On Monday, I'll publish my highly anticipated 10 Commandments For Talking to Kids About God. Yes, I said anticipated. Maybe not literally anticipated, but anticipated in a greatly-exaggerated-so-as-to-build-hype sort of a way — which is also important. Just not literally important. Anyway, in the meantime, I thought I'd preface my list with a gentle reminder: No matter how you choose to handle religion (or any other subject!) with your own child, try not to go all judgey on parents who have chosen different paths.
This is a tough one. We parents are, by nature, so damn self-righteous. You know it’s true. We might not consider ourselves perfect parents, but that doesn’t stop us from noticing all the ways in which we’re superior to others — especially when something is important to us and we truly believe our way is the right way.
But the thing about parental judgeyness? It's highly annoying and almost never helpful.
Take, for example, my decision to be open about my beliefs with my daughter. Some will think this is a great idea; others will think it's a tremendously bad idea. So which is it? How the hell should I know? My kid's only 6. This one decision could lead to something really great for my kid, or it could lead to something really bad, or it could lead to something just fine. I won't know until she's, like, 80, at which point it's very likely I won't care anymore.
Not to go all Buddhist on you (too late), but it’s a fallacy to label things as good or bad. Because life is an evolving story — one thing leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another. We make our choices with the hope that they will lead only to good things. But we know, too, that we're limited by our resources, experiences, knowledge and personalities — as well as the personalities of our children.
You might lament how your neighbor is bringing up her kid. Maybe you think it's a shame that Little Joe has to go to church and pray at dinner and believe in the power of Jesus Christ. But what kind of kid is Joe? Is he nice? Does your kid like him? If so, maybe give the religious stuff a pass.
If your friends or family members are hurting their kids, I trust that you’ll step in and take action. Short of that, though, try observing others' decisions, rather than judging them. Maybe say to yourself. "Wow, that doesn't appeal to me. But I wonder if it will turn out to be a good thing, a bad thing or a neutral thing."
Now is the point where I start to hear my friends clearing their throats in the background. (Quiet down out there!) So let me admit, openly and without hesitation, that I may be the writer here but I'm not the role model. I often find myself in the position of Sir Judge-a-Lot, and must remind myself that what seems weird, nonsensical or poorly considered to me actually could work out great for others. Judgeyness (which I wish WordPress would stop underlining with red dots) is like any other addiction; we must combat it one day at a time.
Luckily, the payoff is immediate. Time and again, I find that when I stop judging and start observing with compassion, I begin to look inward — at what I can learn, not what I can teach. My stress is lowered, my friendships are stronger, and my heart is happier.
And, as if that weren't enough, I'm a better parent, too.