Ah, man! A YCR up the nose, I can imagine how irresistable sticking that up was!!

  • Jane Thomson 3 July, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Haven’t read this one yet but I am really looking forward to. I will save it for when I am up for my daughters middle of the night munch. Just wanted to say you have made night feeds these first few weeks very enjoyable, and quite probably educational! Ideas for future posts I’d love to read- what to wear that’s easy I feed in. Tops with slots for your nipples to poke through a la jojo maman bebe arnt really nice. Really think it is very relevant in the effort I get more people, espesh young people to Breastfeed. Big love from me and my little milk monkey.

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Oh, thanks for your comment!
      Yes, that is a good post- althought I tend to just yank my top down! I don’t care for breastfeeding modesty one bit!

  • Mrs Blythin Makes 3 July, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    My 5 year old son put a button in his ear last night. My sense of humour dwindled after two hours in the walk in centre last night, an hour in A&E today and an appointment at the ENT dept for Fri.
    People may well have judged me for having no sympathy for his boredom in the waiting room, but I know I judge others in spite of myself. We should give each other a little more empathy and be less judgy. It is easier said than done though.

    Great post 🙂

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Oh my word!!!!
      I can imagine that you were incredibly frustrated with that. A Button! In the ear!! How does it even fit? Not perfectly, surely?

  • mrs_scholes 3 July, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    I am up way too late already but I love reading your blog so when I got the email I waited a bit to turn off my laptop and read this. I was glad I did. (Although I might come back tomorrow and read it again, when I will retain more of the information.)

    First, thanks for the Mother’s Kiss link. Hasn’t happened to me yet but now I know what to do when it does.

    Second, I agree – I do judge other parents, but more and more I think, ‘I wouldn’t do it THAT way. So what way would I do it?’ And I think that’s totally OK, and that they are totally looking at me and thinking the same thing.

    We are still on our first baby and I am still a toddler myself. If I knew what ‘my way’ was, I would be doing it all guns blazing and not caring what other people thought. But because I don’t really know what I’m doing (and ‘older’, in the sense that their children are older than ours, mothers tell me this feeling does not subside) I continue to look at those older mothers and decide which path I might like to take. It is rarely, rarely, the path they have taken, unless with hindsight I realise it might have worked better, and then I store it away for when we (hopefully) have the next one.

    Thank you for your blog. I love it because it is amusing but also because you do not parent like I parent, much of the time – and I love comparing us and knowing both of us is right and then maybe tweaking what I want to do slightly this way and that way, taking into account the other parents I know personally too. (Elimination Communication – NO thank you!! Sling for newborn? – Gimme!)

    One day I will get to heaven and God will say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ and I will breathe a sigh of relief!

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Oh! Thank you for this comment! And I think we are all toddlers in some way, learning on the job and figuring things out and sometimes getting it wrong. We all just need to be confident that we are giving it a well good crack!

  • Kirsteen 3 July, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Like the other commenters I will be coming back to this in the morning to re-read with a livelier brain, but in the meantime I wanted to say thanks. One of the big things that I feel judged on is that I am bottle feeding my wee man. I had a breast reduction 8 years ago and it looks like the internals were damaged so I couldn’t produce enough milk, so my wee man was literally wasting away. Since switching to bottle/formula I have a healthy and happy baby so it was definitely the right decision for him and me, however I feel the need to explain this to everyone who asks me how I’m feeding – and look, I’ve even felt the need to explain myself here! I will take some strength from your post, that if I wasn’t worrying about being judged for that, I would most certainly be worrying about being judged for something else.

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Oh wow, Kirsteen, I can imagine that that would have been such a difficult time for you, and yes, feeling judged on that would be awful. Such a fabulous reminder that we really don’t know everyone’s story so really must try and follow up our judgements by giving everyone grace! (It sounds condescending though eh, when it really isn’t anyone elses buisness!)

