My mother has a timeshare in Orlando, so every February, we head down there to spend a week taking in the parks, spending time poolside, and enjoying a break from the gloom of winter.
We started this tradition when I was 5 months pregnant. I saw it as a target rich environment where I could observe parents and parenting in the pressure cooker of Disney and all of the accompanying dazzle.
That first year, I formulated a list of dos and don’ts based on my keen observations. I would wear my baby the next year. It would take the strain off of my back and make nursing easily accessible. I wouldn’t head to the park unprepared. I’d make sure to have plenty of diapers and backup formula.
Fast forward a year.
We headed to Animal Kingdom with some friends who met us down there. I did wear my baby, but I forgot to pack extra diapers and the backup formula, so I spent 30 minutes searching for diapers and ended up nursing my son the entire time, all the while chasing our friends, whose children were older.
We were at times literally running to keep up with them, with an infant attached to my boob. I had to tie the thin blanket over his head around my neck to keep it from blowing away, but it was one of those giant baby swaddle wraps, so every so often the wind would catch it, causing it to fly up and flap in the air like a flag, drawing attention to my exposed breast.
And our plan to get there early? The best I could do was 11. Our friends were ready to leave by one. At least we all managed to ride the safari together. If you’re wondering, nursing an infant on a safari ride is something akin to nursing while horseback riding. I had been given ample opportunity to learn that life and parenting does not go according to plan.
Yet still, I judged.
Coming out of a bathroom, I saw a mom hand her toddler her phone while he was on the changing table. I shook my head in disgust. “No wonder this generation is addicted to their phones,” I thought.
Fast forward one year.
My son is eighteen months old, He is incredibly strong and doesn’t like to lie still. Changing him is like wrestling a greased wildebeest. He kicks, screams, and arches his back. In the time it takes to reach for a wipe, he does this crazy ninja move where he flips onto his stomach and slides down off the changing table.
And just like that, I found myself once again at the Animal Kingdom, perhaps in the same bathroom, handing my son my phone while he was on the changing table. I silently whispered an apology to the mother who had stood there a year before.
Perhaps the greatest gift being a parent has afforded my own growth has been the opportunity to look at both my proclivity for judgment and my fear of being judged. We’re all familiar with “Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged.” In my experience, it is the people that are most afraid of being judged that are the most likely to judge others. It’s almost like “I’ll judge you before you can judge me.”
I can’t help but wonder: Why do we do this? Why do we judge other parents? What made me think I was in a position, at 5 months pregnant, to make a list of dos and don’ts? What made me shake my head in judgement at the mom who handed the phone to her son on the changing table? Shouldn’t we be partaking in collective fist bumps and rushing to each other’s assistance? Saying “You’ve got this!” to each other while offering a hand or a wipe?