Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Perspective

There are many, many abilities that fade over time. That lessen a little bit with each passing day. As we age, we run slower, we wrinkle, we break easier and it takes a whole lot longer to heal. One thing that has, at least for me, gotten stronger each day is my ability to see things differently. To try at least to step into someone else's shoes and think for a moment how they see the world. How they feel about things. Why they do things the way they do them.

This is particularly important when it comes to other parents I think. Kids sure don't come with instruction manuals, and there is no one way to do things right. There are an infinite number of ways to raise a child, and no one can say with any degree of certainty that one way is better than another. They are just different.

Of course, there are the no-brainers. The stupid things that people with kids do that make you want to bang your head on the nearest wall. The people who let their kids whine and scream at them constantly. The people who let their kids hit them. The people who will let a 2 year old climb all over the inside of a moving car rather than making them sit in a carseat. The people who send a kid to school in 10 degree weather in shorts. The people who leave a car full of kids alone, with the engine running. I think most people could agree that these parents aren't making the best choices.

Short of the obviously wrong choices, there is a huge gray area. Degrees of right and wrong, good and bad. It's easy to judge people from the outside when you see how their kids behave, or how they interact with them. But only when you can fully understand what their life is like, what that particular child is like, can you begin to see why they do things the way they do.

I like to believe that I am pretty open minded about things. That I can sympathize with other parents and that I can at least try to see where they are coming from. Every once in a while, though, I am weak and I judge. I kick myself for doing it, particularly when I learn details I didn't know that bring clarity to their reasoning.

An example of this was fairly recent. There is a little girl in one of the kid's classes that has very involved parents - the kind that are around for every single event at school. Every holiday, every activity without fail. They go over the top with extravagant gifts for the entire class, just *too* much. I recently learned that they had tremendous difficulty getting pregnant, and it clicked. Everything made sense. While I had once judged them for being overindulgent parents who needed to learn to cut back and give their kids less, I now see that they are just insanely grateful to have been blessed with their children. Having been there myself, I can understand. They want to give their children everything, especially after what they went through to have kids. I can see why now. I've gained a little more perspective.

Judging people is easy. Learning not to judge people is hard. But it is a lesson worth learning. And walking a mile in someone else's shoes allows you to see the world in an entirely different way.

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