Imagine if you will…
A woman in the children’s section of the library. She is struggling with a diaper bag and a canvas tote while trying to check out age-appropriate board books and CDs for her son. The child she so cares for is strapped to her chest in a Baby Bjorn carrier. He screams and screams because he is hungry and growing. Though we know he was fed right before Storytime, to an ignorant outside observer, the child is being abused and ignored as the mother carries on checking out books despite the incessant cries.
Other patrons cannot hear her as she speaks soothing words into the baby’s ear. They cannot tell that she is very anxious to be done with her task and take the child out of the library in order to feed him in peace. So it really should be no surprise when we observe a woman approach our heroine while speaking rapid Spanish and making grand gestures with her hands, slapping at her own grandmotherly neck.
The new mother stares at the Spanish-speaking grandmother with woe. Despite the fact that she has her hands utterly full at the moment, a portion of her brain is able to decipher the message from her elder. Years of required foreign language courses she thought she had forgotten came flooding back to help with this shaming moment.
“You’re not supporting his neck!”
Even though the baby is strapped to the mother, he is arching his back in the carrier making it appear that his neck is less supported than it really is. When the child relaxes into the normal position, he is completely contained and comfortable. But with an empty stomach and perhaps a bit of over stimulation by the puppets and songs of Storytime- he is expressing his displeasure the only way he can.
So, of course, the proper course of action in this grandmother’s eyes is to criticize the new mother.
As the full impact of this woman’s unsolicited words make a home in our heroine’s overwrought brain, a low level of anger begins to simmer. Really? Upon seeing the younger woman’s situation, that’s what the grandmother decides to do? There were so many other ways she could have approached it. As a wizened woman who apparently has children and grandchildren of her own, perhaps she could harken back to her own first days a mother. Maybe she could have helped with the process of checking out the books. Or even offered to hold the child in lieu of chastising a woman who is obviously in need of assistance.
Muttering darkly, the new mother replies in English, “I’m watching his neck.”
The grandmother doesn’t understand because the younger woman has no available hands to make a grand gesture to convey her response across the language barrier. She stares at the new mother as if still waiting for the woman with the screaming infant to justify herself. They gaze at each other with the searing heat of judgement over the baby’s bobbing, well-supported head in a children’s library showdown.
Then the grandmother’s daughter, pushing her own child in a stroller, breaks the tension with a soft word of Spanish. The spell is broken, but the condescension hangs in the air. The obviously superior grandmother regards the new mother darkly even as she follows her own perfectly-raised daughter out of the children’s section into the library proper. The new mother bobs gently on her feet, watching her go and finishing her book check out.
In the car as she feeds her baby, our heroine talks to her son. She tells him that she’s doing her best. That she’s sorry if she’s getting things wrong. That the learning curve on being a mother thing is so steep, missteps can happen. Even though she actually hasn’t done a thing incorrectly, she indigently reminds herself.
After she finishes her errands of going to the grocery store and hitting the dollar store for a new mop, the mother and child finally make it home. In the quiet of a napping baby, the mother hastily throws together a meal of chicken and vegetables into the slow cooker for that night’s dinner. The rest of the day is spent encouraging the baby during tummy time and reading him yet more stories. It isn’t until her husband comes home and mentions that the baby’s eye looks a little red that she breaks down.
Can’t keep his eyes clear of mucus that accumulates thanks to his slightly underdeveloped tear ducts. Can’t keep him from crying at the library. Can’t keep the house clean. And apparently, can’t keep baby’s head supported in a way that stops people from commenting on it. Our heroine breaks down into tears for the first time that day, much to her husband’s surprise.
Imagine if you will this woman’s day spent in The Judgement Zone.
I just want to point out that The Man wasn’t trying to criticize. He was asking if I’d noticed the eye being red; wondering aloud if our son was experiencing allergies. He wasn’t trying to point out a flaw in my parenting. But after the day I’d had, I just sorta lost it. That poor man had no idea about the woman at the library or all the guilt I was harboring. Poor, poor man. LOL!
And I am totally fine now. I think for my first round of judgement by a supposed peer, I did pretty well. I didn’t beat her up, and I didn’t cause a scene. (Well anymore of a scene than my son was already causing.) I knew it was going to happen eventually. Everyone has an opinion and everyone knows better than you. It happened during pregnancy, why wouldn’t it happen during the actual raising of the child?
Besides, I have all the affirmation of my parenting prowess I need right here.