Please Don’t Judge me by What My Child Is Wearing


My daughter is a spitfire. She’s a master tantrum-thrower, a repeater of curse words and an instigator of sibling rivalry. She’s five-and-a-half years of naughtiness and unbridled energy rolled up into the cutest little blonde diva you’ve ever seen. She’s a giggle monster who once requested to change her name to Cannonball. She’s a handful.

And she’s exactly the child I deserve.

As my parents tell me on a regular basis, little Cannonball is payback for the pain and suffering I inflicted upon them. (I wasn’t exactly the easiest child. Or tween. Or teenager.) And I freely admit that I probably deserve this kind of parental payback.

But I also deserve it after all the judgment I passed on other parents in my pre-Cannonball days. I remember how appalled I was when I walked out my house one day many years ago and watched my neighbor’s youngest daughter running down their driveway in nothing but a diaper and her older daughter climbing out the bathroom window on the opposite side of the house. What abysmal parenting! How could a mother possibly allow these horrible things to happen?!

Well, after living through some of the shenanigans Cannonball has pulled over the years, I’m now well aware how things like that can happen. I have also come to the realization that I’m now on the receiving end of those same judgments I once passed on other parents.

I can only imagine what the other mothers at the YMCA were thinking when they watched Cannonball almost drown during her group swim lesson because, when the instructor was with another child, she did the exact opposite of what she was told to do.

I can only imagine what her teachers think of her clothing choices, the rotation of the same 3 outfits, one of which includes a Halloween shirt layered under the orange undershirt she tie-dyed at school for a field trip. She has a closet filled with adorable, never worn clothes, yet every day I’m still tempted to pen a note to her teachers begging them not to judge me on the basis of my child’s attire.

I can only imagine what the other parents at my son’s baseball practice were thinking when I ignored Cannonball’s complaints about being cold and brushed off her requests to wear my jacket. I attempted to explain that she had defiantly refused to put a jacket on before we left the house. I attempted to explain the concept of natural consequences as a way to teach her a lesson. I attempted to explain that, because of my amazing parenting skills, she would never refuse to wear a jacket ever again. But I could still feel the stares of the other parents as they offered my shivering child a blanket.

If I’ve learned anything as a parent, especially as a MilSpouse who often parents alone, it’s that I have to choose my battles. If Cannonball wants to wear two different shoes to school, fine. I can live with that. Not a battle I need to fight. But leaving the house without eating breakfast? Nope, that’s non-negotiable. That’s a battle worth my time and energy.

Just as I have to choose my battles with my children, I have to make similar evaluations with other parents as well. Parenting styles vary, and I can’t please everyone. Should I have wasted my breath trying to explain why I wasn’t making any effort to warm my daughter up at baseball practice? Probably not. No matter what I said, the parents who were going to inwardly criticize my choices would do so regardless of my explanation.

As MilSpouses and sometimes single parents, a lot of the time we have to resort to the “I gotta do what I gotta do” philosophy. And sometimes, when my husband is gone and my children are screaming at each other and my dinner is burning and I’m exhausted, what I gotta do is turn on the television and let SpongeBob take over parenting duties for the next 30 minutes. My old pre-Cannonball self, who swore she would never ever in a million years use TV as a baby-sitter, would throw judgment on that decision, but I have to choose my battles with her too.

Have you ever judged other parents because of their children’s behavior? Do you feel like other people judge your parenting skills or decisions?

About the Author

Heather Sweeney
Heather Sweeney is an Associate Editor at, former Navy wife, mother of two, blogger, and avid runner. She’s the blogger formerly known as Wife on the Roller Coaster and still checks in every now and then at her blog Riding the Roller Coaster.
  • mongolberry

    I judge parents all the time, not the ones who let their child wear 2 different shoes but definatly the ones that do things like put soda in their baby’s bottles. I don’t think there is a problem as long as you don’t judge to harshly. I use natural consequences too and people look at me like I’m the most horrible person in the world sometimes lol.

  • armybraceletlady

    Holy cow, yes! I am the mother of a 19 year old college student and a 15 year old high schooler and YES! I’ve been an Army wife for 21 years and YES! I’ve learned I can exhaust all my energies on the less important things or I can be wise and conservative. Even with my children’s ages, I still must put aside my uber-parent alter-ego and let things go all the time. And, a word to the wise military spouse, parenting older children is NOT any easier than parenting youngies. I would take ten of your hyper-defiant four year olds and a half-dozen 18 month olds with raging diarrhea over a bad day with teens anyt time!

  • I feel you. I have three sons – 7, 4 (going on 30) and 1. I know all about choosing your battles, which is why my oldest wore a Batman Halloween costume everywhere we went for 6 months when he was 3. Shortly after we moved to Alaska (he had just turned 5), he refused to put his boots on to go to the car. After trying everything possible and getting nowhere, I told him he could either put them on, or walk to the car in the snow in his socks. He opted for the socks. Needless to say, he never gave me crap about his boots again. I SO GET the natural consequences theory, and it does work. And yes, I did warm his feet up in the car afterwards, and he only had to walk about 10 steps anyway. :-D

  • Damsel

    i could have written this post. I, too, have a Cannonball…. and in choosing my battles, I’ve decided not to battle those other parents!

  • I did some judging in my pre-child days. I look back on that and feel really bad. Then I have to hold my tongue when I hear others doing the same type of thing. I tell myself that no one else has the three boys I have, no one else has our exact same challenges, no one else knows what it is like to walk in my shoes. No one else gets to judge me for the parenting choices I make.

  • Mamatoni6

    I will not lie I have judged other parents, though in my defense they needed it lol. Ok all kidding aside, there have been times where I thought “what are you doing! Why would you (insert situation)” then I quickly shut myself up and put myself in place. With 6 kids from ages 25 to 5, I learned early on we all do what we believe is right for our family and sometimes we do what we need to do just to get through the day. I was a teen when I had my first and was judged from every direction, but for some of those people that judged me and my parenting in my eyes they had no right as they were not even parents, nor were they teens either where you can at least blame their lack of life experience. I’m talking about adults without children, telling me all the things I was doing wrong. I wasn’t living off anyone, I wasn’t pushing my baby on someone else to raise, I was doing it by myself and working hard in every way. This may be wrong, but in some of these cases I feel a little vindication as they are pulling out their hair and have asked me “what did you do during this stage”.
    I’m not in a position to judge anyone or how they raise their little ones. I was judged and didn’t like it. NO WAY will I make another parent feel insecure when we have all felt that way at one point in time or another.

  • queenbydesign

    Great Post! My daughter just turned 3 and she is definitely a firecracker. She is strong-willed and opinionated (just like her mother). I can imagine the years ahead will look much like yours.