I’ve been planning to tackle the ever-popular question of whether or not “non-parents” are entitled to judge the technique and misbehaving children of “parents.” Such a post has been requested by a bunch of people, some who have children and some who do not.

For instance, when I began kicking around the idea of starting a blog about the bizarre social consequences of becoming a parent, my friend Sarah wrote:

I have seen some weird *ss mothering in SF. Unfortunately, a few situations that have haunted me over the years. I have also gotten into fights with friends about parenting–which is the worst, especially when I am told I have no moral authority because I “don’t have a child.” I call this the Puritan vs the Quaker fight.

Puritans don’t take their children to fancy restaurants and let them bawl and scream at the top of their lungs (that’s what family restaurants were created for). Quakers feel it is important to let children do as they like wherever and whenever. I am of the camp to take children outside, to the car, to the bathroom (anywhere that won’t interfere with other diners/people’s ear drums) and let said child express themselves–which is sort of a combination parenting of Quaker and Puritan because let’s face it, melt-downs do happen. Having to avoid friends that don’t have what I consider to be social boundaries when it comes to their kids is a very confusing place to be.

Sarah’s musings soured me on the subject for awhile. It’s not that I disagree with her necessarily; her characterization of a Puritan and Quaker parenting binary is certainly funny and as good a place to start as any.

No, my problem is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a parent more uncomfortable with unleashing her child’s soul-shattering screams upon the public than I. If there was a way to avoid such experiences completely, I’d have found it long ago. While I strive to be graceful in the face of my daughter’s public meltdowns, I continue to struggle with this aspect of parenting.

Sarah’s comment reminded me not only that most people claim the moral authority to judge parents, but also that different people have different standards for pretty much everything. What is a “fancy” restaurant? When is a child “interfering”? It’s these discrepancies more than anything that freak out the people-pleasing part of me since they are the source of certain extremely unpleasant interactions, a.k.a. conflicts.

The task of revisiting those times when my daughter has caused a public disruption, not to mention the probable judgments such disruptions evoked from strangers, is particularly unappealing to me.

Still, the topic lingered, dormant but humming in the back of my mind. More impressively, it seemed to follow me around for a time, giving me more than enough fodder for a multi-part blog post. Which is to say: stay tuned.