Many parents today have options generations before never imagined. Should you stay at home or pursue a career? Serve your children organic quinoa for dinner or hot dogs? From attachment to free-range parenting, we are faced with near-endless choices, and subsequently, the need to justify the decisions we make.

I don’t believe judging one another is new. I do, however, believe the scope of this judgement has expanded on online forums and playgrounds nationwide. From clothing to food, discipline to diapers, the smallest choices we make seem to define who we are as parents. And since many parenting decisions have an equally supported antithesis, it makes sense that we’re at odds with one another from time to time.

I’ve felt judged. I’m sure you have too. Even worse, I catch myself judging others – and myself – on a daily basis. Sometimes this judgement is justified (Like when parents leave children in hot cars to run a quick errand). Sometimes it’s a matter of opinion or priorities (Does that kid really have a Reese cup for morning snack?) These are the times to practice nonjudgmental parenting.

Let’s take on that Reese cup. Perhaps little Billy’s parents are lazy, uneducated slubs who don’t realize the sugar content in even one Reese cup is enough to send him pinging from the walls during circle time. Perhaps they are unconcerned with childhood obesity or peanut allergies or proper dental hygiene (Did they pack a tooth brush with that snack? Did they?)

First, does that make them bad parents? Some of you would say absolutely, yes! But here’s the thing, unless your kid has a peanut allergy or gets knocked over as Billy spins like a coked-out dervish, what’s it to you?

You’re a responsible parent, you say. Poor Billy doesn’t stand a chance. He should have carrot sticks. Maybe organic cheese puffs, as a special treat. It’s just wrong!

Maybe.

A Reese cup would not be my snack of choice either, but as the mother of a child who toes the line of special needs, I’m always willing to give Billy’s parents the benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps Billy is terrified of preschool, and after clearing it with the teacher and confirming there were no peanut allergies in class, they tell him that as a very special treat for being brave, he can have a Reese cup for snack.

That’s terrible, you say. Billy’s parents shouldn’t have to bribe Billy. Your child got upset on the first day / week / month of preschool, and you never sent candy to snack time. Your child saw Billy’s snack – which is how you knew about the Reese cup in the first place – and now wants chocolate. Let’s be honest, this is REALLY the reason why you are so bent about a preschooler eating a Reese cup at snack time. You would never let your kid bring candy to school and now you have to tell them so – again.

Good for you. But your child may not face the same obstacles as Billy. Your child may cry a few minutes at drop off for a day / week / month. Billy, on the other hand, may have vomited each and every day before school because he was so anxious. His parents may have placed a sticker on a calendar each day he didn’t make himself ill. After five stickers, he got to take whatever he wanted to snack instead of the celery sticks or free-range hardboiled egg his parents usually packed. After a month of puking spectacularly on the entry way rug, Bill finally made it to school one day with his breakfast in his stomach. It took him another two weeks to get five stickers.

Now, if you’re Billy’s parents, do you give the kid a Reese cup?

Truth is, you can’t answer that question. Because unless you’ve spent a day / week / month parenting Billy, you can’t say what you would or would not do.

What works best for you and your child might not be best, or even practical, for someone else. Where you invest your time, money, and energy may not be where I choose to spend mine. That doesn’t make me a worse parent or you a better one. It just makes us different.

Just BE Parenting supports a purposeful approach to life with children: Simply BE there. How you define “being there” varies from parent to parent, and even from child to child within the same family. It also serves as a reminder to me that I’m only the parenting “expert-in- training” of my two girls – “B” and “E” – and to approach others with an open mind.

I’ve learned wonderful parenting tools from self-proclaimed crunchy parents, SAHMs, single parents, special-needs parents, stepparents, grandparents, lesbian moms, feminist dads, and even a few pet parents. Because when we stop judging, stop labeling, we see one another for what we are: Just families.

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Kathryn Hively

I started Just BE Parenting as a way to cope with the anxiety of balancing work, motherhood, and the impulse to write. That’s right, I’m not a parenting expert. I, my kids, and my family are perfectly flawed in MANY ways. As a parent, I’m trying to let go of perfection and just BE the best mother I can for my kids. The ‘B’ and ‘E’ in Just BE Parenting also represents the first letters of my children’s names. What works for me and my family may not work for you and yours. That’s ok! Even if we’re not the same, I hope you’ll find something relatable here.

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