A few weeks ago there was a woman on my plane from LA to Chicago. She and her husband were traveling with two boys, the youngest of which was about four... he was also the worst behaved child I've ever seen. Before we'd even pulled back from the gate he was screaming. And I don't mean a whine or a protest, I mean screaming bloody murder about having to sit in a seat when he wanted to run around. His mother had to forcibly hold him in the chair for at least half an hour while he hollered to be released. Everyone on the plane was miserable until he stopped... myself included. But a little while later, when I got up to go to the restroom, I saw why he'd finally stopped... because he'd been given a big bag of gummy worms that he was happily eating his way through.
Friends I will be honest with you, I was disgusted.
First of all, as a strict parent who was raised by strict parents, I was listening to him scream and thinking, Oh heck no! All through takeoff I'm thinking about his mom. I'm thinking that she needs to discipline him better, have boundaries, get support from her spouse. And when I saw that she'd rewarded his bad behavior? And with sugar?? Oh man, I kept thinking, this woman doesn't have a clue!
Later, at baggage claim, I saw the family again. The four year old was wild. Jumping up on a stopped luggage belt and hitting his brother and running around in circles while everyone stared. What is wrong with his mother? I kept thinking. Why doesn't she get a handle on him?!
And then I saw her standing next to the luggage carousel... utterly exhausted. She was near tears, looking bewildered and totally overwhelmed. Her husband wore the same shell shocked expression as their son ran in circles around them.
And a gentle voice reminded me, Rachel you don't know their story.
I was humbled in my ignorance. Maybe this little boy has special needs that make it hard for him to control his impulses. Maybe this little boy is a new adoptive child who's struggled in foster homes for most of his young life, something I should be graceful about, given what i'm walking into. Maybe this little boy is just badly behaved and his parents struggle to discipline him because their older son was so easy to manage at this age. Whatever the reason, I will never know. Because instead of asking, or offering the benefit of the doubt, I cast my judgement on her before I even asked myself why things might be this way.
Women judging other women. It's been on my heart for a while. It's something I've tried to wrap my brain around fully, so I could put it into words. I see it all around me in so many different ways and that poor, tired Mama on the flight to Chicago, she reminded me what I wanted to say...
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