As I was navigating my way home the other day with my son's typically huge stroller (and my son, of course) I couldn't help but giggle at a bumper sticker I saw on an awfully parked car saying "How's my driving?" with a number underneath to call. This struck me as particularly funny for a number of reasons:
1. Israeli drivers are generally terrible. AS IF you want other people to comment, more than they are going to anyway.
2. The park was just outrageously bad, so much so I had to get off the pavement and walk on the street because I couldn't get the stroller through. My driving teacher in Australia, who happened to be Israeli, always taught me, as did my dad, that more people will judge your driving on the way that you park and it's just awful driver's etiquette to park badly. Apart from the invitation to judge, I thought about my ISRAELI driving teacher saying that and the whole thing just seemed hilarious.
3. My driving of the stroller seemed pretty awful in direct relation to this ridiculous park. I hoped no one was watching.
But even more than all of this, it made me think, what if there was a bumper sticker that said, "How's my parenting?" with a number to call afterwards. Touche. I wonder how many parents would get reported. I wonder how many tickets I'd have.
With the summer onslaught of guests, all of whom have been outrageously excited to see my son, I have wondered about who may be judging my driving. His personality is really beginning to shine through, and surprise to no one, he's a cheeky little rascal. He's very giggly and smiley but he's also starting to throw temper tantrums, and he's smacking. I have realized he's not actually doing it out of frustration, though that's certainly a part of it - he's doing it for reaction, simply to see what happens and also to connect with things, as is his curious habit at the moment. Okies. So in typical new parent response, we're doing all the textbook things - saying "no" firmly, asking him what he would like rather than what he wants (although "want" certainly slips out often enough) talking and walking him through the issue. That's fine. This morning though, when he reached for an electrical cord, my husband simply smacked his hand and said "no". Something I've thought about doing but refrained from many times because I've read too many scholarly articles that suggest such behavior only reinforces aggression.
But he stopped. He didn't reach for it again.
My mother has a habit of telling the same story over and over again and there's one she tells often about my aunt not disciplining my cousin, her first child, at a meal when he was throwing food off his highchair. After my aunt's several gentle overtones, my mother, already onto her third child, eventually smacked his hand and said "no" and he stopped. Mind you this was back in the '80s, so who knows between all the shoulder pads and diet drinks what was really going on. Still, it's tried, true and tested and my cousin no longer throws food on the floor (he's 29 years old).
So what do I do? My husband was right and the articles are right and I feel like I'm not alright. I've not yet ascertained, however, what it is that's bothering me. Is it that I don't want to discipline my child in a certain way, or that I'm afraid of being judged by others? Is my fear related to reinforcing bad behavior, or that my perfect child isn't perfect, or that others will think I'm a bad parent? What is it?
Back down memory lane. My late grandmother, who was a sassy lady to say the least, actually complimented my parenting when we were in the States a few months ago. I mention this because I'm not sure she ever did the same to my mother. She said to me, as she saw me feeding my son fruit and yogurt instead of the cookie she longed to give him, "you know what you're doing. Look how nicely he sits and eats. I won't say anything." For my grandmother, this was a big deal because she had negative running commentary on everything. I'm talking about a fear of judgement and here I was getting a compliment from the matriarch of my family who rarely had compliments for anyone. That's huge, and perhaps more meaningful than I'll ever truly understand. My son, her first great grandchild and "goldene yingele" was turning out ok thanks to me. It's weird; when he's great, I attribute it to him; when he's not, I attribute it to me. So whose judgement am I really afraid of the most?
Perhaps if I stop judging and worrying about who is judging me, this kid might have a solid chance.