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Can we all just stop judging?

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What goes on in other people’s households is always a mystery, and I don’t think it’s possible to make assumptions about other people from where we sit. So I try not to judge, but understand that it is almost always challenging, no matter what one’s circumstances happen to be.

I choose often to break through the shroud of mystery with strangers (often to their dismay), and definitely in my house. It is what my husband says he loves about me, why he stands by me and is amazingly supportive (some say too much so).

I believe wholeheartedly in full disclosure in families. The more open we are with our children, the more open they feel they can be, with us and with the world. No one should be made to feel ashamed of their feelings.

The anxiety that results from holding things in takes all kinds of tolls on our children, none of them good.

When we do not communicate openly, when we put on appearances that all is perfect with us or think it possible for anyone, we create children who do the same. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in a note on “Anxious Children” offers, “Anxious children may be quiet, compliant and eager to please, so their difficulties may be missed.” That, I think, is the great danger of pretending.

A friend recently told me a story about her daughter, now in college, who said to her one day, “We’re a second-rate family, aren’t we?” She told me about the ensuing conversation, the definition they came up with for “first-rate families,” the kind, she said, that are “sporty and skinny, that have plenty of money, the kind whose kids go to the best colleges and that have grandparents who play tennis.”

This last part has me doubled over every time I think of it. Tennis is somehow a metaphor for success and happiness, I’m not sure why. At our wedding, the judge who knew us very little, from only a brief meeting where he grilled us on our sports proclivities, defined us as “people who like to play tennis together.”

I was in a parallel universe at the time, but this broke me out. I wanted to turn around and take over the ceremony and help better explain who we were, talkers and readers and arguers and puzzle-doers, not — at the time — at all sporty. But he wanted to draw a fast pretty picture by posing us as tennis players, a sure answer to a long, happy marriage.

We do want to paint such pictures. It makes life seem somehow easier. But I would argue that “first-rate families” are not so easily defined. If anything, I’d say they are ones like my friend’s, whose daughter feels comfortable enough to share with her mother her doubts and concerns over not being the best, to laugh and joke about the ways in which their family might not live up to the standards set by society to define success succinctly and narrowly.

It is only confidence in the way we do things, lack of shame in how we really feel and act despite the many judgments of others, that can gain us such “first-rate” status to the most important people, to ourselves. Feeling first-rate ourselves despite our warts, and allowing our kids to feel the same, is not easy, not by a long shot. Tennis whites alone, unfortunately, won’t do the trick.

Updated 5:21 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

daveinbedstuy from BS says:
What about a family where the wife is cheating on the husband???
Oct. 26, 2010, 8:40 am
lechacal from park slope says:
Can't argue with being honest within a family. That's a great policy. Better than speaking throug a clenched jaw over gin and tonics all the time.

However, I think sharing too much outside the family can be bad for kids. Especially on the Internet. Kids need privacy, especially when it comes to what goes on within their families. They will choose what to share with their friends, and they won't share what they aren't ready for other people to know.

I think you got strong negative reactions to your recent fearless parenting article because you shared those details publicly and people thought that was inappropriate for the children involved.

But otherwise, yes, I agree, openness within the household is a great policy.
Oct. 26, 2010, 8:44 am
daveinbedstuy from BS says:
Mr. lechacal...you sound like a typical ——-whipped Park Slope father.
Oct. 26, 2010, 8:50 am
Jean Harris from Bedford Hills says:
If they're not honest with you, just shoot them.
Oct. 26, 2010, 2:12 pm
David Berkowitz from Fallsburg says:
Just shoot them anyway, especially if they're parking with their lovers/mistresses.
Oct. 26, 2010, 2:15 pm
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
I wish my wife played tennis. Should I tell her that?
Oct. 26, 2010, 3:36 pm
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
Hey, I find BS really boring these days too! I guess we all miss The Return of The What. Also, I worry that Mr. BS is becoming a tool for the RE Brokers and he is using his colorful posters to get rich off page views. I'm not surprised to see "daveinbedstuy from BS" over here.
Oct. 26, 2010, 3:39 pm
AnotherDamnKnowItAll from Park Slope says:
In talky, arguey, navel-gazey Park Slope, I think it's important to focus a bit. The only true measure of your value ("first-rate" or otherwise) is this: did you make the world -- or just your part of it -- a better place than it was when you woke up in the morning? My problem with "gold stars for trying" is that often people confuse trying with self-gratification. DO something. MAKE something. FIX something. STOP worrying whether you're getting the short end of the stick. Be a grown-up; it doesn't effing MATTER whether you get what you think you deserve or not. What matters is what you give, your effort. And for god's sake, don't stop judging. DO judge. Evaluate, come to a conclusion, and act. But don't act in retribution, try to act with compassion and reason. Use your judgment effectively to improve the situations you encounter. Okay, done preaching. I got —— to do -- at least I'd better have —— to do, after this tirade.
Oct. 27, 2010, 9:13 am
Jen from Park Slope says:
I was curious about this note on anxiety in children that you quoted, so I looked it up.

