Let me paint you a picture:
The kids and I were out picking strawberries at one of West Michigan’s most popular U-Pick spots, DeLanges Redberry Farm. The strawberry picking was fabulous and the kids and I enjoyed time with family as we ate berries straight from the field and quickly filled our box with 14 pounds of sun ripened sweetness.
They brought me their best finds and ran up and down the rows, all while staying close by and declaring: “I love berry picking day!”
When we’d filled our box with bright red berries, we grabbed a green wagon and headed to the shed to pay.
As I pulled the wagon through the grass I surveyed my children, they were giddy and sticky beyond belief. Caedmon was nearly dyed pink from berry juice and as I approached the shed I wondered if his clothes were salvageable. What a way to go… a t-shirt lost to a morning of sunshine and berry juice.
As I paid for our haul, and asked the farm worker about pectin while the kids ran around, engaging fellow pickers in line.
Just as I was finishing up, I noticed that the kids were getting into the flags that were used to mark the rows which had already been picked.
“Guys! Put those back and leave them alone!” I called out as I walked toward them.
Noelle started to obey, but Caedmon grabbed two flags and started running away from me in defiance. (Defiance is his thing lately, he’s two)
I chased them down and made them help me put all the flags back, or at least I tried. Honestly, I was tired and ready to get back to the car and a tall bottle of water.
As we headed to the car, a middle aged man approached me.
I was trying to keep the kids close, my hands full of berries while when he spoke up:
He shook his head at me as he told me: “You know, your kids are misbehaved. Very misbehaved.”
I was shocked. I said the only thing I could think of which was a confused and sarcastic: “Thank you.”
My shock quickly turned to a line of painful questioning: Do I have poorly behaved children? Was their excitement over flags the result of bad parenting or just a normal kid reaction?
I had no idea as I was standing in line paying for strawberries that someone was using that three minute window to evaluate my parenting, and find me lacking.
I loaded the kids into the car and drove them home in tears. I knew that I shouldn’t let the words of a random stranger impact me in the slightest but they played upon my biggest fears.
Am I doing this parenting thing poorly? Not striking the right balance between discipline and grace? Will they fail at life because of the start we’re giving them?
I called my Aunt who had been with us at the farm and asked her if we had really made that poor a showing at the berry patch.
She assured me that my kids were sweet and that I was fine, yet still it took the better part of the afternoon to get over the unsolicited words of that random a-hole. (lets call it like we see it, eh?)
He had no place to judge me, lacked the necessary data to pronounce judgment on my parenting. One can’t take a three minute window of children’s behavior and use it to pronounce parenting failure.
Snap judgement sucks, but the more I thought about it the more I wondered, how often do I do this? Do I take chance encounters and turn them into opportunities to judge and brand random strangers?
Of course I have enough tact to keep it to myself, but that doesn’t excuse the my inner bad behavior.
Don’t we all see each other out and about and think that we know so much more than we really do?
Don’t we paint big pictures of each other in our minds based on a square inch of information?
I’ll be honest, I do. I judge people, in my mind, all the time. Constantly really.
Gag… I’m sick of it, I hate it, I want to weed out judgement and replant grace. Fields of sun-ripened grace all juicy and sweet.
Perhaps the best way to identify my own nasty thoughts is to to find myself brutally and unfairly judged.
It’s like a bucket of cold water you don’t want to pour on anyone else. This awful incident is cause me to blossom into a more graceful stranger myself. So I suppose… thank you random jerk. I guess.
Have you ever been completely and unfairly judged by someone who knew nothing of your life?
Do you struggle with judgmental thoughts as well? What is helping you implement grace?