Note: This is a long post. Rather than trying to break it into two parts, I’m going to trust that my readers have above-average attention spans. Please be sure to read the whole post before commenting. Thank you.
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:1-4)
Occasionally I hear or read something that gets under my skin. This happened recently, when a sister in Christ made a broad statement condemning and mocking an entire group of people (a group I happen to belong to) who have made a certain choice related to raising children.
All I could think was — HOW DARE YOU?!
That brought to mind a flood of other “How dare you’s” I’ve felt over the years.
I’m going to let them out now. Brace yourself.
How dare you mock me for my parenting choices that I make to the best of my abilities before GOD?
How dare you judge me when I say my kids have food allergies and can’t eat something?
How dare you (especially you with no children, ONE child, or just a few children) judge me for the way I run my super sized family?
How DARE you judge me for choosing to not vaccinate my kids, when you have NO idea what thought and reasoning went into that decision?
How dare you act like your choice for your family is the ONLY right choice on an issue that is NOT clearly delineated in scripture?
How DARE you criticize me for my choice to give birth at home because you choose to give birth in a hospital/birth center?
How dare you presume to be able to evaluate my personal medical issues?
How dare you assert that we have enough kids (or too many)?
These are not moral decisions. There is LIBERTY to choose. These are decisions of conscience.
There’s a lot more to many of these choices than meets the eye.
What you do NOT know are how many hours I’ve spent researching the risks and benefits, the pros and cons, of my decision to only selectively vaccinate my kids. The hours poring over the data from the CDC. The data, the details, adverse reactions from vaccines, what subset of people experience reactions, the disease rates of various infectious diseases. Whether those who got the disease were vaccinated fully, partially or not at all. The locations of outbreaks, the graphs that detail when the disease prevalence began to drop and how the drop coincided (or didn’t) with the introduction of the vaccine. I’ve discussed the vaccine issue with my kids’ pediatrician. What makes you think you know better than me and my kids’ doctor?
What you do NOT know are how many hours I’ve spent researching, and in prayer, over the decision on where to birth. And who to hire as an attendant, or whether I should have an attendant at all.
What you do NOT know, and cannot appreciate, is the faith journey that I have walked as I have lived out my choices. The research that went into the decision. The enormous personal and familial benefits of our choices.
What you do NOT know are how many hours I spent wiping bloody diarrhea off of the scorched/burned bum of a tiny baby who was allergic to more things than we could determine.
What you do NOT know are how many hours I spent holding that baby, who writhed in pain every minute of the day.
What you do NOT know are how many hours I did NOT sleep that entire first year of my baby’s life as he screamed and writhed.
What you do NOT know is that I had to figure out what was in the food I bought because no adequate labeling laws were in effect. Yep, back when you had to call every company in creation to ask whether the “modified food starch” contained wheat; because it might. And at least half the time, the person you talked to either didn’t know, or refused to tell you.
What you do NOT know is that I had to go to a mono diet of only rice until — amazingly — my baby’s symptoms disappeared, and he slept. A blessed, restful sleep with NO writhing. For the first time in his life he slept.
What you do NOT know is that I added in one food at a time every three days until I was eating enough variety to constitute a sustainable diet. It was “three steps forward, two back” for a while until I (YES, I, with no medical advice or help, because they had given up on helping us) figured out what he was allergic to.
What you do NOT know is how much time and effort it took to figure all this out.
What you cannot possibly know is that if I ingested even the tiniest bit of one of his allergens, we were back to square one with his symptoms, and the screaming and lack of sleep resumed.
What you do NOT know is the lack of help available from doctors. No testing is foolproof. Once the process of eliminating all “serious” medical conditions from the possible list is done, the work of deduction falls to the parents.
What you do NOT know are the many invasive tests that were performed on my tiny newborn to rule out a long list of horrible possibilities.
What you do NOT know is the fear I felt, as I went through this process with a tiny helpless newborn.
What you do NOT know is the difficulty of having your newborn hospitalized while trying to care for eight other children at home.
What you do NOT know is the frustration of trying hypoallergenic formulas and even “elemental” formulas on your child, only to have him react to them with screaming, bloody diarrhea, writhing in pain.
What you cannot possibly comprehend, is how it tears a mother apart, to watch her child suffer so. I have experienced this. Food allergies/intolerance are VERY real.
Why are you judging someone who says they can’t eat something? Why do you presume to think they are making it up? What sane person would WANT to restrict their diet for no reason whatsoever? There might be a few people mixed-up enough to do so. Do you REALLY think it is a good idea to lump everyone who has dietary restrictions into the category of dubious sanity? Are you kidding me?
I have never asked anyone to make special accommodations for us. A few brave, kind souls have asked and offered to make accommodations. I might inquire about food at a party or whatever, but solely for the purpose of providing for our family’s food needs.