http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/the_anxious_child

Interestingly, the article says nothing about how anxiety in children is caused by a failure to share every detail of the family's home life with the world. And it also did not say that being a well-behaved child is a symptom of anxiety, as you imply. What it actually says is the following:

All children experience anxiety. Anxiety in children is expected and normal at specific times in development. For example, from approximately age 8 months through the preschool years, healthy youngsters may show intense distress (anxiety) at times of separation from their parents or other persons with whom they are close. Young children may have short-lived fears, (such as fear of the dark, storms, animals, or strangers). Anxious children are often overly tense or uptight. Some may seek a lot of reassurance, and their worries may interfere with activities. Parents should not discount a child’s fears. Because anxious children may also be quiet, compliant and eager to please, their difficulties may be missed. Parents should be alert to the signs of severe anxiety so they can intervene early to prevent complications. There are different types of anxiety in children. [It then goes on to describe those types of anxiety.]

I think it is dangerous and irresponsible to misquote a respected authority on children and take a single sentence out of context like that, suggesting that if a child is not a troublemaker that means he or she is maladjusted, and that the reason is because the family keeps their private problems private. It sounds like an attempt to rationalize your own approach to parenting -- an approach you are entitled to take, but which you should not "judge" others for not choosing, or misquote scientific literature to support.
Oct. 27, 2010, 9:34 am
Second-Rater from Brooklyn says:
It's not enough to applaud the open expression of negative emotions, parents need to explore the roots of those negative emotions and try to address them. I hope your friend explored why her daughter felt those insecurities and where the disturbing notion of a "second-rate family" even came from. Based on the definition of "first-rate" they came up with together, it sounds like it probably came from mom. My family growing up did not come close to fitting into the mold of a "first-rate family" as your friend and her daughter defined it, but I never considered my family second-rate, because my parents always celebrated the wonderful unique strengths we had, and didn't worry so much about what other people did or didn't have.
Oct. 27, 2010, 11:23 am
lechacal from Park Slope says:
So yeah, we're still judging you apparently.

Serious advice though, with a totally straight face: If you don't want to be judged for your personal life, stop writing columns about it.
Oct. 27, 2010, 2 pm
lechacal from Park Slope says:
So yeah, we're still judging you apparently.

Serious advice though, with a totally straight face: If you don't want to be judged for your personal life, stop writing columns about it.
Oct. 27, 2010, 2 pm
Josh Slotkin from Sheepshead Bay says:
lechacal, your 34th post from the previous article was really creepy: "They were at the PS 107 fall festival yesterday with their kids. As we were walking down the street behind them I mentioned this article to my wife and made the following observation..." (I could almost hear your heavy breathing.)

So let me make sure I understand you:

You visited that article every day, repeatedly, for 4 days (your first post was Oct 20), making on average over 8 posts every day there. And then, while strolling down the street on Day 4, you just casually mention the article to your wife.

Stephanie, don't let these upstanding citizens shake your determination to write with a bold searing voice. I think you provoked most of those people to look at their own complacent lives with renewed self-contempt, and they think they hate you for it!! I hope your timidity in this new article does not foreshadow what is to come.

Obviously your husband loves you and is standing by you. Afterall, according to lechacal, you and your husband were walking together the other day.

All these posters who think they know better than you or your husband, and who want to drag you down to their dreary level, will be the very ones, on the day you have your first Times best-seller or syndicated radio show, to cry out: "I know her! Oh my g-d! She's a friend of mine!" LOL.
Oct. 27, 2010, 3:17 pm
lechacal from park slope says:
"You visited that article every day, repeatedly, for 4 days (your first post was Oct 20)"

Yup. A bunch of people from another blog were there having fun for the hell of it - having little to do with the article this woman wrote. Did you seriously not pick up on that?

", making on average over 8 posts every day there."

I have no idea. Did you actually just spend the time do do a forensic examination of my posting history? Did you take notes and write down numers and do the math and everything? OMG you're a complete loser. Seriously though, I have some shoes that need to be shined if you have that kind of time on your hands and are detail oriented like that.

"And then, while strolling down the street on Day 4, you just casually mention the article to your wife."

