Fear of judgement can be crippling – the subconscious desire to ‘compare’ even more so…
My son Percy is two and a half, and he slots fittingly into the age category universally known as, ‘the terrible twos’. Warned well in advance of this supposedly unpredictable and disarming phase, it crept up on me quicker than I can recall most items in my short-term memory bank, and now seems to have arrived on my doorstep like a flat pack without the instructions!
I don’t have an answer on how to best navigate your way through the haze of colourful mood swings, or find sanctuary in your own opinion of self as you package up yet another tantrum on a public stage; but I can reassure you that losing your marbles will occur more frequently than not – however isn’t seeking generally more interesting than hiding?
I reflect back on a younger version of myself and am adequately disappointed in her. Sitting on a plane, embarking on a holiday jaunt, and sipping on wine whilst digesting the latest celebrity gossip seems indulgent and unfamiliar to me now; but back then it was my reward for working so hard and looking after myself. Sifting further through the memory, I cringe at how I reacted to the baby screaming in the row behind me as we took off. Did I really conjure up opinions on how this Mum should handle her child when I wasn’t yet a Mother myself? Did I think I knew better and had the answer on how to calm this alarming bundle, or was I just too ignorant to imagine how I may have dealt with it should my feet have been placed in her shoes for that dreaded flight period?
Now a Mum myself, it seems only fair that I have been given the opportunity to experience the same fear of judgment and anxiety as the woman seated behind me all those years ago; and to be honest it has occurred on many occasions. Who doesn’t love a story about a poo-explosion in a restaurant, or a shove in the playground whereby your child has exercised force in the direction of a stranger? My favourite markers to date (to name a few), have been the ‘snatching craze’, the ‘non-sharing movement’, and ‘the boy band effect’; whereby the arms swing violently around to compliment the red face and flood of tears as you carry them away like hired security from said object of desire.
As a high achiever myself, and often a very private person; I struggled initially with these unpredictable acts of expression and couldn’t often find it in my nature to balance the act with a healthy measure of discipline. I soon realised I was collecting a curiously unhealthy set of pressures centred on parenting styles that were hindering my own self-worth and personal approach; and to what benefit? The older I get, and the more times Percy and I rehearse daily life together, the more I realise that being a parent is a ticket to a private show. It is a completely different experience for all of us – similar milestones, yes – but for the most part it is the unique path we get to travel down with our own children and family. Master Sengstan (1911 – 78, China), said; “do not seek perfection in a changing world. Instead, perfect your love”. Sometimes people only get to see the hiccups, and never catch a glimpse of the tender cuddles that follow once the excitement has proven too overwhelming – don’t be discouraged by the roller-coaster and try to avoid setting unrealistic expectations.
Stop beating yourself up about the length of time it takes to toilet train in comparison to your friend’s children, reject the need to align your child’s ability to speak fluently with the rest of their play group – instead, find joy in recording the pace at which your child discovers the world and responds to it in their own way.
And next time you pass the Mum feverishly devising the best escape route with flustered expression planted on her face; why not offer to collect some marbles…