How I Used to Judge Others…and Why I Don’t Now

Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

Oftentimes, the hardest thing to do for someone is to understand them. Unfortunately, the easiest thing is to judge them, to retroactively make a better decision for them than they made 15 minutes earlier. I know, because I used to do this frequently myself. Whether I was mindlessly mashing buttons in the mall arcade or reluctantly trailing my mother as she patiently shopped for a pant-suit, I took notice of how surrounding moms and dads were treating their kids, and I was often appalled. Of course, this was well before I’d spawned my own.

It used to be where I would scoff at the mother blatantly ignoring her son as he screamed maniacally for her attention in a department store. Now, I know that the boy is being given the silent treatment because he’s pushed mom to the brink of sanity with his nastiness and  indecisive shopping decisions and wholly deserves it.

It used to be where I would be saddened to see a father not get fully into character when reading an Elmo book to his toddler daughter. Now I know that he’s been in character for 458 days straight and his soprano-level Elmo voice is resting.

It used to be where I’d get angry when I’d see two parents leaving their children in front of Nickelodeon while they share a meal in relative tranquility. Now I know that Team Umizoomi is allowing mom and dad to actually have an adult conversation after two weeks without one.

Before I knew better, I’d see parents struggling immensely as they carted three children, two strollers and 12 bags of groceries from the store exit to their car. And I’d think to myself, “They shouldn’t have so many kids if they can’t handle the responsibilities.” These days, I sometimes lose my patience just pouring a glass of milk. But I still wouldn’t trade the reasons for my impatience for the world.

Back when I’d just turned 21, I’d see older people at the bars, throwing drinks back like they were 20 years younger. And I’d think it was sad. Now I still sort of think it’s sad, but at least now I understand why they do it.

There were times when I’d see adults out in public with stained shirts, unkempt hair, and untucked shirts, and I’d judge the living hell out of them, wondering why they weren’t able to keep themselves together while in public. Today, I see those same people and I offer them some seltzer and a rag, because I can completely envision the moment that the juice box was squeezed straight onto their innocent, dry-cleaned blazers.

Admittedly, it still happens from time to time, no matter how hard I try to avoid it. I’ll see someone who isn’t living life exactly the way I would and I do the thing I loathe…I judge. But becoming a parent has taught me a tremendous deal about acceptance and understanding. Having children has caused me to wear a stained shirt, act disinterested when others are excited, lose my patience so fast it turns heads, and even throw back a drink or four at the end of a long, maddening week…at the dinner table. And I know there’s someone out there watching me, shaking their head and rolling eyes. Because that someone used to be me, before I lost my mind and reached the age of reason.

So, if you happen to see someone in public who looks completely unsettled, unhinged, unkempt, or even a little unsightly, cut them a break. It’s entirely possible that the reason for their appearance isn’t a lack of trying, but is actually a byproduct of trying harder than you could possibly imagine. You’re not perfect, and God knows I’m not.

Thanks for reading, and be good to each other.

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