On Tuesday we went to the library and Target. We were returning books and picking up some new shoes for Keenie whose feet undergo pretty regular growth spurts. The kids were pretty severely off-routine because I had been sick over the weekend. I was off-routine too. The kiddos tend to have a hard time after they spend time with people other than me because they tend to be so distracted by the novelty of all of the different-than-routine activities and foods that they get to have that they build up their stress levels instead of dealing with each little thing as it comes.
When it was time to leave the library Alexander did not want to go. He sat down with his back against the wall and refused to budge. I was tired and rushing so I picked him up and carried him out. A random stranger caught up with me to award me +10 Random Parenting points in the form of an enthusiastic compliment and to tell me “Right on! Teach him not to throw tantrums in public.” I was disconnected from my four year old at that moment. I was not trying to connect. I was just using my bigness to pick up his smallness and to move him against his will. He was not screaming. He was not behaving poorly. He was just expressing strong feelings about being rushed around.
But here we were with a stranger practically high fiving me for my moment of impatience even as I was telling myself “I am going to regret this.” Yeah, it feels nice to be told “good job”. But… I wasn’t doing a good job. I was blundering through the prickly and bee-infested undergrowth on the side of the parenting path that I am trying to follow. I had just been awarded +10 Random Parenting Points for a moment that I was not particularly proud of. And it struck me how irrelevant it was.
At Target Keenie got upset because she dropped her boot. She did not use her words the way she normally would. She immediately launched into distraught and frantic screaming. I pulled over to the side of the aisle, squatted down and responded with empathy. She managed to point to her boot, and I gave her the boot back and I squeaked out some words that she can try to use to alert me to the plight of a fallen boot. “Mommy! Mommy! Oh no! My boot, it fell!” She hiccuped down her sobs and smiled and echoed “It fell!”
As luck would have it, we were being watched again. This time I was very comfortable with my response, very understanding of Keenie’s upset and why it was happening. And I was very on-target with parenting in a way that meets my larger parenting goals. I was penalized -10 Random Parenting Points by a lady whose eyes could not possibly roll in a more obvious fashion.
It struck me exactly how nonsensical these Random Parenting Points are. The judgement simply doesn’t matter. I’m not completing some weird gymnastics routine in the Parenting Olympics where after it’s all done I stand in front of the judges anxiously awaiting the scores that pop up on the board and hoping that I’ll win the Random Parenting Points Olympics.
I have parenting goals. Parenting philosophies. Parenting beliefs. My Parenting Score is based on how I feel I am handling situations, not based on the thousands of random strangers whose paths may cross mine. Not based on how my parents or in-laws feel I should parent. Not based on my best friend’s sister’s cousin. Not based on some random dude that thinks being disconnected is an excellent parenting strategy. (Sorry, random dude. I appreciated the compliment, I truly did. You were super-nice. I just disagreed with the scoring.) And certainly not based on some lady whose eyeballs possess the ability to turn in complete circles in her eye sockets.
Parenting doesn’t have a standardized scoring system, just like the world doesn’t have a standardized currency. Random Parenting Points have an exchange rate between parenting philosophies. And the exchange rate across incompatible ideas is zero.
So next time you are judged positively or negatively ask yourself what the judgement really means in terms of your parenting philosophies. If someone is trying to grade you based on ideas that you don’t subscribe to? The exchange rate knocks the value of their judgement down to Zero Random Parenting Points. Carry on as you feel is right.