One of my favorite pastimes has always been judging other people. Not only is it an excellent way to kill time ‚Äî it‚Äôs also an ingenious technique of avoiding anything I‚Äôm supposed to be doing that is significantly kinder and more fruitful.
Of course, you‚Äôre not supposed to judge kids, mostly because they‚Äôre kids and, you know, all innocent and cute and stuff. At least that‚Äôs what you think until you have kids of your own. That‚Äôs when you realize your kids are all innocent and cute, but there are still some other kids out there who are decidedly neither innocent nor cute nor any other stuff that resembles anything either cute or innocent.
Like the kid who comes to your house for a drop-off play-date (the Holy Grail of play-dates when the shoe‚Äôs on the other foot because it‚Äôs at someone else‚Äôs house) and expects you to wipe their butt. Wiping the butt of a child is inconsequential if said rear is attached to your own child. When it‚Äôs the bottom of a strange child, however, all you can think about is how much better your kid‚Äôs poop is. Yes, there is a doody hierarchy.
There‚Äôs also the kid you see being not so nice to your kid on the playground or during drop-off or pick-up time at preschool. You don‚Äôt want to judge a small child because, after all, they don‚Äôt have the benefit of things like Xanax and Bravo TV to get them through daily life with, well, themselves. But you secretly look at that kid and their parents anyway and judge them like you‚Äôre getting Britney Spears‚Äô $15 million “X Factor” salary, which is to say oddly, mildly inappropriately and as if you might get up and storm out at any second because you just can‚Äôt take the pressure of appearing collected anymore.
But here‚Äôs the thing: It‚Äôs nice to be on my side of the fence when it comes to judging. As in, I‚Äôm the one doing it all. (Sure, others can think they‚Äôre judging me, but I‚Äôm totally judging them more, and they don‚Äôt even know it, so I win.)
This will all change in less than a year, however, when my older daughter starts kindergarten.
I‚Äôm starting to get the sense that some of the worst people on the planet might be the parents of elementary school-age children. I base that not on the parents I currently know, most of whom are delightful, but on the ones I‚Äôll be meeting come back-to-school night ‚Äò13. I‚Äôm already starting to hear the murmurs of education-related politics that seem more fitting in a hotly contested presidential election than a place whose mission it is to teach our smallest and most open-minded citizens.
I can hold my own. You know, mostly. I get unusually intimidated by the people who hear jokes about people like Ingmar Bergman and Gustave Flaubert and don‚Äôt have to pretend to understand ‚Äî and laugh at ‚Äî the punch lines. People like that never seem to be impressed with people like me, whose claim to fame is reciting the first and last names of all of Brandon Walsh‚Äôs girlfriends on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” (Go ahead and judge all you want, but you know that you, too, wish you were one of those lucky ladies.)
I‚Äôm just enjoying this last year of being surrounded by parents and kids who are civilized and don‚Äôt actually require much judging. What I‚Äôm dreading is my daughter starting kindergarten and thinking others might start judging her ‚Äî teachers, other parents and mean, older kids. If they want to judge me ‚Äî for my intense lack of personal style, for instance ‚Äî that‚Äôs totally cool. I just hate the idea of anyone speaking ill of my firstborn. That should be my job exclusively.
The thing about not champing at the bit to wipe another kid‚Äôs butt is that it‚Äôs not personal. It‚Äôs just fact that it‚Äôs an undesirable pastime. When kids get older, however, their annoying traits that are adorable to their families become more distinctive and less about hygiene (unless they‚Äôre actually about hygiene) and more about personality ‚Äî leaving them wide open to be judged at places outside the home.
And when they graduate from preschool, kids become a lot harder to protect because our role as parents is to start letting our offspring have a bit more space and freedom to dip their toes in life and, yes, deal with getting judged by others.
I guess the most I can hope for at this point is that I‚Äôve passed along the haughtiness gene to my older daughter and that she‚Äôll be prepared to ignore and deflect the judgment when it inevitably starts coming her way. You know, basically, the classic hope and dream that all parents have for their children.
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