    • mrs_scholes 4 July, 2013 at 7:36 pm

      Please be encouraged! I also bottle fed in the end. We got into bad habits in the beginning that we just couldn’t get out of and it hurt every feed for 5 months. (tandem feeding like Lucy does is like, some crazy, far-off wonderful dream.)

      YOU ARE A GOOD MUMMY. When your baby thrives, that = good mummy, bottle or boob. -> I should say I am yet to fully accept this information myself. When the next one comes along, I will be devastated if I can’t feed them either. BUT I WILL REMAIN A GOOD MUMMY, whether I believe it for myself or not!

  • Mum2BabyInsomniac 3 July, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Love this post! I ALWAYS used to secretly judge my neighbour when she shouted at her kids for being late every morning. I used to be quite smug about it but lately I’ve had times where I can totally relate to how she got to that point. It is so easy to judge, and you’re right, we do all do it but them we have a realisation that we aren’t perfect ourselves! x

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Yep, I hear you.
      Also, before I became a mamma I thought I knew just what I’d do in every situation. BAHAHAHAHAHA.
      I parent in almost the exact opposite way now!

  • Emma-Louise Hardman 3 July, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Love this post, as always. I’ve been banging on about judgement and about how people get their knickers in a twist about it, when really it’s an essential part of human nature. I think the problem is that people seem to confuse judging a particular action, behaviour or idea with judging a person. I quite often look at other parents’ way of doing things and think “that’s not how I would do things”, or maybe “I wonder if they know the consequences of that” but never have I gone on to think that they are a bad parent or person as a result. My usual way of framing parenting I “judge” is that the other person simply has a different framework for thinking and different information. I am an information-aholic. I can’t get enough. I don’t care if it agrees with my position or not, I just want to know what people have to say about just about everything (except possibly sport, which I find the DULLEST thing in the world). I often make the mistake of thinking others feel the same about information and this occasionally leads to conflict, particularly amongst those not secure in their decisions but I also have many more who thank me for sharing, mostly in person or privately in some way. We can’t control the thoughts or actions of others (actually you can but then you’re evil/work in marketing), only our own and I think this is the empowering message of the article. xx

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Great comment, sums up so much of what i think. Everyone is working with a unique set of personalities, circumstances, information so no one is going to chose the same way and that does lead to people having an opinion on it!

  • Kat Wray 3 July, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    I think the only reason people judge is because that other person is doing something different/opposite to your own beliefs.

    For example, I have a friend (well, more like wife of a friend) who’s parenting beliefs are the opposite of mine – mainly the fact that she put her son into fulltime childcare at 4 months old to go back to work (even though she doesn’t need the money). One day she put on Facebook about how she watched a mother pushing a pram up a hill and trying to feed the baby it’s lunch at the same time, and judged her for it saying she was a bad parent and should stop and enjoy the moment of feeding her child!!! I couldn’t believe it, my first thought was “that mother must be having a bad day if she’s trying to push a pram up a hill AND feed her kid at the same time, clearly nobody does that for fun”. But my friend saw it differently. I thought it was strange for her to comment on that considering a childcare worker fed her child that day, but for some reason she judged this particular mother. It was probably, in some twisted way, her own guilt that caused her to pass judgement. This friend is a firm believer that she is a better mother BECAUSE she works fulltime and so when she does spend time with her son it’s more quality time, as opposed to mothers who stay-at-home and spend all their time with their child, it must be of a lesser quality. Maybe she has a point, but I find her beliefs utterly offensive!! We’re all different.

    I used to judge other mothers before I was a mother myself. Then when I became I mother I felt so ashamed of judging! I’ve had those bad days, I’ve understood why things would have appeared a certain way. I’ve been that mother at the park being a kill-joy. My new motto for judging situations is to think “perhaps you’ve caught this person on the worst day of their life”. Much like the opposite of Facebook, real life has it’s ups and downs and grumpy and exhausting days, and God forbid SOMEONE might see it – and judge. I think we should just admit our faults but focus on the positive things that we do.

