Why I Won’t Judge

DSC03064 (2)A mother in Mississippi is dealing with the devastating loss of her 2-year-old tonight. She forgot her child in her car and went to work. So many may say, “How could she do that?” So many may feel compelled to judge.  All I could do was feel sadness as tears welled up in my eyes.  I just want to hug her.  I came so very close to being her.

You can read the story here.

As for my story:  It was one of the first warm days of the year in Atlanta.  The summer heat was still a month or two away, but the winter cold was definitely behind us. I was working a demanding job at The Weather Channel.  I had an infant and a 2 year old.  My baby girls each went to different pre-schools because the one we wanted to ultimately have them attend only accepted children starting at 2 years old.  My morning routine consisted of getting two small children ready for a day away from me, dropping the first at one place, and the second at a school several miles away.  The upside was the second drop off was right across the street from TWC.

On this morning, I was completely distracted by work. I had so much to do.  I dropped my first baby girl at school, with kisses and hugs, and the normal amount of anxiety on both our parts. The women at the front were busy cooing over my youngest baby as the goodbye between us took place.  Wrapping that up, I grabbed my baby’s car seat, said goodbye to everyone and off I went to the second drop-off.  Only this time, I missed that drop-off.  I drove straight to work.  I started to gather my things when I noticed the diaper bag on the front seat.  I couldn’t believe I forgot to give it to my baby’s teachers.  That is when I realized, I hadn’t given my baby to them either!

I turned to see my sweet baby sleeping away in her seat.  I started to shake, thinking how close I had come to the worst moment of my life.  I sat there and cried, while sending a text to my boss that I was going to be late. I couldn’t stop sobbing, and I hadn’t even really left her in the car.  I took her to her destination, and the women inside hugged and consoled me.  They told me it was ok, that I wasn’t a bad mom, that everything worked out.  They promised that if I didn’t show up ever, they would call to make sure no mistakes had happened.  However, we all knew I wouldn’t ever face this again, because the trauma of ALMOST was enough for me to be diligent in the future. I was thankful I had left the diaper bag on the front seat, and did that every day we still had that diaper bag in use.

I share this story because this moment in my life made me realize how easy it is to make mistakes.  My mistake just led to tears on my part, and a lifetime of guilt, but nothing tragic.  Other people’s mistakes lead to tragedy. Like the story above here, or the school teacher whose husband thought she was taking the baby to school, but she thought he was.  He put the sleeping baby in her van, but she didn’t know.  Their child died that day.  My heart still breaks for them.

My mistake led me to an understanding toward other parents.  We don’t all do it the same way, have the same rules, or believe in the same methods, but many, no most, of us are trying our best to do the correct thing.  We want healthy, strong, independent people to go out into the world after we are done.  We want them to know they are loved and always have a place, and people, to turn to when in need.

I’ve taken judgment out of the equation when hearing about other parents’ rules or beliefs. I’ve taken judgment off the table when I see a child without shoes on, especially after meeting one who will throw shoes in the garbage to avoid wearing them. I have learned that in my imperfections, and boy do I have many, I should always accept others’.

There is one exception, of course, and that is when it comes to intent.  Several years ago, in the Atlanta area, a dad left his boy in the car all day while he was at work.  The little boy usually went to a daycare at Dad’s work, but this day his Dad “forgot” him in the car.  I stood up fiercely for that dad.  I told anyone who would listen the story I told you here.  I waited for all the facts.  Then, I got them all.  The dad had done it on purpose.  I will never understand that, and will not be able to ever find understanding for that man or others like him.  Harm a child on purpose, and I’m sorry to say, my judgment returns.

However, the rest of you… you are doing just fine.

Finding Faith

Most people I know have memories of getting up early on Sunday morning, getting dressed for church, and heading off for service or Sunday School.  My memories of Sunday morning are slightly different.  My mom worked 3 jobs most of my childhood.  Therefore, I went to church with whatever babysitter had me that weekend. If I was home, I got on a small blue bus and went to Sunday School on my own.

I was exposed to religions all along the Christianity spectrum.  From Episcopalian to Methodist and everywhere in between, I learned that many people had different ideas on how to honor God and Christ.  However, the underlying story was pretty consistent.  God created us all, and gave us his Son to die for our sins.  I always had the idea that Heaven and Hell existed.  I knew the Bible and I even own one that my mom gave me when I graduated college.  It is a Precious Moments Bible….please don’t be jealous.  My Bible is very, very precious.

