This is a companion post to Why Don't You Homeschool.
It occurred to me that there is another reason asking some questions has become taboo or even inconsiderate -- particularly to moms. Judgement can come from the outside, but it also comes, quite loudly, from within. Asking a mother who is already unsure of herself why she doesn't breast feed exclusively, for instance, can serve as a trigger for her, opening her up to torment and guilt. It is not at all unusual for a mother, even a seasoned one, to feel intense inadequacy in her call, and you drawing attention to these inadequacies will sound exactly the same to her as her own damning thoughts. It doesn't necessarily matter if that was not your intention.
Questions like this generally require relationship. Within relationships we can grow to understand each other's sensitivities and anticipate them. We can grow certain of each other's motives and appreciate them. We have room to be hurt in a way that leads to our good. We have room also to be patient and careful beyond what seems necessary.
What might this look like practically?
Well, I remember a time I had to go to the market. I had three children, and I didn't usually take them out to the store because it was difficult and unpredictable. This particular time I went ahead and tried. When we got there, we had to go to the service desk for something, and the cashier gave each of the children a lolly pop. This was fine. They all unwrapped their pops, and we went on. Then, a minute or two later, Charlotte declared she had to use the bathroom and couldn't wait. So, we all go back to the bathroom. (Once we got in I think the other two decided they had to go too.) Now, I had a dilemma: what do we do with the unwrapped pops in this nasty public bathroom? I decided everyone had to throw them out. Take one last lick. The younger two protested for a second but didn't really mind. Chris, however, was furious.
I expected him to become agitated, but this was beyond that. If I had had more experience with his outbursts at this point, I would've been better able to identify the cues of pending disaster. I will never forget being in the produce section, picking out some strawberries, when he completely lost his mind. I calmly put the groceries that were in our cart away (I don't know why I felt the need to do that), and then got us out of the store. I looked at the faces of those standing near us, those we passed by, expecting a knowing smile. I expected encouragement -- and needed it. I received none. All I received was side-glances and rolled eyes.
I could have handled things better. Duh! I could have rejected the pops when they were offered. I could have asked if the kids had to use the bathroom before we opened the pops, or I could have asked them to go before we left the house. I could have let them keep the lolly pops or found a way to keep them clean. I should have known how to handle a breakdown. I should have been better prepared.
I didn't need anyone to tell me this. I needed someone to smile.
I have since experienced this kind, knowing smile many times. I have given it, too, many times. Often, an older mother or grandmother smiles and somehow lets me know I'm doing alright as I flail and ruin everything.