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Yes and yes! To always give people the benefit of the doubt. it is so hard but I think it is important to at leats try too. And like Emma says, perhaps conclude “I wouldn’t do that” but not have it effect your view of the do-er. If you know what I mean.

      • Thalia Kehoe Rowden 5 July, 2013 at 4:37 am

        Thanks, Lucy, for very helpful avocado thoughts, and Kat, for the ‘worst day of their life’ image, which is a great addition to my attempts to be more like my mum, who is an awesome benefit-of-the-doubter.

  • Xanthe 4 July, 2013 at 6:54 am

    I know people judge. I judge, far too much. I’m learning to make the empathetic response much quicker to muscle my judgmental thoughts out of the way. One day I hope it might jump in there first 🙂

    I’m still not sure though, that others judge me as much as I think they judge me. Sometimes that odd look at our unusual parenting practices might simply be interest or curiosity? Maybe the father overhearing the conversation of which things we can (short list) and can’t (long list) push over/hit with our sticks/throw sand at is even mulling over the strange conversation in a positive way? Possibly someone having a bad day is encouraged by the kind/respectful way I am talking to my ‘insignificant minor’? Hopefully the couple opposite me with their ‘perfect’ toddler on the train are feeling warm fuzzy supportive feelings towards me as Joshua thrashes crying on the floor because I misunderstood which song he wanted?

    I admit that I rarely think this way at the time – my positive interactions are being watched, disbelievingly, with the attitude ‘woah, she’s a pushover!’ and when it goes wrong everyone is tut tutting inside.

    Maybe my next step is to have more realistic thoughts about others’ judgements… or why not just be brave and strike up a conversation with the stranger after a difficult moment, ‘that was a bit tricky for me, I wasn’t sure what to do!’

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      Yeah, LOVE that. And do think it is true, there is possibly quite a lot less judgementalism going on and just a lot more curiousity.
      Yeah, the pushover thing is the hardest one for me. But we can’t justify our reasoning “They are an autonomous individual! And not mine to coerce!” on the bus! Tee hee!

  • Sian 4 July, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I LOVE this post – we need more empathy in the world : )
    It also bought back one of my earliest memories of putting a shell up my nose – at least you know she won’t do it again, although for my next trick I did wind cotton round my fingers until they went a funny colour!

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Hehe, I feel I missed out now. Not having experienced something stuck up my nose. What a loser.

      • Xanthe 4 July, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        I never stuck anything in my own orifices… instead I realised it was more fun to convince my little bro to put things into his… and then watch gleefully as he had them removed with tweezers by the neighbour, hehe!

      • Sian 8 July, 2013 at 6:24 am

        Still time! : )
        Just read the newest post – you must be soooooo excited, road trip and New Zealand! wishing you all the best and looking forward to reading your blog even more : )

  • Jem 4 July, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Just quickly as I have a baby falling off my lap whilst still attached to my nipple, but … I think you’re right, it’s normal to judge and helps us process things etc. The key, I think, is how we deal with that outwardly. Making rude comments as a result of the judging? Not OK. Not that I’m suggesting *you* would, but people do 🙁

    • Lucy 4 July, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Yes, exactly. I have had many a rude comment about my choices, made by strangers in the street. At least that way you get to respond, though!

  • Hilary 4 July, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    I think I judge myself more harshly than I imagine anyone else judges me, it’s very much a case of glass houses and throwing stones isn’t it or should it be “people in glass houses shouldn’t put stones up their nose?” 🙂

  • Mary 4 July, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    My first reaction to this was “I LOVE it when people judge me!” those disapproving looks flung at my dirty-footed, pyjama-clad toddler as she dangles her feet into a lake (while I wrestle with the backpack, scooter and waterproofs halfway up the hill) make me feel at least I’m giving her the freedom to work out her limitations by herself (I totally judge people who stop kids doing stuff because they’ll fall over and hurt themselves – it’s just my way of justifying my own stance) but actually, although those moments make me feel good on good days, the downside of being aware/assuming of other people’s judgement is if she does do something I feel have to deal with. If there’s nobody about I might ignore or justify some behaviours but if I know people are watching I feel I have to berate her in a certain way, which I’m sure she knows is phony as I’m listening more to myself than watching for her cues. And that’s not good for her. So maybe judging to work out what camp you’re in is ok, but assuming judgement from others can actually undermine your relationship with your child.

