My daughter had darted back into the theater to spend a few more minutes with her friends after I told her we needed to leave.
“If that were my daughter,” he drawled, “I wouldn’t tolerate that. I’d be marching her out of here and grounding her.”
That’s when I gave the man what my husband calls “the look.”
There is nothing that bothers me more than people who immediately judge me, my family or my behavior.
The man in the cowboy hat didn’t know that I’ve given my children “warnings” since they were young.
That may not work for other parents, experts may never recommend the practice and I may never receive any award for mother of the year, but it works for me.
I tell my kids it’s time to go, they go back and spend time with friends and then I say it again and we go.
The practice started when my son was a toddler. He didn’t respond well to being abruptly pulled out of a situation, and I learned giving a warning worked. It gave him the time he needed to adjust and, as an adult, I could easily adapt.
The practice continued with my daughter not because she necessarily needed the time to adjust but because I had become accustomed to the practice.
As my children grew into adolescence, the practice just stuck.
I shouldn’t have to explain that to anyone, especially the man who was so quick to judge my parenting skills, but for some reason I am compelled.
My children are good students and generally good people. There is no reason for anyone to judge us.
And yet they do.
And we are among the lucky ones.
This past week I’ve witnessed others blaming large groups of people – those who receive “welfare” benefits, those who don’t speak English, those who suffer from addiction – for society’s ills.
Here’s the thing – those groups are comprised of individuals, and every individual has a story. That’s not to say every individual is perfect – none of us are. But we were all handed a different set of skills, a different family and different circumstances.
Instead of judging each other, we should spend more time listening to each other’s stories and supporting each other rather.
I could have explained this to the man in the cowboy hat, but instead I made an instant decision that he wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t care.
In other words, I judged him.
The irony isn’t lost on me.
I could try to rationalize, but I can’t. All I can do is admit that I’m human, I’m not perfect and I sometimes judge others..
But I’m also constantly working on that impulse, listening to individual stores and teaching my children to do the same.
Maybe the man in the cowboy hat is doing exactly the same thing.
I didn’t ask him, so I’ll never know. But my guess is that he, just like me, is just trying to do his best.