I have a confession to make. I am a people pleaser. It's not really such a good thing. I've always cared too much about what people think of me, what they think of how I look, what I'm doing, how my children are acting. Even when I knew I wasn't really doing anything 'wrong', I would often feel.... I don't know, almost ashamed?... if someone disapproved of something about me. Or even if I just thought they disapproved. Or might disapprove. Kind of ridiculous now writing that down, but it's true. It has always been one of my struggles. I want approval.
Yesterday, as I was trying yet again to fit in a trip to pick up my new glasses, I had a conversation in my head. And I used my nice inner voice instead of the mean, judgemental one. "Does it really matter if you fix your hair like you're going out on a date first? They'll still give you your glasses if you're wearing a ponytail. Just because it's in an upscale area, do you really need to dress up first? No. What you're wearing is fine. It's GOOD ENOUGH!" So off I went in my jeans and my ponytail to pick up my new glasses. And do you know what happened? I walked in the door, and back out (wearing my new glasses) in about 90 seconds. Now, wouldn't I have felt foolish, and un-necessarily stressed, if I'd spent an hour doing my hair and makeup first? Yes. Did the girl tell me "Oh these are fun...you look cute!" even with my ponytail and jeans? Yes!
Today, my friend and I met at McD's for an after school play date/mommy talk. There were quite a few people there, and our boys happily played for an hour or so before getting hungry. By the time we got our food, the place had pretty well cleared out, and it was nice and quiet in the play area. We sat all four of our boys down at the table next to us, and let them eat. Well, you know sooner or later, at least one of the boys was going to burp. It just happens. And then another one burped back. And then they giggled. And then another burp. And more riotous giggles. They were being boys and having such fun. My friend and I looked at each other, recognized the harmless joy in our boys, and I said, "Well, at least it's just us in here and they aren't bothering anyone." I'm a big believer teaching good manners, and good behavior, but also in letting children be children, and letting boys be boys. Burping is a natural bodily function. And somehow those bodily functions are just highly amusing to kids. Go ahead an burp, have a little fun. You're not hurting anyone, and it's not like we're out to dinner somewhere!
About 30 seconds after I said 'at least we're alone in here', we hear from the other side of the post next to us: "THAT IS SO RUDE!!! THEY SHOULD NOT BE BURPING LIKE THAT. IT IS JUST RUDE. I FIND IT VERY OFFENSIVE."
Oh......crap. Sorry, but that's what I thought. Great, we're NOT alone in here, and now this mom is getting all huffy about it. I mean, she was harsh. And judgemental. And the words coming at us just felt like venom. So much so that, before I could form and offer an apology and explain that we had thought we were alone, I was speechless. I was. I couldn't believe how harshly she was speaking to us, and assuming that she knew everything about how our boys behave ALL THE TIME, and how we've chosen to raise them. (Now, let me just say, she had every right to be offended. And even to ask us to get them to stop. But it was the manner in which she was basically verbally attacking us that wasn't cool.)
In a kind voice, my friend replied with something like, "Yes, boys are like that. Do you have any boys?"
She said: Yes, I do. I have FIVE CHILDREN. (With the tone, And I am a better mother than you!)
And then she continued on, and on, and on. How it was rude. How she doesn't allow that. That her children are not allowed to burp. Ever. If they absolutely must, they have to leave the room first. Are you kidding me? How it is a constant battle, but she doesn't let them burp no matter what. How she has five children, and if she can do it, then we could do it also. As if we don't, and have never, taught our children any table manners.
Now, as she continues to lecture us about how we should teach them manners, I have already long since quietly turned to the boys, and asked them to stop, since we are not the only ones in the playarea. They stopped immediately, and ate the rest of their food talking quietly. Not another burp, not even a tiny one.
The mom is quiet for about a minute, and then starts lecturing us more on how it really is something that we should do, we should teach them table manners, and we should not let them burp, and we should this, and blah, blah, blah. Now again, I have no problem with her feeling this way, but I do have a problem with her assuming to know how and what I've taught my children, and how and why I choose to parent them. The venom coming from her was so awful, that I chose to not explain myself to her. Because she wouldn't have understood anyway, that it was a choice, and a rare one for me, that we'd made to let the boys 'let loose' like that in public and just be boys and have fun.
I was so very angry at her presumptions, and her judgements, that I was shaking. I was furious, livid, what other words can I use? My friend even remarked to her at one point that while she felt our boys were being rude, her comments to us were feeling a bit rude as well. She said, 'I have not said one word that has been rude to you' and then continued on with her lecture. No, your words might not be rude in themselves, but your tone and sticking your nose into someone else's business certainly are! Not to mention that the length of her berating us lasted for about five minutes compared to the 30 seconds of burping at the boys table. Eventually, after she had stopped and started again about four times, I leaned around the post to face her and said, "I understand that you were offended. But if you notice, they have long since stopped. I would think that you could let the matter drop now." And thankfully she did.
My friend and I tried to calm down from the adrenaline rush of being verbally attacked, and from being so angry about her presumptions about us and our boys. We're talking about having something to blog about (hmmm... SNL could do a skit of Reba McIntyre.... 'Let's Give Them Something to Blog About...') As wer're talking she says, laughing, "Well, you'll have to find a way to find balance in this now you know!"
That got me thinking, and I actually calmed down and let it go pretty quickly after that. Because I realized that I wasn't trying to please that mom. I knew that I had taught my children table manners and good behavior. I knew that I didn't find any harm in choosing to let them let loose for a change, since we thought we were alone. I knew that I was sorry to have offended her, but that it was truly just an honest mistake about us being alone in the play area. I knew that **gasp!!**, I don't think burping is that big a deal. I knew that I wouldn't have gone back and made different choices. I knew that I'm confident that both my friend and I are good moms.
And so, Eureka!! I have found it!! A tiny piece of that balance I'm seeking. It's been percolating, and now I have the actual feeling (not just me telling myself) that I'm good enough the way I am, and that I'm a good mom, regardless of what some other mom might think. An unexpected blessing to sure!
A Simple Guide for BehaviorDon't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—
unless, of course, you want the same treatment.
That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.
It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face
and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.
Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,'
when your own face is distorted by contempt?
It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again,
playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part.
Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face,
and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
Matthew 7: 1-5 The Message
May you be blessed with God's idea of good behavior :)