  • Lori 5 July, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    “The world probably does feel less heavy if you just pretend people aren’t judging. But it’s a much deeper liberation if you can acknowledge that you might be getting judged and still feel okay about your decisions. ”

    yes!!! beautiful post. 🙂

  • P Flooers 6 July, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    You are so right, we do judge each other. And we do learn from each other. Do folks on that side of the pond use the phrase “Mommy Wars”? Over here, when mothers start brawling about the best way to raise children, it won’t be 10 minutes before someone accuses them of having a mommy war. At which point everyone is supposed to stop all discussion, chastised. I suppose because raising children is so easy and self evident and only of marginal importance anyway—so what could we possibly have to discuss? Its another way to marginalize mothers. Anyhow, thanks for the insightful post.
    P. Flooers

  • Cindy 6 July, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I’m a mother of seven who are mostly all grown. I’m at the stage of “live and let live.” I remember going through all the stages that have been spoken of, in the post and in the comments. As someone mentioned, we grow stage by stage, starting as toddlers ourselves and maturing in our understanding through our experience. Admittedly, I’m grateful to be at the stage I am now. I notice things, and I recognize where that person probably is on their journey or the circumstances that bring them there.

    I was blessed with high needs children, and I had to learn and grow to a place that drew a curtain around us figuratively speaking and do what I need to do without worry about what’s going on around us. I’m even at the stage where I can be without the figurative curtain and allow our honesty to hang out…not in a “see us” or “I don’t care,” but in a “we should all be more real and be comfortable with that” because we all try way too hard to create some kind of perfection that doesn’t exist.

    In fact, what I’ve realized in my years is that when we need to hang onto any kind of idealism, whether it be natural parenting, non-coercive interactions, or the opposite with spanking or obedience type stuff, that we sometimes do more to fit the ideal mold those ideas encompass instead of listening to our own instincts and needs or being attuned to what that child is saying he/she needs. In other words, not fitting in anywhere…allowing the organic process to exist and being okay to be fully human. Children need to know how to deal with being human, too.

    Thanks for sharing a post that really got me to think and speak about my own experience. I love when I can verbalize something I never took the time to do enlightens me even as I write this. Cool stuff 🙂

  • Mummy Kindness (Rachel) 8 July, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I love this post! I give a lot of thought (and blog space) to the notion of judging ourselves and each other, particularly as parents. I have been a follower of Glennon’s blog for about a year and I just love her. But I also really like where you’ve taken the logic…. Being at peace with your choices means that even if others are judging, who cares?!

    Thought I’d share an excerpt from something I wrote, as it kind of fits in here. Hope that’s OK!

    (The whole post is here…

    “In his book Buddhist Boot Camp, Timber Hawkeye imparts the following incredible pearl of wisdom:

    “The opposite of what you know is also true”.

    By this, he means that we all experience life differently. There are infinite theories on what is right and wrong. But however sure we are of our version of the truth, someone else can believe the exact opposite to us and still be right according to their set of beliefs and circumstances.

    Few opinions are as strong as those regarding the choices we make as parents. But our job is to align our choices with our beliefs and values and respect other parents for doing the same. Even if their values an opinions differ to ours. As parents we come to our own conclusions and we must allow other parents to do the same without assuming they’re critical of us.

    Nothing is ever certain in life, and especially not when it comes to parenting small children.There are no absolutes. What works for you and your family may change from one week to the next and being too judgemental about others may force us to eat our words. In fact, I remember being a perfect parent once. Then I had children! Now I sometimes find myself bribing my children with chocolate buttons before pre-school if they will JUST GET IN THE CAR!!”

    Looking forward to reading more from you!
    Rachel x