"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
January 1, 2014
Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged
by Emily S. Jorgensen

I let my children keep their binky until they grow out of naps. I breastfeed them until they are old enough to go to Nursery. I don’t believe in making babies sleep through the night by “just crying it out.” I don’t potty train my children until they are about 3 ½.

I have taken flak for all of these things.

What is it that makes us nitpick what other parents are doing?

I suspect, with some issues at least, it has more to do with making ourselves feel better about the way we parent than it has to do with the other parents’ choices. Given the myriad developmental and emotional issues parents must contend with, it is natural that we may feel like we are out of our comfort zone, or that we are not sure what is always best. Because, we are the parent. We are always supposed to know what is best!

Right?

I think we sometimes defend our parental choices by attacking those of other parents.

I recently ran into a past teacher of one of my children. We chatted for a while, and I mentioned that we felt lucky we had always had such fabulous school teachers for our children. She asked me if I had ever told that to the principal. Our school principal always hears about the complaints, but parents rarely report the good things to her.

I thought about what a great idea that was — who among us wouldn’t like to hear from our boss that a client was particularly happy with how we did our job?

Sometimes we forget to acknowledge the good we and others do, instead focusing on what needs to be better.

I am guilty of this, I know. I am especially judgmental of what is commonly called the “iPhone Mom.” You know the one. She lets her children run wild in the grocery store or bully other kids at the park while her nose is down, absorbed in the virtual world of her phone.

But it is true that although I may be seeing negligent behavior on the part of iPhone Mom right this second, I don’t really know the whole story of her life or the pattern of her parenting.

What parent, teacher, or leader doesn’t need a round of applause now and then?

A few months ago I took my children out to lunch, right before school started again — a last hurrah of the summer vacation. The waitress came over and brought me a note another customer had written on a napkin for me. It said, “I just noticed how great of a mom you are. You are so kind, patient, and loving. Thanks for being so good at your job. We need more amazing people like you.”

I felt so touched that a complete stranger would take the time to be supportive of me as a parent. (I also felt relieved that I happened to be calm about it when my son had just spilled his drink all over the table, and also that I had put on makeup that day, since someone was apparently watching me.)

How often do we tell our children’s leaders, teachers, or other parents that they are doing a good job? That they are good parents? Such positive feedback would mean even more from a trusted friend or leader than it does from a stranger in a restaurant.

I was at the local grocery store one night when I heard the bloodcurdling scream of a preschool-age child not getting her way. Regardless of where one traveled in the store, her cries could not be escaped. I don’t think I had ever heard a child with such a strong pair of lungs.

Everyone was watching this mom as she went through the checkout line. I got in line behind her (I don’t think anyone else was quite willing to get behind her, so it was the shortest line.) Apparently the daughter wanted a certain toy, and the mother was refusing to buy it for her.

The mom was offering another, more affordable toy, or none at all. The daughter found this unacceptable and was expressing her displeasure at the highest decibel possible.

After she left the store and my purchases were being rung up, I was pleasantly surprised that all the chatter about her after she left consisted of expressions of support. They were impressed that the mom was so calm, that she was so patient, that she wasn’t giving in to the tantrum.

But no one actually told her this. They had just all stared at the spectacle.

It just so happened that I was parked next to this mom’s car, and so as I came out to parking lot, I found the mom still dealing with her child, trying to get the groceries and the child in the car. I was hesitant at first, but then thought about how I would like to be treated were I in her situation, so I went ahead and told her that I had a four-year-old myself, and thought she was doing such a great job.

She looked at me with such a vulnerable expression, that I felt I needed to comfort her however I could. I told her that after she left, the check-out people were all talking about how amazed they were at her patience.

She shared that her family was moving across country the next day, and they had spent the day packing up the house, including all her daughter’s possessions, and her daughter was overtired, overwrought, and basically freaking out about the major change going on in her tender little world.

I assured her again that the rest of us parents had all been there, and we totally understood. I wished her a safe move, and got in my car.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes of my time and a listening ear, but I could tell that mom really needed that support — to know people were not judging her and to be reassured that this was normal behavior in her child and that others could see she was doing the right thing, even if her daughter was causing a scene.

I once knew a mom with a special needs son who felt like people were always watching her and judging her. When I would see her out in the hall at church with her child, disciplining him, and trying so hard to teach him appropriate behavior, I would always her that I thought she was doing a great job.

She was always patient with him, and calm, did everything right, but that cannot overcome her son’s issues. It was difficult for her to come to church, both because it was a challenging environment for her son, and because she felt like she was being judged for his poor behavior.

I am sure if everyone around her knew the whole situation, they would be accommodating and understanding, but no one is going to wear a sign around her neck saying, “My son is autistic. Please be patient with us.”

As we begin this New Year, perhaps we can commit ourselves to both have, and more importantly — express — charity for each other. Whether parent, teacher, or child, we must all have patience for each other from time to time. Let’s applaud the hard work and the good we see each other do. Most of us are trying our best.


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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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