"And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye
when you have a log in your own?"
Day 15: Fear of Being Judged
"You're doing great, Dad!" "Hang in there, Dad!" "You can do it, Dad!" These are the comments that my husband gets when he takes the kids to the store by himself and they are acting up, getting cranky or melting down. Nothing but encouragement and cheers as to what a great job he is doing. "Keep up the good work." Really?
What happens to me at the store with cranky kids? I get sneers. I get "the looks." You know what looks I'm talking about. I'm sure you get them and maybe even give them too. Those that-poor-mom kind of looks. Those that-poor-mom-with-all-those-kids kind of looks. Those that-poor-mom-with-all-those-kids-why-would-she-have-all-those-kids kind of look. Or the dreaded those-poor-kids kind of looks or the those-poor-kids-dang-that-mom-needs-to-chill kind of looks. I get judged. I can't stand it.
It is really one of my biggest fears going out in public with my kids. Honestly, it brings me a lot of anxiety worrying about when they may have a melt down. Where we will be? What will set them off? (because you never know) and What kind of "judgy" looks or comments will I get?
Being in various school sports and activities, I've had to face my fears of being judged. There were always try-outs, performances or competitions. I'm grateful that I was able to let go of my fears of being judged and embrace my competitive spirit (although my husband would say a little too much). I loved the fact that the more I practiced, the better I could perform. I especially liked that I had a sense of control over the outcome.
As a mom, I feel like I have no control whatsoever...especially when I'm out in public with my kids. They are like ticking time bombs and I never know when they're going to explode. It seems that no matter how many times we "practice" the right way to behave in a grocery store, there's always something that sets the bomb off.
The whole time, they stayed close to me. The whole time, they were helpful--putting the items carefully in the cart, using teamwork, and taking turns. The whole time, they were good listeners and had a great attitude. I was feeling good.
Then we go to check out. I always get a little anxious because this is where things can go downhill. But they didn't. Again, my kids stayed close. They both took turns helping put the items on the conveyor belt. They both waited patiently as I checked out. It was a beautiful thing.
The checker complimented my kids on how sweet and helpful they were. Even the customers standing in line behind us were complimenting me on how wonderfully behaved my kids were.
Yes...yes, they are! Thank you!
I was feeling good. I could just see all the "Mom of the Year" awards being handed to me. Everyone in that store was looking at me with those what-a-great-mom-and-wonderful-kids-isn't-it-wonderful-that-she's-having-a-third-child kind of looks.
When we were done checking out, I couldn't take the smile off my face. Ben asked me if he could go play the motorcycle game. "Me too!" Abby asks.
Yes, definitely! You kids were so well-behaved. I'm so proud of you for being so helpful and having good attitudes. Let's do it.
Big mistake. Moms, leave while you're ahead. Leave while you're ahead!
Long story short, after the motor cycle game ended and it was time to leave. Ben melted down. Tick...tick...boom!
And it wasn't just a fuss, it was a screaming, kicking, crying, flailing, embarrassing melt down. Then Abby starts crying just because Ben was throwing a fit. Oh dear.
All the customers who were admiring my kids were gone. I had a whole new set of eyes staring at me now...judging. I was getting those geez-her-kids-are-horrible kind of looks and those she-can't-even-handle-two-kids-why-would-she-have-another-one kind of looks.
I had to get out of there fast. By this time, Ben was screaming so loudly, the customers trying on shoes in the back of the store could probably hear him. I was starting to lose my cool trying to drag him kicking and screaming out of the store. Abby's screaming. Ben's screaming. I wanted to scream. I was mortified.
Where was my "You're doing great, Mom!" "Hang in there, Mom!" "You can do it, Mom!" Where were my encouraging words?
Nowhere. Nothing but judging. Nothing but sneering. Nothing but those how-can-you-be-such-a-cruel-mother kind of looks.
That day, I realized that the fear of being judged fueled my anger for my kids when they misbehaved in public. I was so embarrassed at my son's fit. I was so worried about what others were thinking of me. I couldn't stand the looks and judgments I was getting. I lost my cool. It scared me how mad I got at him.
Being a mom has humbled me. It has caused me to realize that these precious little spirits have a mind of their own. Though I may pray, teach, train, and do all that I can to make sure that they are on their best behavior, they are not perfect. They will make mistakes. I am not perfect. I will make mistakes. And everyone at the store judging me isn't perfect either. Each of them will make mistakes too.
Don't you agree that the world would be a better place if we all stopped judging and started encouraging?
Thought it felt like it at the time, I know that I'm not the only mom who has experienced those horrific public meltdowns! (For future reference though, if you ever see any mom in a store with a child melting down, will you promise me that you will tell her to hang in there and that she's doing a great job? Moms need to hear those encouraging words too. Thank you.)
I can't let the fear of being judged get in the way of making each moment a teachable moment...a moment to show my kids grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love. Especially now that I have three kids, I just have to embrace those crazy moments, try to make the best of them, not worry about what others might think of me, and whenever I have no control, just shrug my shoulders and laugh. What else can I do?
And here's another thought...am I quicker to judge others or encourage them? God has definitely given me the gift of encouragement, but I have to be honest, when I've seen other moms in the store when their kids are melting down, there is a little bit of judgment even though I've been there....even though I know that those little boogers are seriously ticking time bombs.
I need to not only let go of my fear of being judged, but I also need to let go of my tendency to judge others. What about you?
Are you ready to let go of your fears of being judged? Are you ready to embrace the imperfections that life brings and let go of the fear of what others might think of you? Are you also ready to let go of how you may be judging others? I am!
PRAY WITH ME:
Father, today, I give my fear of being judged to You. God, I release to You the anxiety I feel when I know that others are watching me and judging me. Take away my insecurities and fill my heart with confidence. Give me abundant grace and patience when my kids act up, throw fits and embarrass me. Help me to teach them and love them like You do. Help me to pray for wisdom when I don't know what else to do. Help me to embrace the imperfections of others, of my kids, and of myself. Help me to be a voice of encouragement instead of a quiet judge. Father, shine Your light into my fear of being judged, and fill me with faith to know that You have so much grace and mercy for me that I must give it to others as well. In Jesus' name. Amen.