Now, I realize this is all about perception- maybe that seasoned mother is not judging but instead remembering back to her child's tantrums and thinking, "I'm glad I'm past that stage!". Or maybe that young college student really does think I can't handle my child. Whatever it is someone else is thinking, that's for them to carry and for me to let go. Because truly, I can't add yet another thing to worry about to my plate.
After having, ahem, experienced toddlerhood with two other children, I can proudly say that this stage is awesome and challenging and it does end. And yet, I've also learned from being around other families with toddlers that this stage doesn't need to be riddled with stress and feeling vulnerable.
When you're feeling like your parenting choices are magnified, ask yourself, who are the key players in this moment? It's surely not some stranger watching your son scream for a cookie while you're holding your ground about no sweet snacks between meals. Because if you're focusing on what she might be thinking about you or your child, your focus is going to be split and you may not be addressing the real issue.
I've had moments where I'm feeling embarrassed, tired, stretched and poorly nourished AND attempting to address my screaming and crying toddler. This is not good! But imagine if I'm also very aware of every customer in the produce section and wondering what they're thinking about me or my child. That means that part of my attention is spread out to thirty strangers instead of focusing that energy on my child and what's happening. When I start to feel this vulnerable blanket covering me, I consciously say to myself, this is not about anyone besides my child and how I can support him.
Now, how that unfolds depends on the circumstances, but most importantly, I've let go of that incredible energy that comes from feeling vulnerable and then (probably) judging my parenting choices or telling myself that my child's behavior is obviously a reflection of my poor parenting, neither of which will help me in that moment.
Taking away the power that comes from letting others decide how you feel about yourself can be incredible. It puts the focus back on meeting the needs of the most important people in that moment: you and your child.