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Why We Shouldn't Judge Parents On Their First Impressions

Going through this with her makes me see other parents that I used to judge fairly harshly on a completely different level. You'd never think, looking at my daughter,
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Written by Diana Stone for

My almost 4-year-old throws herself flat on the ground in the middle of the store, screaming about something or another. As I look up, I say a quick prayer that the people around me "get it." I wish I could tell everyone this isn't normal for her. At all.

As I talk quietly to Bella (Won't lie -- I'm using my angry whisper and my eyes are so beady I can barely see out of them), it hits me that should no one around understand what is really happening, it wouldn't bother me anymore. I would have judged a parent for this about 18 months ago, and the only reason I don't (much), is because I know our story. I don't expect anyone else to even remotely guess what she's dealing with.

I know my child is falling apart because her world has fallen apart. Twice. That she is struggling every day with understanding why another brother went to heaven instead of coming home. She's watched her family grieve and try to pull together. She had her mama gone nearly an entire month to be hundreds of miles away at a hospital. She flew out to meet her brother only to also say goodbye to him the next day. She's watching her home being packed up as we start over in a new one.

I have seen her emotions slide out of control at the smallest things lately. Part of it is being 4. Most of it is dealing with an amount of loss and change no child her age should have to take on. I know this. You don't -- and it's OK.

Here's the thing. Going through this with her makes me see other parents that I used to judge fairly harshly on a completely different level. You'd never think, looking at my daughter, I wonder if she'd just suffered a tremendous loss? Most of us are programmed to wonder why the parents let the child act like this in public, or why on earth children act like spoiled brats nowadays. I'm not angry or upset about this. It's completely normal. I still have to catch myself, but more and more the thought pops up when I see a parent struggling with a child, "I wonder what their story is?" Is it more than just a temper tantrum?

Our loss isn't an excuse for letting Bella lash out, misbehave or sob her way into a six-piece nugget kid's meal instead of a four. What it has done is flipped my view from one of constant judgment to one where I have to stop and wonder, because I doubt that anyone would imagine our story. A happy family. Driving a new car. A nice home. A pretty little girl, obviously healthy. A mom able to stay at home. A dad who serves his country and loves it.

Who would ever think, I bet they've gone through two tremendously difficult pregnancies and a failed adoption, only to have all three sons die in the past year, and still be aching for more children? Do we ever think this when we see others who all have a story?

The mom with twins who waited years for a child.
The dad playing catch with his son he traveled halfway across the world to bring home.
The family of six who are raising their nieces and nephews.

Why would it ever cross anyone's mind? Would it have ever really crossed mine before this? No.

Yet, after you click away from this post, I hope it might spur all of us to think of this more. To withhold a bit more judgment because we'll probably never know anyone's full story. Everyone has their own life struggles behind what we're seeing in a glimpse.