Tis the back-to-school season! From the shiny new shoes and backpacks and the smell of crayons and lavender-scented Lysol to the horror of remembering that schools are one giant germfest. Depending on how you look at it, sending your little ones or big kids back to school can be met with a sense of relief, anxiety or a bag of mixed emotions. In case you’re wondering, I’m the latter.
As a community editor for a small paper years ago, it was my responsibility to get the perfect back-to-school picture. Basically that meant I was to find kindergarteners and first graders eager to walk through the school doors, their faces beaming with pride. That also meant that I had to listen to parents try to collect themselves as I asked for permission to run a picture of their cutie in the paper. And honestly, I was judgemental. I swore I wouldn’t be the mom that would become a puddle of wasted makeup. I’d keep it together with smiles and encouraging words and then let myself loose it in the car on the way to work.
And then it was my turn. One year ago, my oldest, our sweet boy started Kindergarten. I wasn’t a puddle but it was hard to keep it together. I could feel the tears forming. And as one tear got away from me and ran down your cheek, I pulled out the reliable “darn allergies” joke. Classic. Oh how we love to hide our emotions with a joke to direct people’s attention away from the fact that we are complex beings with a plethora of emotions. You’re allowed to cry at the happy times, the sad times, the wonderful (insert thick sarcasm) complex I-can’t-describe-what-I’m-feeling times; you’re not a robot.
But where did the time go? Seriously, where? He was literally learning to walk yesterday. It was karma, oh so bittersweet karma, reminding me not to compare myself to my fellow moms. It was a lesson I was familiar with and thought I had handle quite well, so far, in my mom journey but it seeps back in without us even knowing we are doing it. And that’s all of us.
It’s a natural response as humans to notice something different, to compare, and make a judgement about it — whether we deem it good or bad. We give our thoughts too much credit. We all think things we wouldn’t dare say. And our inner thoughts can improve and change over time with work. It’s not a one-and-done kind of thing, it’s a conscious effort every day but it is possible — trust. Nothing worth having was created in a day. Nothing. If you read this and think, “I need to stop being so judgemental of other moms,” or ” I need to be stop being so hard on myself.” Good for you, the fact that you are aware and want to make a change is wonderful. Awareness is important to changing habits because that’s what judging basically is — it’s a habit. And a normal one.
Now, I’m not saying that if you start being more open-minded when you see the mom with smudged makeup, a top knot, yoga pants, T-Shirt and flip-flops on in the pick-up line looking frantic and instead of shaking your head, you give a nod and assuring smile that you always be understanding. It takes work and you will slip up when you least expect it.You’re human; we are all a work-in-progress. God made us that way so we can learn to truly lean on Him and not ourselves.
And when you slip up, don’t let the comparison beast win. He’s the one that makes us think that the grass is greener on the other side. He’s the one who makes us feel bad for judging someone. He’s the one that makes us envy someone’s cellulite free legs (that’s a myth, ladies!) or new car or home — and he’s ugly. Not quite Freddie Krueger ugly but he’s sneaky, he’s the enemy and if you’re Christian you know who I’m talking about. I’d say his name but he’s not worth the energy. He knows what gets under our skin and knows how to use it to get us rolling our eyes at the hippie mom, the always-late mom, the prim and proper mom, the trendy mom, the svelte mom, the tatted mom with blue Mohawk hair and (I admit, sometimes annoying) perky mom.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37
If you can stop yourself from judging a mom you ARE defeating the comparison beast, if you find yourself judging a mom and realizing it, you ARE defeating the beast because you are aware of what you are doing. You’ll try to do better next time. That’s all you can do, is just try. You won’t be perfect at it, none of us are, but by just trying you’re slowing down the beast. And that’s a victory, a step in a more positive direction for your life. We are all in this together. We all want the best for our kids and they can’t all be raised the same way. If they were then nothing would change, society would not grow.
“What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God.” Mother Teresa
Please don’t think I’m shaking a finger at you, because that’s not my intent. It’s not your fault, the comparison beast is ugly and he has lots of tricks up his sleeve. And he bothers all of us. He gets to all of us and then makes us feel guilty. But you can do it, you can slow him down. You can stop him in his tracks by being aware, trying and remembering the Big Guy is with you.
The little things we do always end up being more important than the big things we THINK matter. It’s the little things we do that God notices, especially when no one else is around or we think no one can see us. But he does, and he’s not shaking his head at you through a magnifying glass as if you’re an ant. You’re child and he loves you just as you are, right now at this very moment. And with Him you can make that comparison beast look less Krueger and more Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
I can do it. You can do it. You’re not alone. I’m right here with you, too.