More times than I can count, though, I’ve overheard the comments on the fact that I or my child is eating something different. The speculation that it is not necessary. The accusations of extreme behavior.
WHY DOES IT MATTER SO MUCH TO YOU??? Just let us eat in peace for goodness’ sake. We don’t want to look any more freakish than we have to in order to keep ourselves healthy.
I find it interesting that, while there has often been speculation (I’ve heard it with my own ears) about the necessity of the diet I and/or my children have had to be on, no one has ever offered to come over to tend the wakeful screaming child when he could not sleep from the pain. No one ever cared enough to help wipe the bloody diarrhea off of his butt as he screamed in pain.
I was once a haughty, proud, judgmental mother. Because I believed breastfeeding was best, I (silently) judged every mother who bottle-fed.
Then God allowed me to have a sick baby. One born with congenital heart disease. who had difficulty gaining weight. One who had to have supplements. Now I was one of those mothers who had a bottle in their child’s mouth. And I understood. There could be a perfectly good explanation for choosing the “inferior” way to feed a baby.
Bottle-feeding is not the enemy. It’s just another way to feed a baby. Not my preference, but a valuable alternative. I was humbled. And ashamed of my prideful, horrible, rude attitude. I had now walked a road that gave me empathy and understanding for others’ choices.
Years ago, when I was a mom of one, I was privately (secretly) critical of a friend who confided in me the struggles she was having with her infant son. He was allergic to so many things, and she had to dramatically restrict her diet as she breastfed him. She could only eat chicken and carrots.
Absurd, I thought. How could he possibly react through her milk. Silly. She must be imagining things. It was years later that God allowed me to experience firsthand how very REAL this situation is. I walked a new road that gave me empathy.
There are a million more issues where judgment is passed, and one mom is critical of another. Here are a few of the things I’ve been criticized for:
The behavior of my autistic child. Admittedly horrible at times. But NOT the result of poor parenting or lack of discipline, and NOT because my child is a brat.
The fact that we chose to get a diagnosis and “label” our kid. Labels can be helpful in understanding. They do not have to define. I’m confident we made the right choice.
Baby wearing. I LOVE to carry my babies. Why do you have a problem with that? I don’t care if you opt to carry around a car seat or push a stroller. That felt more awkward to me. What is your problem with that????
Behavior of boys. Boys are rambunctious. Boys are NOT girls. I’ve been criticized for letting my boys be boys. Especially by “girl moms”. Get over it. There is a time and place for boys to learn to sit still. My little ones are learning. I work with them. They get practice every Sunday during church. But boys are made to move. I let them move whenever I feel it is appropriate.
Size of our family. I cannot tell the number of people who have tried to make this their personal business. IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS!!! I do not ask you for support. I do not ask the government for support. It’s our decision to have the number of kids we have. You have NO right to meddle. Think just for once about what I am contributing: TAXPAYERS! How else will your social security benefits ever be paid?
What activities we have chosen (or not chosen) to be involved in. I’ve gotten “It’s only one night a week” from other parents. Really??? And what about all the other kids who also want their night? Do you suppose we might place a priority on being home together as a family more than fifteen minutes a week?
Much of the time, these judgmental comments are not spoken directly to my face. But I do hear them, and sometimes I read them on Facebook. I don’t think the speaker/writer is aware that I can hear/see. If they were aware, I don’t think they would deliberately speak their sly mocking, judgment, and presumption.
But I wish they would.
If you have a question about a choice someone has made or feel they are making an error in judgment, WHY are you talking to a third person about it? GO TO THE PERSON YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT! I don’t mind honest discussion/debate. I don’t mind if someone comes to a different conclusion than I have, or makes a different choice about what is best for their family.
We are all individuals. It’s normal and natural to make different choices. So, if you don’t like the way I am doing something, GIVE GRACE and respect my RIGHT to choose as I see fit. Don’t assume I’m somehow less informed or educated because my choices are different.
Keep your mouth shut and pray for me. OR initiate a respectful convo with me.
Ask questions. Seek understanding. You might learn something. You might even (scary thought) change your mind about something.
OR you might get ME to change my mind as we discuss an issue. Above all, seek understanding. We are all in this super-HARD job of life together.
Although I have walked a lot of roads, I’ve not likely walked your particular road. It’s easy to judge what I do not know, see, experience, taste, touch. Easy, and WRONG. What I have learned is to say (to myself mostly). “I do not understand this situation. I do not have experience with this situation, I will reserve judgment and give the benefit of the doubt. I have not walked THIS road.” GIVE GRACE PEOPLE. it’s NOT THAT HARD!!!!
One eats meat, the other not,
To his own master he stands or falls….