Mama Monday – Suspending Judgement
Several components of this Mama Monday post have been stirring in different parts of my heart and brain for a very long time now, but I just wasn’t sure how they were all going to come together, or when exactly the right time would be to slap them up on the Internet! Reading this post from Natural Parenting Center brought it all together for me. Please take a moment when you can and read it; it’s fantastic.
I studied Elementary Education in college. Got my degree and certification, though I’ve yet to have my own classroom (interesting how life’s turns guide us isn’t it?). In my first Social Studies course, I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life; it was eye opening then in my academic education and has only served to deepen over the years as I apply it to every new stage of my life. In her opening address to the class, my professor told us, “In this class I’m going to ask you to do two words: Suspend Judgement.”
We read excerpts from A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn which documented Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World. Many people in my class had been taught as children that Columbus was a missionary, coming to the Americas to tell the Indians about Jesus. We were shown through historical documents and journals that this was not the case, and in fact Columbus and his crew committed unspeakable acts against innocent victims in the name of Christ and discovery. Our discoveries continued as we tackled our understanding of the first Thanksgiving and what the real relationship was between the Pilgrims and Indians.
The importance of suspending judgement then was to consider what we teach our children and why. When presented with information that contradicts what you think you know, stop and consider and digest the information before dismissing it as wrong. Do we dress up like Pilgrims and Indians and eat turkey and stuffing together at picnics just because that’s the way we’ve always done it? Would we teach children that 2 + 2 is 5 just because that’s the way we’ve always done it?
Before I go too far into my philosophies of education, let me delve into what really solidified the idea of suspending judgement for my life: parenthood. It all started with the pacifier. I had indulged in books about Attachment Parenting (which is a wonderful methodology and practice) while pregnant with my first son and was convinced that I would breastfeed and only offer the breast to soothe my son. I had decided that any foreign object, be it bottle nipple, pacifier or teether would interfere with me nursing my child and would not be allowed. Ever.
Then I was in the car one day (a long one day), in traffic, with a screaming child. Screaming is an understatement. He was going hoarse he was screaming so loud. I’m sure he was overdue for a nap, probably had a soggy diaper and who knows what else. I could have pulled over to the side of the road to nurse and soothe him, but I just wanted to get home and get us all settled. I’m not even sure why I reached over into my diaper bag, and not sure how I found one (must have still been in there from the hospital), but my fingers instinctively and magically pulled out a paci. That hand, with a mind of its own it seemed, reached around behind me to that little baby’s mouth in the car seat and stuffed that foreign object in.
Silence. Silence for the rest of the ride. He loved it. My shoulders eased though my heart felt guilty. I could hear the radio and slowly started singing along throughout the rest of the drive. By the time I got home I felt peaceful and happy and energized to care for my son. He still nursed and was healthy, and I began to change the way I felt about the pacifier. The same thing happened when I had to reevaluate my view of the baby swing, stroller, and car seat/baby carrier (which of course were all evil substitutes for Mama’s arms).
Pacifiers, along with baby contraptions, crying it out, schedules, cloth diapers, handmade baby food, baby sign language, formula, spanking, fast food, immunizations, co-sleeping and TV are just some of the issues I have grappled with at levels that make me question my sanity. And before I wag my finger at other moms about how they run their homes, I check myself. I cannot judge the methods that WORK for other parents. Not only is every parent different, but every child is different, as I learned when I gave birth to a second. I sure thought I had parenting figured out with an only child, then welcomed a totally different personality into my life!
Parenting books are extremely helpful to us, as are the teachings of experts and our own parents we can turn to for help. But at the end of the day we have to know ourselves and know our children and strive to find that perfect balance that brings discipline, love, fun, and nutrition all into harmony. Parenting is about evolution as much as it is about suspending judgement. And how about grace? Don’t we need to have grace for ourselves to navigate this incredibly challenging and rewarding journey called parenthood?
I make a lot of mistakes. I sometimes yell at my children and give in to whining. I buy silly things for them in the checkout line at the grocery store so they will hush their precious little mouths. But judging by how often they tell me they love me, offer up unsolicited hugs, and cause others to tell me what great kids I have, I think I’m doing an okay job.
And I think they’re going to turn out alright.
Suspend Judgement. Evolve.
Love and Honey,