Most of the time I try not to be judgmental. Please note the word “try”. I don’t always succeed.
Still, for the most part, I don’t judge how people dress or what they drive or eat or drink or buy.
And most of all, having been a working Mom with three kids in daycare, I try very hard not to judge other people’s parenting choices.
But sometimes, once in a while, well. Sometimes I just have to judge.
This story is true. It really took place, pretty much as I describe it, in my local grocery story on the evening before Valentine’s Day. I ran into two different families, neither of which I know, and I observed two dramatically different conversations.
The first one went like this.
Boy (about age 8): Dad!? When is Easter?
Dad: March or April, depends on the year (not looking at the child).
Dad: (turns to the child, puts hands on his hips, speaks slowly and very loudly.) I said March or April!!! Depends on the year!
Boy: Then why are they selling all this Easter stuff already?
Dad: Cuz next week is March, genius! (Man looks at me, shakes his head.)
My shame is that I didn’t speak up. I didn’t say with a smile, “Oh, I bet you remember being a kid, right? Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! Remember how every holiday seems like it took forever to arrive?”
I didn’t take the opportunity to smile at the little boy, either. I should have. I should have told him with that smile that I was on his side. I should have said, “Great question! The stores always try to beat each other selling holiday stuff! They think they’ll make more money that way.” I should have commiserated with him. I could have just said, “I was just wondering the same thing.”
But that tall, broad shouldered, scowling man intimidated me. I walked away. And skipped the next two aisles, because I didn’t want to see him any more.
And that let me to conversation #2, which went like this.
Boy: (about 4 years old) “Mommy!!!! Easter Candy!”
Woman: (smiling at little boy) “I know, honey! See the pretty eggs?”
Boy: “Easter!!!! Bunnies!! I like these eggs!!!” (dances with joy in front of the display)
Woman: “Want to have an Easter Egg hunt this year?”
Man: (joining the two of them): “Yeah, let’s hunt for Easter Eggs in our yard!”
The conversation went on for several minutes as the little boy asked about 50 questions: When was Easter? Who would hide the eggs? Did bunnies make the eggs? Could he buy this furry stuffed bunny? Were all the eggs chocolate? Why? Why? Why?
The parents answered every question, calmly and patiently. I pretended to be card shopping, but I was watching them out of the corner of my eye.
This time, when the conversation ended, I spoke up. I told the young family how beautiful the child was, and how lucky they were to have him. I told them how much joy it gave this grandmother to see people who so loved and respected their child.
I didn’t ask if I could borrow them for few minutes to teach a lesson to another parent. I didn’t ask if they’d like to adopt an 8 year old.
But I wanted to.
It takes a lot of time to raise a child with love and respect and a sense of worth. It only takes a minute to tear that all down.