I took Michaela to her soccer practice this morning and enjoyed getting to watch her play. During the 4th quarter, it was Michaela’s turn to sit out and she sat in my lap in my chair while we watched her team finish out the game. Sitting near me was a mom who was overwhelmed and frustrated with one of her daughters. Granted, I haven’t spent every waking moment with her daughter (about 12-14 years old?) but she really didn’t seem to be doing anything wrong. I definitely got the impression that the mom was mostly concerned with not being disrespected by the daughter in front of others…and while I don’t think the daughter was disrespecting the mom…the mom was definitely loudly and publicly disrespecting the daughter for, what felt like, an eternity. I could feel Michaela trembling in my lap and it wasn’t cold outside. I wrapped my arms around Michaela and told her “I’m really glad that we don’t talk to each other that way. I love you very much and think you are one of my favorite people in the whole world.” She turned and buried her face in my chest and said, “I’m so glad we don’t do that too. It scares me.”
So, my first instinct was to think “How can you expect someone to show respect when you don’t model it yourself? You have taken her voice from her and publicly humiliated her.” Then, thank goodness, my second instinct kicked in before I opened my big, stupid mouth. It is easy to judge this mom while not knowing what she is going through, not knowing her relationship with her daughter, and not knowing what kind of support she gets in child-rearing. It is easy for me to point my finger and say “that is wrong.” But doing that will not help this mom or her daughter. My experience has been that people who behave disrespectfully, have experienced it and had it modeled for them. What this woman needs is not judgement and subsequent disrespect from me…she needs help…practical help…and understanding from another mom who has been frustrated and absurd at times too. (My mother-in-law rightfully laughed out loud at me when I angrily yelled a stubborn 3-year-old-Michaela that we were “about to throw down.” Yep…that really happened.)
There is a tendency with moms/women to judge each other (and ourselves) harshly and measure ourselves by how we compare to others. Of course, these comparisons are never apples to apples…it’s usually my best moments compared to your worst or vice versa. We make our own decisions ok (or completely horrible) by picking apart (or idealizing) the decisions of others: kids, no kids, working mom, stay-at-home mom, married, divorced, remarried, single, pop-tart mom, organic free-range mom, breast-feeding mom, formula-feeding mom, career woman, home-maker, co-sleeping mom, cry-it-out mom…if someone else’s choices are ok, then somehow my choices or circumstances are wrong or invalid. Let’s stop buying into this lie. If your favorite color is blue and mine is day-glow orange, neither of us has to be wrong…we can have different opinions and still be ok with each other and still be telling our own unique and beautiful stories.
How does choosing differently as a woman relate to this mom speaking disrespectfully to her daughter? Glad you asked…someone has to keep me on topic afterall. It was obvious to me that the mom was, for one reason or another, trying to save face in front of the other parents. She was feeling embarrassed and inadequate and was probably trying to save face in the way that was modeled to her (the same way that she was modeling to her own daughter.) Maybe if she didn’t feel that unspoken but strongly-felt competition that unfortunately is prevalent among women, she could have different experience to pull from…she could offer her daughter something different…she could have different interactions in her life to model herself after.
So, did I do the right thing and build this woman up? Nope! Just a big loser here who just hugged my own daughter and stayed quiet. I don’t process things that that fast…I needed to come home and dissect the event and evaluate it for a few hours. But guess what?! Our team has another game at 2:30 (less than an hour from now.) I’m going to have another opportunity to do this right…find some way to build up this woman and her daughter…model something different for my daughter…and end (at least for the moment) the nasty cage match that occurs every day between the members of our society with the double X chromosomes. I’m betting this happens in your life too…what could you be doing to reduce the competition, build up others, and love people well? Thoughts? I clearly suck at this and could use ideas from my friends out there.