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Should We Never Ever Judge?

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Judgement: The ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. –Oxford Dictionary

I got in a bit of facebook trouble today (as you do sometimes) when I posted a Miss. Judgey Pants remark that went like this:

“Society has taught us to hold into our material possessions, but not to hold on to our babies.

A young fit father was pushing his three or four month old baby in a stroller with one hand and holding a coffee in the other. The baby was screaming and shaking. Dear Sir. Put down your coffee. Stop pushing the stroller. Pick up your baby!”

I know, I know, we’ve all had crying babies before. In fact, I actually like it when my babies have had a good cry (in arms) because I know it’s a natural way to release accumulated stress and tension. And, it could have very well been that if the coffee dad had picked up his baby, the baby STILL would have been crying. I know, maybe the dad was exhausted. Maybe he didn’t know what to do, etc.

Heck, I bet this guy is a great dad. I bet he takes wonderful care of his baby and is loving and caring…. I got a few positive comments from posting this and a mighty few “Kate, shut the hell up, how DARE you be so judgmental“.

I would never judge a person on the colour of their skin, for their looks, personality, disposition, learning abilities or physical disabilities or other traits. I would never judge a person who was stuck in an undesirable situation. In fact, I wasn’t actually judging the coffee father so much as judging the whole society and classifying the scenario as a whole system fail. I don’t look down on people, I know we’re all human. I’m actually a very compassionate and understanding person… but isn’t using our judgement part of daily life? Aren’t there some things that we SHOULD judge?! Aren’t there some actions that should be judged so that they are not repeated again or so that the appropriate action can be taken to fix them?

Would you knowingly let your child into a household that you knew was violent or dangerous? Would you want to help if you knew someone was abusing a child? Do we judge whether certain items, like car seats and baby carriers are safe for our children? We carefully judge which foods to eat and what schools to send our kids to. Do you see what I’m saying? We make judgements all the time!

Could I make a judgement about our society just by observing the actions of that one father? Could I see that the father was probably overwhelmed, under-informed and over tired. Oh yes, yes I could see that! Could I see that living in isolated households with not enough help is a stupid way for the human race to exist? Yes, of course! Could I have judged, by watching that father, holding his coffee and pushing the stroller with a screaming baby, that our society teaches parents to not actually hold babies when they need it the most (for the record, I’ve seen this scenario way too many times)? The studies are out there, crying babies who are not responded to over a long period of time become stressed. Their bodies make too much cortisol (stress hormone) and it actually inhibits brain development. Certain facts cannot be denied. I’m not talking about the parent who occasionally has to set down a crying baby (perhaps that was what the father with the coffee was doing).

We all do parenting differently and within certain life honoring values, it’s all good. But, when I see something that is strongly amiss, is it so bad to shed judgmental light on the issue? Maybe I could have made my statement more positive or more understanding… oops, my apologies!

The funny thing was that a few hours after the scene with the crying infant, I had my own crying child to deal with. We were in a clothing store and my younger daughter, who is just under 2 years old, started screaming while she was being carried around on my husband’s back in the baby carrier. I was helping my older daughter pick out some shirts in a store (ah, see how ironic, material things vs. crying babies, that’s nearly instant karma for you). My husband took her out of the carrier, and out of the store, but I could still hear her wailing while I tried to help the older one. Eventually, my husband brought her back to me, tears streaming down her face. He was holding her tight and smoothing her hair. He said, “She just needs you.” So, I picked her up, I held her tight. I didn’t shush her, I didn’t distract her, I just held her tight while she sobbed into my shoulder. All the while I was thinking of the crying baby in his stroller from earlier. I was almost wishing this cuddle could be for him and for all the babies who repeatedly don’t get a cuddle when they cry. Just remembering how I ‘judged‘ the coffee dad made me hold my little one even tighter. Some people really believe that you don’t need to pick up a crying baby AT ALL!

What if someone read my ‘judgmental‘ comment and realised that they actually felt better when they did pick up their baby? Maybe they would realize that the baby books, that say you can spoiling a baby by holding them when they cry, should be thrown out the window? I held her until she stopped crying, after which, she happily hoped down and started playing with the bras on the rack.