Yup. Like I said (in the part you didn't copy, because you were trying to make me look creepy, which makes you seem kind of dishonest) I finally figured out who these people are. When I did I was like "oh hey, see that chick and that guy? She wrote this article on some blog about how she wants to divorce him, and then all of her neighbors and people from the school hated on her really hard and said she was having an affair, LOL." Want to know how I figured out who they are? She has this blog (gold star for "trying" - how condescending, but whatevs) where she put up pictures of herself. Part of the oversharing thing maybe, OTOH I'm the one who took the time to look it up, but whatever. Maybe I got the wrong chick, she was wearing sunglasses in the picture I saw, so she was indistinguishable from about 1000 other people in park slope.

Bottom line: you can suck it. Gold star for trying though.
Oct. 27, 2010, 3:49 pm
Glitter Goddess from Greenwood Heights says:
Look, lady, there's a line between being open and honest and showing off your colostomy bag at a cocktail party. Learn the difference.
Oct. 27, 2010, 4:52 pm
dave from Bed Stuy says:
Josh Slotkin from Sheepshead Bay says:

Stephanie, don't let these upstanding citizens shake your determination to write with a bold searing voice. I think you provoked most of those people to look at their own complacent lives with renewed self-contempt, and they think they hate you for it!! I hope your timidity in this new article does not foreshadow what is to come.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA

What a load of crap!!!!

" a bold searing voice"

Such pablum!!!!!!!
Oct. 27, 2010, 5:03 pm
Observer from afar from Southeast Asia says:
Wow. Seriously? It seems a lot of people have nothing better to do with their time than to vehemently unleash their hostility on people expressing their ideas? So much anger! It's sad and pitiful, actually.

I don't live anywhere near Park Slope, but on a continent far, far away, thankfully. I'd be terrified to speak my mind in this community, seeing what daggers come out when you do! And I thought I lived in a country that attacked free speech...

Not sure why but it seems people have lost a sense of what an "opinion" is and instead of calmly and intelligently expressing their counter-point, they attack the individual. So, Ms. Thompson chooses to reveal some of her personal life in her writing. So? You wouldn't do the same thing. So? You disagree with her. So? Grow up, people.

I applaud you, Ms. Thompson, to continue writing in this environment!
Oct. 27, 2010, 11:30 pm
momwhoknowsbetter from faraway says:
Disjointed, pathetic attempt to defend yourself. Please, for the sake of your family and whatever you hope to make of a career for yourself, stop writing. Get psych help and learn how to be a better human being in your family.
Oct. 28, 2010, 2:50 am
lechacal from park slope says:
OMG now I'm kind of addicted to coming back and seeing what the daily snark is. Does that make me weird? Josh Slotkin probably thinks so.

Anyways, I don't think this woman's a bad writer. I think her writing is fine. Good actually. It was just super inapprop. to write about stuff like that when her kids' friends can read it all online. That's all. And the people saying she needs therapy and is a bad person and all that stuff are just taking it waaaaaaay too far, probably because they know her and have some personal beef with her.

Also, raise your hand if you think that "Observer from Southeast Asia" is actually from Southeast Asia and not from 12th Street or something. [scans room, sees no hands raised]. Yeah, thought so. She came pretty close to proving Godwin's law though, which is funny.
Oct. 28, 2010, 8:31 am
Concerned from Park Slope says:
Ms. Thompson, how did the follow-up discussion with your children after your son's initial question go?
Oct. 28, 2010, 8:32 am
Joe from Joe's neighborhood says:
Lechacal, you've really softened up since last week! Maybe you're trying to make up for all the hating last week, but you're wrong about the writing: it's pretty bad and inane. But you're right about the rest of it. Also, I agree with Jen, and would add that it's not only "dangerous and irresponsible" for Ms. Thompson to misquote the article on anxiety in children as she did; for someone who's supposedly all about the honesty, seems pretty DISHONEST.
Oct. 28, 2010, 10:02 am
lechacal from park slope says:
Uh, yeah, I guess. Hate is recreational for me. I'm just not feeling it so much today. Maybe if that idio Josh Slotkin pops his head up again I'll get hatey, but otherwise I'm pretty chill.

Last week I figured I would get hatey on the basis that this chick has been sleeping around, but today I figure I don't know her at all so I'll just let her neighbors and friends do that and instead I'll just focus on what she wrote, which like I said makes her guilty only of stupid parenting because it violates her kids' privacy.

This whole thing has totally jumped the shark. I wish ——ed in park slope hadn't turned into a porn site.
Oct. 28, 2010, 12:13 pm
Me says:
I'm guessing this column is in response to the last column, even though there is no mention of the last column.
Oct. 30, 2010, 1:38 pm
Jackson from Willowtown says:
Oct. 26, 9:40 am
daveinbedstuy from BS says:
What about a family where the wife is cheating on the husband???

What about a family where the husband is cheating on his Mexican wife with another man???
Oct. 30, 2010, 10:51 pm

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