As a first time mum, immigrant (expat), socially awkward, and petrified of judgement, there is no one quite so acutely aware of how other people perceive me. How they judge me as a mother, how they silently label my child, and how many times I have intercepted disbelieving, disgusted, or incredulous looks when they see things that don’t match their preconceived ideas. I have achieved a certain level of peace by accepting that most of these are reactions to my son’s appearance, but it still hurts. He’s big, he’s tall, he has broad shoulders, he’s strong, and is 1.05m tall. He’s two -years-old – and I’m definitely not joking, I was there and I remember it well.
I’m not justifying or making excuses, he’s only two
Why do people, even other mothers and fathers, feel the need to pass silent judgement on others?
To the parents ostentatiously scolding their much older child, for the same behaviour my son is displaying I can see what you are doing, watching my reaction to the way you are dealing with your child’s actions. I choose to talk to my son and offer him the choice of leaving or behaving well, but I also accept that sometimes he gets frustrated. His lack of communications skills, and sometimes the confusion between two languages overwhelms him. Sometimes, he gets tired and grumpy – Don’t we all? But in the end, he’s two, and two-year-olds still need naps sometimes.
To the retired couple that was so aghast at the fact that he still wears a nappy (or pull-ups), you were so admiring and sweet with my boy, I appreciate it. The second he became a little bit shy and wanted to bury his face in Daddy’s shoulder, he flashed the top of his nappy. I don’t think you realised just how quickly your faces and demeanour changed when your eyes fixated on the fact that he was still wearing a nappy.
To the childless couple on the beach, you are allowed to query my parenting and the behaviour of my son. As a childless couple you are in the blissful state of being the perfect parents; either not parents at all, ever or in that perfect, self-righteous bubble of “MY child will NEVER…” You can look disgusted or incredulous and I can simply smile and think “You know nothing…”
Do I have to make excuses for him? Do I have to tell everyone he meets that ‘he’s two, please don’t expect the behaviour of a four or five-year-old’? Do I have to justify my reasons for not scolding him in public? Do I have to tell you why we agree to carry him when he’s tired? As a person who is very aware of her social anxiety and the fear of public ridicule or judgement, I take care not to subject my son to it.
It happens all the time
I shouldn’t be surprised. It has happened many times before and will probably continue for many years in the future.
I was not even 21 when a man in a nightclub asked me when I hit 30 (I was only just legal at 18)
When my mother was 11 she grew up quickly, acquiring height, breasts and hips far more suited to a fully grown woman. On one occasion, that she still remembers vividly, a child asked its mother why “that lady is playing like a little girl?” The mother responded that it was okay, “that lady has learning difficulties and still thinks like a little girl.”
Is it genuinely more acceptable to assume mental deficit than to accept that maybe your judgement is off?
I’ll be honest, my boy is never going to be small. His father is over two metres tall and at 1.66m I’m the tiny one in my family. In Cyprus, despite the large immigrant/expat population from countries all over the globe, the average height of an adult man is 1.75m. Consequently, children tend to be on the smaller side too. I can accept a certain amount of disbelief when faced with my son’s true age.
Too much, too soon, but what else can I do?
I have to admit that I’m just as bad as the rest of the judgemental lot, only I do it to my baby boy. I feel that makes it worse.
I have expected much from him, from a very early age. He did so many things before the baby manuals say they should. Rolling over, pulling himself to standing, crawling (briefly), walking (7.5 months), drinking from a proper cup… the list goes on. I haven’t been able to stop myself from expecting the next milestone before the developmental average.
The one thing that he didn’t do early was talk. Moreover, I joined the ranks of those asking too much by worrying that he was challenged in that direction. I had nothing to worry about.