When I left home for college, I began to meet so many different people who walked in different faiths.  Jews, Muslims, Agnostics… you name it.  I, of course, also met those who didn’t…you know…Atheists.  I must say, whoever put these people in my path knew what He or She was doing.  I love so many people who do not agree one bit with all the different churches I attended.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I met many more Christians, but I got really curious.

I even took a religious studies class, and my world opened like a big part in the sea.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)  I learned about Eastern religions as well, and my mind was blown.  How is it that billions of people, who are smart and so very kind, all believe different things?

Then, my Grandpa died.  I’m hoping you have never experienced that type of loss, but if you have you know, my world fell apart for a while.  When I found out he had cancer and had just days to live, I lost my way. I was just starting my senior year of college. He ended up living for 9 more months, thankfully.  I treasured every minute I could.  I wanted to take a year off college, but that stubborn old man wouldn’t let me.  “I’ll be there for your graduation, so you need to graduate.” He started a downward spiral my second semester and I was so scared.  I almost flunked out of college.  I’m not sure if my family knew that.  I did not care. What was more important than being with him? Did no one understand that going to class felt artificial?

I spent my senior year Spring Break at the hospital with him.  To this day, Florida beaches and drinking sound ridiculous compared to those hours.  I mean, I loved him so much.  How could he go? He looked bad that week.  He was weak.  The last day, he told me he was going to be at my graduation, so I better graduate.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him I probably wouldn’t.  I went back to school, and a week later he died.

I couldn’t do it, guys. I was devastated.  I actually think I was irritatingly loud, sobbing at his memorial service.  I have a memory of my family losing patience with me, but I couldn’t control myself.

The man who stepped up and fathered me, showed me there was nothing more important than a Chicago Cubs or Bears game, depending on the time of year, and told me to make a life for myself before making one with someone else… that man was gone. He was never going to walk me down the aisle. He wasn’t going to meet my children.

I was driving back to school when I got this overwhelming feeling of complete disappointment.  I felt it so strong.  I was going to fail college, and he was going to know.  He would haunt me, y’all, I swear it.  If you knew him, you wouldn’t even question that statement.  He would start rattling stuff until it fell and scared the bejeebus out of me.

I made a decision on that ride home.  I was going to meet with each of my professors and see what it would take to ensure I graduated.  I was pretty sure I would be able to pull most grades up, but there was one… well, I had no hope.

I walked into that professor’s office that week, and I was still very raw.  I took a deep breath and asked what I could do to pass his class.  He asked why I thought he should give me a shot.  I started to cry, and promised him that I did not expect the tears to change his mind, but I couldn’t help it.  I told him that my Grandfather had just died, and he had made me promise I would graduate on time.  I told this professor that I would take every test over and write as many reports as I needed to, just to prove I was serious.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of not at least trying to live up to my Grandpa’s expectations of me.  If I failed, then fine, but I had to try.  This kind professor stopped me.  He told me he just lost his wife.  He said he knew loss.  He was going to give me a shot. This moment in time was one that solidified there was a bigger plan for me. How was it this professor and I both knew loss in the same moment I needed him to understand my failures?

That shot, by the way, was not easy.  Just because he lost his wife, he wasn’t going to let me off that easily.  I had so much work to do, but to this day I am thankful.  I don’t look back and think…I got a free ride.  He expected more of me than anyone.  I had more work than anyone.  I deserved all of it.  I also passed.  I only got a C, but I passed.

On my graduation day, I felt a wave go through me, as I noticed a beam of sunlight come in through a window high in the auditorium.  I can tell you to this day, I don’t know with absolute certainty what that was, but I would like to believe it was Grandpa. I would like to believe he WAS there to watch me graduate.

That is where I found my Faith.  I still do not know who is correct in organized religion.  I can’t pretend to know it all.  If I have to put a label on my beliefs, I guess I would say I’m Agnostic. However, like billions of others, I have Faith.  While I do talk to a God every day, my Grandpa is the one I talk to the most.  I so badly hope he can hear me.  I hope I’ll see him again, in Heaven.  Though if there is one, I’m not sure they let him in yet.  I may need to do the talking.