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Judgement Days

School is about to start and after a mostly family oriented summer vacation, the kids will once again be spending a significant number of their waking hours with their peers (and by “spending” I mean physically…not remotely through their school computers or by phone, so if we add on that time…). I watch my children navigate their ways through social interactions and it pains me each time I see them base some (and at times a lot) of who they are on the judgements of those around them. I want to scream out to them that they are individuals…that there is no right way to feel things…that different is not a bad thing…that the kids judging them are just as insecure and confused as they are! They don’t need to hide who they are behind masks that are more pleasing to others! Perhaps some of my pain comes from my own memories…not sure. Possibly it’s the phantom pain of my own past awkward missteps and misinterpretations of myself that, in hind sight, were so blatantly obvious and avoidable. I see my advice falling more often than not upon the deaf ears of the young, infinitely knowledgable, and invincible (boy does it suck to be on the other side of that equation, as a parent) and I can only cling to the hope that snippets of what I say are somehow making it past the eye rolls, through the knowing looks, and into the nether regions of their still developing brains to be unpacked as needed and evaluated away from the glare of youthful sarcasm. My main reason for hope being that I do, myself, remember pieces of advice that made it past my own scornful, youthful, eye rolls…

Now let’s zip to the other extreme. I conjure up my memories of Nana…my maternal grandmother… and the completely inappropriate but brutally candid comments she would make out loud later in life, not giving a rat’s patootie about what the people around her thought. She felt confident and fully formed in her convictions. Take it or leave it. No time for the judgements of others (which does not mean she wasn’t ready with a hardy supply of her own to offer). Even though many of her convictions were so far removed from my own, I did admire her grit and self confidence. I admired her strength…whether she believed that or not at the time (we clashed a lot). I think there has to be a happy medium somewhere out there…

To judge is human. It is what we do. We look at a situation and we try to understand it in the context of our own lives. We see something different and interpret it through the only lens we have: the one that has been forged by our experiences. To judge is human…the important thing is not to assume that the judgment we form in our minds is always the correct one and to know when to keep our judgements and opinions to ourselves. Every one of us (if we are honest with ourselves) can think of at least one example (or many!) of a time when we totally misjudged a situation or later learned new information and either gave a sigh of relief for not acting or saying anything at the time or felt regret…

I want my children to understand that it is not bad for them to form a judgment. It is natural and they can always talk to me about their feelings and perceptions, positive or negative. What is not acceptable is that they cast their judgements upon others…that they not further explore and try to learn different points of view to better form their judgements. I want them to learn how to deal with the judgments they will naturally form in a responsible way and I want them to understand that the judgements of others do not define them.

…and one day I want to more fully experience that liberating feeling of “not giving a rat’s patootie” about what others think of me and finish stripping away the remnants of my own masks.

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