The other day I did something I swore I never would. I judged another parent. I hate myself.
Of course, I didn’t voice my verdict aloud (I’m still British after all) but that doesn’t matter. Even in my own head, I still did it. And that puts me in the same reprehensible bracket as all the old people who have shaken their heads at my ‘disgraceful lack of control’ over my children in the park or the parents who have sneered at my Bolognese soaked sons in a restaurant while their daughters sit quietly colouring in or writing a piano concerto or whatever.
The incident occurred during that popular middle-class past-time: taking your children for a Babyccino. Translation: distracting them with milk, powdered chocolate and, if you’re truly lucky, marshmallows (the chewy kind), while you load up on caffeine and sit down for a few precious minutes.
Worse, the target of my judgement was a fellow dad! A man so harried by his two kids and two dogs that he could no longer maintain his composure in Caffe Nero. Several decibels and various expletives later, he was enjoying the stares of the whole establishment, his children were crying and his dogs were barking as if they’d seen a postman lathered in bone marrow.
Now, I’ve never understood why people with young children have dogs. Why choose to add yet another creature(s) to your life that must be taken outside regularly whatever the weather, has no sense of reason and may at any moment shit on your carpet?! But still, poor bloke.
At least that’s what I should have thought.
But I didn’t. Instead I thought something along the lines of: well, that’s a bit much, shouting like that before losing myself in a pious spiral of I would never do such a thing and my children are far more obedient, etc. Shame on me. A) Because I would and they aren’t. And b) because I forgot my allegiance to a fellow comrade.
As the brilliant DIY Daddy recently asked in a post: is there a right way to be a parent? To which, naturally, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Your way. And that’s the point. All that my stressed-out Nero friend was doing was experiencing his version of the same moment pretty much every parent has, pretty much every week. His only ‘crime’ was that he happened to do it in such a public place.
Anyway, almost as soon as me, my wife and our (ahem) perfectly behaved children waltzed serenely out of the establishment, the guilt began to eat away at me. How could I be so unfair? And while I wouldn’t ever advocate dropping the f-bomb on a pre-schooler, the more I thought about it, the more I empathised with how he was feeling.
So, this, belatedly, is my apology. To the man who had the meltdown and to other mums, dads, grandparents, anyone who has been driven temporarily to distraction by the insanity of this job. I got caught off guard and forgot the first and most important rule of Parent Club. Never judge a fellow member. It won’t happen again.