To the stranger-mom I judged:
Hi. I don’t know you. You don’t know me. But I judged you, hard. I’m sorry.
We were both in Disney World, aka the happiest place on earth (and believe me, it is). We were both riding the Friendship Cruise from Hollywood Studios to EPCOT (a great way to beat crowds and sneak into the back entrance of EPCOT, right in the middle of the Food and Wine festival. Beside the point, but kudos to our planning.)
I sat on a bench next to my two year old, Jonah, in a stroller. You sat across from me on a bench with your husband and two young children, a girl and a boy. Your husband said “get your a** over here” to your son, and I was shocked. Not long after, you fixed your daughter’s hair and said “do not f*** that up” to your husband, who was starting to tickle her. I was, again, shocked.
All of a sudden, I knew what kind of mother you were. I knew that you were self-centered and ignorant about parenting. I thought you cared for your kids so little, you didn’t care about verbally abusing them with – gasp! – swear words. I looked at my Jonah, happily sitting in his stroller, watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates on my phone. He was quiet. He would occasionally look up at me and smile. I’m the superior mom here, I thought.
OK, I want you to know this is hard for me to admit. You see, I like to talk a big game about how our parenting choices can differ without being detrimental to our children. But I heard you swearing, and even though your kids seemed entirely unaffected — no gasps or surprised faces at the words in question — I judged you. Hard.
We parted ways after the boat ride. I pushed Jonah around in the stroller while partaking in the Food and Wine Festival in the World Showcase. Eventually, Jonah fell asleep, so I thought “score!” and had my fill of fun foods and wines and people-watching. We went on a few rides after he woke up, and we laughed and bonded and had a grand old time. Then we went to Soarin’ (one of my favorite rides, by the way) to wait for my husband and other son, Boone, to finish riding. Since we’d had a full afternoon and we were currently just sitting and waiting, I pulled out my phone again. Jonah sat, happily entranced by Jake, Mr. Smee, and Captain Hook, and I looked across the area where we were sitting.
You were there.
We never locked eyes. We didn’t on the boat, either. You may not have recognized me. But I’m a people-watcher, and I generally remember who I judge, so I knew who you were.
I panicked. I thought you’d see me, sitting with my toddler, letting him watch television on my phone again. I wanted to go over and tell you about all of the fun stuff we had done that afternoon. I wanted to say I was proud of my toddler for taking a good nap, and how he had earned that phone time. And also, he was so low on sleep this vacation, this was just the best way to help him wait.
I thought about taking the phone and running around with him, starting a game of tag. But I was tired, obviously, it was Disney World — Every Person Comes Out Tired. (That’s a bad EPCOT joke, by the way, I like to make jokes when I’m nervous, sorry.)
So instead I looked at you. I watched you hug your daughter. I watched you stroke her hair. I watched your comfort your son while he whimpered a bit and asked when daddy would get off the ride. I noticed your children’s clean clothes, your daughter’s intricate hairdo (which nobody f***-ed up, thankfully), and the way those kids looked at you. They love you. They’re happy. They’re taken care of.
I’m a jerk.
The only reason I second-guessed Jonah’s vacation screen time and worried you were judging me is because I judged you. I don’t know anything about you. I based my whole opinion of you on two swear words, and really? I don’t have a problem with swear words when I’m not around my kids. You think differently about this and I immediately thought you were wrong and I knew better. I’m not proud of it.
Because it bears repeating: I thought you were judging me. I only thought that because I was judging you.
So, stranger-mom I judged, I want to thank you. Thank you for pointing out my own inadequacy without saying a word. Thank you for helping me see that different isn’t wrong, and thank you for not rolling your eyes when you saw my kiddo watching Netflix again. I can only hope from here on out, I’ll remember you the next time I’m sure I know everything about a mom.
I hope other moms grant me this grace as well.
All my love and Disney Magic,