There I was, a 30-year-old woman who taught preschool and was a private tutor, walking down the aisles at Target when I saw her.
She was a woman with a toddler — no older than 3 — and in the middle of Winter her toddler was gasp — Not. Wearing. Shoes! He just hung out in the shopping cart with his dangling freezing tootsies.
It's Winter, I thought. What is she thinking? I made my silent smug judgment, picked up my one item I went into Target for, although I left with 50 other things, and walked away knowing I would never do that!
Not me, I said.
It was a lovely Summer night, and I was out to dinner at a romantic location with my ex who was my husband at the time. Sitting at a table next to us was a family of three: a wife, husband, and a 4-year-old girl. She was adorable but utterly loud. No amount of preschool experience could help me tune out this kid. Waiters thought she was cute, but me? Nope. She was my nemesis. All I wanted was to enjoy a glass of wine and some penne pasta, but this kid with her yammering was ruining the "mood" I was trying to set with the hubby. Eye roll.
I started to daydream of how I could entice this kid out of the restaurant. Maybe dangle Mickey Mouse on a fishing pole out the door? Tell her Santa Claus was in the parking lot.
Why do people have to bring their kids to regular adult restaurants? I told the husband. Why can't they go to Friendly's or Pizza Hut? Don't they know better?
I'd never do that. Not me.
Oh, the smugness! The ignorance!
Let's not forget the spectacular backseat parenting I did when you know, I had barely parented a Chia pet.
As I watched a mum shove a lollipop into her whiny kid's mouth while at the doctor's, I broke out my Rules on How to Parent.
"I'd never do that with my kid. Tell him to be quiet and redirect him. She's just trying to shut him up, but instead, she's spoiling him," I thought to myself.
That was said and done with an — eek — shake of my head.
I'd never do that. Not me.
Then there was the time one of the parents of my students told me, "Oh junior likes to sleep with us from time to time. Actually, pretty much every night. He's having a hard time getting out of our bed."
He's in kindergarten, I thought. It's time to cut the cord already. If I were MOM OF THE YEAR, I would give him the boot already. How do his parents have sex?
I'm never doing that, I thought.
In fact, just keep inserting ways I, the person who had never changed a diaper, silently judged (or sometimes not so silently) parents — whether it was about eating habits or clothing choices. Apparently, I had forgotten to tell the world that I knew everything about parenting.
Well, to the woman at Target, the wife and husband dining with their kid, the lollipop mum, cosleeping parents, and pretty much everyone I advised on what to do when I knew zilch about zilch:
There I was, in the middle of Target approximately four years after I witnessed the horrifying sight of a toddler's bare toes in the middle of the Winter, with my very own toddler dressed in a dress in the middle of last year's polar vortex. She had a coat on, but no hat. As I pulled up to pay for my items, an elderly lady touched my daughter's head (oh lady, don't you go there! Parenting pet peeve!) and said to me, "She needs a hat."
I'd like to tell you that I graciously smiled, but really I dreamed of choking that woman and telling her to go wear her own hat. Instead, I nodded and said, "Uh-huh," while paying for my goods.
You see, like many kids, my kid hates to be bundled up, which is something I didn't know when I was "Laura Know-It-All," and we had a major war over the hat and dress. I tried getting her to wear flannel-lined jeans and a hat. I actually prayed to the god (goddess) of Cinderella I was so desperate. After a screaming match and battle of the wills, I gave up.
Karma was a b*tch, indeed.
Not me? Oh, yes! Yes, me!
And four years after I saw that couple eating out at a romantic restaurant with their kid, there I was at an Italian restaurant, desperately hungry and dying to do something with other adult people. Of course, I didn't have anyone to watch my kid like so many other parents, so I did what I had to in order to converse with someone over 2 years of age: I brought my child. And what did she do?
She got up and danced and sang at high-decibel levels. No one seemed to mind that (I guess they weren't all a bunch of judgmental jerks like I was), but of course, my daughter mooned everyone at the end of "her song" to add more of a burlesque element to her show.
To the keeper of the universe: Ha ha — you really got me, didn't you?
Let's not forget the many times during my daughter's first year and a half of life in which I decided to not leave her in her bed, but instead, pop a boob in her mouth and bring her to sleep with me. Why? I was tired and lazy. Teething was a b*tch, and I was its slave.
There I was on my phone, telling my sister why I didn't think it was such a big deal to cosleep sometimes as she was telling me "Tisk-tisk, she'll want to stay in your bed forever."
Now at almost 4 years old, I still invite my little one to sleep with me as a special treat on the weekends from time to time, or when she wakes up early and this single divorced mummy is too tired to parent. Instead, I let Mickey Mouse take my job, and we hang in bed while I sleep and she watches.
To the parent who I shook my head at and judged: who's the one with the full bed now? Hmm.
Let's not forget the time I brought my daughter into Victoria's Secret to pick up a bra because heaven forbid a mother shop with her child, and she ran around trying the bras on her head. Or when I brought her to the register and a young couple swooped down to say how cute she was, and as I told her to tell them hello, she yelled, "No!" and gave them a face only a mother could love.
(And trust me with that grimace it takes a lot of work to feel love for that mug!)
Or the time she decided to do a toddler-version exercise routine that only Richard Simmons could love in the middle of a busy Manhattan restaurant. To add insult to injury, it was a freezing-cold day out, and she didn't want to wear her coat. As I took her out of the restaurant coat-less, I saw the hostess' face wince.
And there I saw myself, just five years before. I wanted to grab her by the arm and whisper, "Your time is coming honey. Just you wait. One day, your kid will be flashing her 'boobies' at age 2 in the middle of Starbucks."
Of course, this time, I won't judge.