Friday, April 9, 2010

Prideful Prejudice

How's that for a blog post title? And after so many months of abandoning you!

So, about that, sorry. It's been busy and I am trying to sort out how to fit all the stuff I need and want to do. Writing is definitely in the 'keep' box, but it's also something that requires me to have a chunk of quiet brain space and I just haven't been carving that out very well lately.

But I'm back and I'm going to talk a little bit about judgment. Not judgment of me (knock yourselves out if you want). No - these are the judgey pants I wear out in the world and I am afraid I have order in a size 6X, pink.

We were driving down a major road recently and Isabelle spotted a young boy who was sitting in the front driver side of a parked car.

"He's in the driving seat and not even in a car seat! He has BAD PARENTS, huh Mom?" Her first instinct is a spiteful 'j'accuse' of "BAD PARENTS". Spiteful. And confident that she is right and they are wrong. I recognize the anger and confidence - 'cause I have felt it many a time, about car seat safety, about feeding choices, about discipline, about, well, pretty much anything that another person might chose that I get to know about.

Six year olds are so much about rules and categories of right and wrong - Isabelle doesn't see a lot of gray in the world. I get that: it's a stage of development, not a character flaw. I like to think I'm more subtle than that (being well past 6 and all), but my first instinct was the same. Yes, yes, he does have bad parents - leaving him sitting in the driver seat while they were on the sidewalk.

In the next breath, I know there are a million reasons why a good parent might have allowed that. Heck, that I might allow it. So we talk about those reasons and why it's not safe most of the time, but it might be the right choice for a mommy or daddy to make. At six, she can already raise a skeptical eyebrow at me like a pro, but we decide that we can't really say that they are or not. And also, we will not be playing in the front seat in our family.

So, we kind of settle that one. Yet...

Peggy O'Mara has famously been quoted as saying that "Judgment is not always wrong" - I believe that. Human nature is imperfect and humans are vulnerable: we have a duty to protect each other. But there are so many times in my life that I feel that "j'accuse" and then the uncertain retreat and then.... do I settle on the right place before I open my mouth? For the "accused"? For my values? Does it even matter what I say when my visceral reaction is to condemn? Do my eyes speak louder than the carefully chosen words?

And which one tells the truth?

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