So, is there a time and place for us to use appropriate judgement? I’m not talking about doomsday, judgement of God, I’m simply talking about seeing the mistakes made by others and not wanting to repeat them. Can we all take a step back and see that there is a reason for judgment sometimes and that it’s not always a personal attack? If we never EVER judge, how would we ever come to our own conclusions about which parenting path to take?


8 Responses »

  1. Fabulous response 🙂 I think text/Facebook statuses can be easily misinterpreted. Way to open up a great discussion. Of course we all make parenting mistakes, but if they constantly get overlooked and no one mentions them in fear of judging, do they then risk become the norm?

    • Yes exactly… somebody pointed out that many people confuse ‘passing judgement’ to ‘using your judgement’… so maybe I was mixing them up a bit 🙂

  2. I completely agree, judging doesn’t have to mean your think you are better than others, and sometimes I think we are too polite and instead of pointing out an error we just keep quiet because it’s considered rude in our culture to speak our mind if it might question the actions of others. Of course we never know the whole picture, but like you said, these are not isolated incidents…. Do you have any thoughts on crying in the car? This is the only time my baby has had to “cry it out” not in my or his dad’s arms. If I stopped and picked him up every time he cried in the car, I’d never get anywhere, which had happened numerous times too. I usually try to plan car journeys around nap times, but it doesn’t always work out that way and sometimes I have a screaming baby on the car in the back seat, and I’m left feeling helpless and stressed. Do you stop and prolong the torture (he’ll stop crying if I take him out of hours car seat but as soon as I put him back the screaming starts again) or do I just block out the screams and get home as fast as I can? X

    • Oh yes… crying in the car. If you read some of my posts on crying, you’ll see that I’m actually a big fan of allowing babies to have their emotional releases through supported cries. Babies actually need to cry to release their pent up tension. Sometimes, we don’t allow babies to cry enough (in arms) and so it all tends to come out in the car. What I’ve done is make sure of course all their needs have been met, been fed, right temperature, nothing uncomfortable in their clothing, etc. I talk to them, if it’s appropriate, but a hand back there occasionally on the little head. I’ll stop maybe two or three times to check and make sure everything is really ok, but if the crying continues… what else can you do than just keep going and talking to them to let them know that you hear that they are upset?

  3. I thought the same thing as you when I was Old Navy the other day – waiting in line, when I hear a baby start crying. It was the unmistakable newborn cry, and someone else in line even said so when a boy asked what the sound was (Mom: that’s a baby crying. Stranger: a brand new baby!). As I move up in line I notice where the sound is coming from…a stroller a few places behind me. The mom was standing in line looking at all the knick knacks and saying “shhhhhh” while her newborn screamed itself hoarse.

    It took everything in my not to ask if she needed me to hold her baby for her (even though there was no discernible reason she couldn’t have done it herself). I have a hard time not judging, and an even harder time not imagining that if that was her response in public surrounded my 20 people, what is response at home.

    • That’s exactly my thoughts as well… if you’re doing that in a public place, what would you be doing at home! Poor babe in Old Navy 🙁

  4. You have my full support. Us gentle approachers need to come across strong too sometimes!! I wonder your approach to crying and sleep then where babies are reliant on the feeding to sleep association. My 9MO has that and wakes frequently. I’ve tried a few gentle approaches which have worked but my little angel still cries between 4 and 10 times in a night to feed and I’ve been told I need to break the habit but she goes from crying to hysterical pretty quickly if I try doing anything else (including rocking and especially patting which just stimulates and wakes her more)..

    Ps apologies if this comes up twice, I wrote another entry but it said I timed out 🙂

    • I’ve done cry in arms with both of my girls… From what I’ve learned, if a baby that age wakes up once, maybe twice at night, that’s pretty normal (as long as they’re not sick or something, in which case it can be more). But, if they start waking up all night on a regular basis, then it’s usually an indication that they are in need of a big emotional release. Try to do the cries during the day… if they come out then, they she will probably sleep better. Also, if feeding to bed didn’t come easily from feeding, then I would stop feeding and let them have a big cry. With true cry in arms, that you might do during the day, there is no need to try and stop the crying by patting or rocking, just holding and lovingly letting them cry. It is true that if she always needs boob to put her back to sleep, then it becomes a control pattern for her. So, it’s not that you never feed her back to sleep, it’s just that if it’s the only way she ever falls asleep, then she never gets a chance to release her emotions… hope that all makes sense 🙂


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