Originally published Saturday, 12 October 2013.
(photo credit: Kristin Seward Photography)
In elementary school, we used to joke that a sleepover wasn't a sleepover until at least one girl started to cry. Someone said something about someone else and suddenly, fueled by exhaustion and sugar crashes, three of us were crying in the kitchen at 1:30AM while the rest of the party watched syndicated episodes of Boy Meets World in the living room. As an adult, it seems that a trip to the children's museum isn't complete without overhearing at least two women talk about another mom they know. Or talking about why they've chosen a specific parenting style over another (let me go ahead and raise my hand for this one). Fueled by pride, insecurity, or jealousy...and still a steady flow of exhaustion...we sometimes find that the dynamics haven't changed much.
The decisions we are faced with as parents seem endless. Guilt and doubt leave us feeling battered as we ask our hearts to extend grace to ourselves, with all our limitations; but occasionally, when we catch a glimpse of other mothers doing it differently, we forget that practice of giving grace. Or we forget that we don't know their story and we make snap judgments based on brief interactions.
Earlier this week, while my oldest ran around the park, I saw a woman scrolling through her iPhone as her children played. Before I could even filter my thoughts, I formed a mental statement along the lines of "come on. just put the phone down for 10 minutes." Then I remembered that for all I know, this may be the first free moment she has had all day. Maybe even all week. Maybe she's texting her husband about when he'll be home. Maybe she's checking their bank account. Maybe she's on Facebook and totally zoned out. Either way, I don't know. I cannot possibly gain perspective on the relationship she has with her children based on this small observation. Why did I even care? Do I think I'm better than her? Do I see myself in her? Then I remembered being on my computer that morning while my son ate breakfast. And my stomach ached because I wished I could have gone back and just sat at the table with him. And I realized my foolish assumption of her grew out of my own issues needing to be addressed. My own habits needing to be changed - and the conviction that knowledge carries. And I see how much I have to learn.
Sometimes we need to remember to have grace for the other mom. Grace for the mom on her phone. Grace for the moms who do it differently. Grace for the moms who spend more money than us. Grace for the moms we just don't "click with". Grace for the working mom. Grace for the stay at home mom. Grace for the home-school mom, the private school mom, the public school mom. Grace for the mom with a Pinterest house. Grace for the mom who has never heard of Hobby Lobby. Grace for the mom at the drive-thru. Grace for the mom at Whole Foods. Grace for the snarky mom. Grace for the passive mom. Grace for the mom talking while her kids play. Grace for the mom who hovers. Grace for the mom with one child. Grace for the mom with five. Grace, sweet grace. Full of love no matter what, grace.
It doesn't mean we agree with her decisions. It does mean we are compassionate. And thoughtful. It means we give her the benefit of the doubt. We assume the best. It doesn't mean "whatever you decide is always the right decision." That's a nice sentiment, but it's a bit unstable. There are moments when I am paralyzed trying to make a decision for my children and that thought is my only catalyst forward. But at the end of the day, I know it doesn't always hold up. However, grace for the other mom acknowledges that for every one mistake she makes, I'll probably make two. So who am I to show anything but grace?