Would you judge me if you knew I was the woman thinking "shut your kid up" on the plane? Would you judge me if I told you I used to feel children had no place at restaurants? What would you think if I told you I used to think children who had temper tantrums were the product of overly lax or weak parenting? How would you feel if I said I used to watch you on your phone and mentally chastise you for not "engaging" with your child? Would you judge me if I said I used to think only lazy parents let their kids watch television?
I used to be that woman, and although I never said anything out loud, I am quite sure my face conveyed the message clearly. I am sure my narrowed eyes, combined with my partial smile, communicated that I was annoyed but also basking in the fact that I had no one but myself to look after. I sat there with my People magazine, my trail mix, and my cell phone, and had a mini vacation on the flight -- so long as your kid would let me. I sat in the restaurant trying to enjoy my food while your kid flung a piece of broccoli by my head. I sat there on the bus watching your kid slide down the seat, making no movement to help in the slightest. Your kid, your problem.
I was a very different person then. My former self and those moments are long gone. I now have three kids. I'm on the other side of the looking glass, and let me tell you, I'm now that woman.
I'm the woman with kids on a plane (when we can afford it). I'm the woman with kids in a restaurant -- likely sitting near you, because three kids and two high chairs take up a lot of space. I'm the one with the kid who is very vocal when she doesn't like something. I'm also the one checking her phone at the playground while her kids are running around... and I'm the one who grants her kids a show after they come home from school every day. I'm the one. I'm THAT woman, and now I get it.
I get that sometimes parents have to fly, whether they want to or not -- and (God forbid) they have to take their children, too. I get that it's not easy for children to be strapped into confined spaces and sit quietly through an entire flight to be considered "well behaved" by other passengers. I get that parents want to go out to eat once in a while and not cook, and sometimes they may even want to bring their kids! I get that parents' enjoyment may not always be yours. I get that kids have temper tantrums for many reasons. I also get that even good kids have them. I can speak from personal experience and tell you some causes of temper tantrums include fatigue, hunger (also known as "hanger"), travel, exhaustion, discomfort, not getting what they want, Buzz Lightyear staring at them, and being 3.
I get that parents can be on their phone and it doesn't mean they've been on it all day or are neglecting their children, for that matter. I get that sometimes television can be useful and even (gasp) a peacekeeper when needed. I get that. I get ALL that. It took me having to put on a pair of dirty, worn, weathered parenting shoes and start walking to really get it, but I finally do, and as I look around, I'm so humbled to see who's walking with me.
These are the people who've helped me from day one. These are the people who have not judged me the way I judged others before becoming a parent. These are the people I constantly go to for help -- the ones I share my struggles, love, and best moments with. These are the ones I eat dinner with when my husband isn't home. These are the ones I make 10+ hour road trips to see. These are the ones who love my children as much as I love them. These are the people who know my children and see them so much it doesn't matter what kind of day they are having. These are the ones who are forgiving. These are the ones who show love. These are the people I respect and strive to obtain the same level of respect from. These are the people walking around me. These are now my people, and I hope you know that although you may not be one of them or walking with us, we see you there. We know you're watching. We know you may not want to sit next to us on the plane. We know you may not appreciate the lively lunch we're having near you at the restaurant. We know you may notice us on our phones.
I remember being in your shoes. I will never forget it. I remember exactly how they fit, too. It's easy to judge others in the moment. That's what I did, and know sometimes you do, too. Please let me know when you see me, and while you're at it, try my shoes on, too. I know I (and any of my people) would be happy to lend them to you -- especially if that meant you'd want to take a walk with us.