Before I was a mom I was a preschool teacher, and I was pretty hard on my students' parents. They didn't know that I was hard on them, but in my head I made a lot of unfair assumptions. I assumed that if one of my students was energetic and had a difficult time sitting still it was because his parents must let him watch TV all day, which was over-stimulating his brain. And if one of my students had a speech delay it was because she wasn't exposed to enough language at home. If a child was overly sensitive and cried easily it was because there was a situation at home that was emotionally draining. If a child at the grocery store threw a tantrum it was because the parents never disciplined. If a baby had a bald spot on the back of his head it was because he was rarely held. If a baby had dirt between his fingers it was because his parents didn't bathe him sufficiently. And if I visited someone's home and it was messy, it was because they were lazy. Now that I am a mom, and have also cared for close friends' children, I feel like such a horrible person for jumping to such conclusions about anyone.
All children are born with very unique personalities and challenges. Some children are more energetic than others, some are more sensitive, some are curious, and some are persistent. Even children who are exposed to a lot of language can be late talkers. A friend of mine has a 14 month old who hasn't said her first word, even though my friend constantly speaks, reads, and sings to her. Some children, on the other hand, can be exposed to very little language and vocabulary, but become early talkers. All kids move at their own pace. And if I see a child misbehaving at the store it could be because of a number of reasons. Maybe he didn't have a nap that day, or maybe he has an emotional disorder, or maybe something in his diet is triggering the behavior. It could also be that this was the very first time the child had ever misbehaved in public and the parents, caught off guard, didn't know how to respond. Who knows. I also now know that not every baby with a bald spot is rarely held. Some babies just have more delicate hair than others and some move their heads more vigorously than others. And all kids (especially the adventurous ones) just get dirty. Babies get dirt in between their fingers. Big deal. Their fingers are short, chubby, and get slobbered on all day. I also now understand that just because someone's house is messy when I visit doesn't mean that they're lazy. Maybe they were in the middle of de-cluttering, maybe the parent has an energy-zapping condition that I'm unaware of, or maybe they just stay home with their children all day long making memories.
So basically what I'm saying is, let's try giving people a break more often and remind ourselves that we all have our own unique situations and families. And until we've walked a mile in their shoes let's just hush a bit.