Being judged by others is a hard pill to swallow.
It’s hard to see that someone has made the best decisions and choices they could when we are too close to a situation. We internalize hurt feelings and make the situation about ourselves—we feel wronged.
We can’t see that a person might be doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.
There is nothing that highlights this better than a parent-child relationship.
Kids, especially teenagers, feel this harsh judgment more than others, I believe. Way back when I was a teenager, I felt like my mom knew nothing about me and I felt judged by her for my decisions. For some, this stays with them for a long time, well into adulthood.
I, like many teenagers, felt that my mom didn’t “get me.” Looking back on it now, though, how could she? I never opened up to her, nor could I because I didn’t really understand the choices I was making at the time. In my defense, she wasn’t the most approachable person. After all, she was my mother! And as humans with emotional attachments, when we feel judged, the last people we want to connect with are the ones we feel are judging us. We feel hurt and we tend to lash out at who we think is the source of our pain.
As a mom to four young adults and teens myself, I think back to the barrage of testing I put my own mom through. As the first born, I was definitely the most rebellious in our family. I will own this fact; I have always done things my own way, and in my own time. As I look back with a new perspective as a mother myself, I can only imagine what she saw: endless rebellion, the countless times she witnessed my stupidity and the hurt I was putting myself through in order to prove my independence.
We like to think our parents are naïve and don’t know sh*t about us, that we’re such master sleuths we’ve managed to hide most of our actions from them. And even if my mom still doesn’t know half of what I got myself into, the stuff she did see must have broken her heart. I can say this with confidence because as a mother, I have experienced this. As I watch my own kids rebel, I feel that same helplessness in trying to help them avoid yet another life lesson.
When things seemed out of control with our kids, and all we see is chaos, we want regain control of the things we can—and when we do this, it causes our children to feel judged by someone who is only trying to help.
I hated feeling controlled as a teenager, much like I am sure my kids hate it. From our own experience, we can see that whatever our kids are trying to prove is only going to cause them hurt. Because we love them to no end, we try and stop them from having to learn that lesson—we know the pain it caused us.
From this side of parenting, while I thought my mom was naïve, I can now see that she was not as unworldly as I thought. This was a woman who fought against her own parents about her choices—-namely, marrying my dad at the ripe age of 17. She then left the only home and town she ever knew to move to a place she was unfamiliar with and didn’t know a soul, except for an extended family she had inherited by marriage, and with whom she had limited contact. She quit school in grade 10 to start a life as an adult. A married adult.
Talk about being a rebel! This woman was married, moved locations and had three young kids all before her 25th birthday.
As a teenager, feeling judged by mother, I ironically turned the tables and I was then judging her for judging me. Talk about a vicious circle. I am now starting to appreciate that she honestly was doing the best she could with the knowledge she had. Some of us don’t learn with words alone, we have to experience something before we actually understand the lesson.
So how do we stop this cycle of judging?
We have to be able to come at it from a mature perspective. Not mature in age but in experience. A teenager can’t do that because they are still learning to swim. As parents, all we can do is continue to set boundaries and hope that one day our children will look back and realize that we did the best we could, too. It’s easy to see from this side of the parenting game.
My mom was already swimming in a vast pool of experience as she watched me wade into the shallow end we call young adulthood. She could see that I was getting in deeper and deeper without water wings to assist me, that I was willing to, no, insisted on swimming out to the deep end too quickly without a life preserver. As she watched all this unfold, all she could do was keep trying to offer me swimming lessons, which I continually refused to accept.
She accepted whatever judgment I threw at her, and like any good mom, she did not once give up trying to save me from drowning. With this perspective, I can now tell my mom that I appreciate the attempts she made and can see now that it was not judgment she was giving me, but rather love.
Author: Debbi Serafinchon
Image: Courtesy of Author
Editors: Catherine Monkman; Emily Bartran