Stop the Judgement...bad things happen to good people too.
There have been a number of incidents lately, many of them drownings or near drownings of children here in the Australian summer that have people, particularly parents, turning on each other.
Most recently a small child almost drowned when his mum ran inside to fetch an ice block. The article reporting the story had in big quote marks that she said she was turned away “for two seconds”, but you could feel the judgement seething out of those quotation marks. How very dare she be so stupid!?
Reading stories like this, everyone is so quick to clutch at their pearls and say “that mother left her baby to drown”. But did she really? Because its likely that she wouldn’t have done what she did if she had any inkling of what would unfold. Now, it seems obvious from afar that you really “shouldn’t” (there’s that word again!) take your eye off a baby in water, but guess what? Most of us probably do things that COULD turn bad on a semi-regular basis.
I’m not a perfect parent (ha! SO far from it!!), and I’m gonna bet that whether they recognise it themselves or not, neither is anyone else. Unless you never EVER take your eyes off your child for one second of their waking life (and also have camera’s installed in their rooms to make sure you can see them when they’re sleeping), your child too could be at risk.
Particularly in my early years I was a super anxious parent, but I’ve certainly been guilty of leaving a baby on a bed to dash into the next room to get a clean nappy. I’ve accidentally left medication on the kitchen bench. I haven’t anchored every piece of furniture to the wall. I’ve left my kids in the bath while I dashed to get the shampoo (which of course someone had been playing with and left on their bedroom floor!?!). I really could go on and on. Most of these times my heart has been in my mouth thinking, “gosh, I hope nothing happens”, but I’m sure there have been innumerable times when I have not been adequately supervising my child/ren to their potential detriment that I don’t even know about. We all know the holy mischief kids can get up to when your back is turned!
Many of my friends are now at the stage where they are leaving their kids at home alone for short periods of time. Still slightly anxious about these type of milestones, and untrusting of society as a whole, I can’t bring myself to do that yet, BUT not long ago I had to post a letter (yes, really) and no one would agree to walk the 300 meters to the post box with me. Sick of fighting I gave them the big speech about not answering the door for ANYONE etc etc, and I locked the door behind me and walked (briskly!) to the postbox by myself. ALL THE WAY, I was thinking of the headlines if anything went wrong. “Woman, 38, leaves children 6, 8 and 10 alone…”. I imagined how terrible would seem to those who don’t know me. Neglectful, irresponsible, unworthy.
BUT that’s just it. It was just me, not the world’s greatest parent, but a “good person” from a “good background” and a “good area” dashing out to post a letter. Tragedy could have struck in those 3-4 minutes and I wouldn’t have been there. And the rest of the world would have judged the crap out of me.
And here’s the thing. What has happened to these poor people who have lost, or nearly lost, their children is a TRAGEDY. Were their actions ideal? No. But, in most cases, were they by design? No. OBVIOUSLY there are cases of people who are just unfit to parent, I totally get that, but, for the most part, the spit second decisions or lapses of concentration by many of these people we judge in the headlines have resulted in the worst days of their lives.Normal people, leading normal lives when something they have or haven’t done inadvertently turns to tragedy.
They need our empathy, not our derision. So next time you read a headline, or an article tearing a parent down and start to well up with judgement, please have a think about how your own life could turn on a dime.
Because I for one am happy to put my hand up and say it’s ‘there for the grace of god go I”. Are you?