Am I the toxic one? That’s a question I ask myself often. It’s also a question that I think we should all be asking ourselves and being honest with the answer.
Recently, I had to take a step back and get really honest with myself by asking, “Am I the toxic one.” The answer was “yes” because I realized I was being incredibly judgmental towards another mom.
A few months ago, my son and I were out eating lunch. He kept saying a child’s name over and over and telling me that child when to “Big Boy School” with him. It took me a minute to realize he was saying that she was in the restaurant.
Once I realized that, I asked him if he wanted to go say “hi.” My son is a lot more extroverted than I am and I try to foster that, even when it takes me out of my comfort zone. He jumped up to go say, “hi” and asked me to go with him.
The mother of the little girl was very friendly and asked for my phone number to plan a play date for our kids. A few weeks later, I was glad that I had her phone number because my husband accidentally went to work with my car keys.
I needed to get my son to preschool. So, I called her, and she kindly agreed to come pick us up. On the short drive there and back, all I could think about was how different she and I are based on the conversation. I remember thinking that I hoped she never asked to do a play date with our kids.
Well, she did, and I agreed because my son really wanted to play with her daughter. The play date was incredibly awkward for me because again, she and I are very different.
Table of Contents
Am I the Toxic One?
This is where I avoided the truth to the question, “Am I the toxic one.” I definitely was, but I didn’t see that yet. It’s hard to catch ourselves in the midst of being judgmental, especially for me because that’s what I was taught as a child.
During the play date, I asked the mother if her daughter played any sports because my son had just wrapped up his t-ball and soccer seasons. Her response was that her daughter would never play sports that were outside.
I was puzzled by this because it’s so opposite of how I am. She told me that she doesn’t like to be outside. So, she couldn’t let her daughter play a sport that requires her to sit outside to watch her.
Now, before you start jumping to judge her, please keep in mind that I am writing about my honesty with the question, “Am I the toxic one.” I remember thinking how absurd it was that she wouldn’t let her child play sports and didn’t like being outside. So, be careful of being toxic here and judging her as I did.
There were several other things the mother said that illustrated our drastic differences personally and in the ways that we raise our children. I left hoping that she wouldn’t ever ask to do another play date.
Well, she did and the next week we were on another play date, much to my dismay. Again, my son loves playing with her daughter. I think it’s important to do play dates for kids. They need connection just like we do.
The second play date felt even more torturous for me. It was at an indoor gym. My son was wearing mismatch clothes because he has picked out his clothes since before he turned two-years old. I allow him to wear whatever he wants to wear.
Not only that, but he rarely wears shoes. The only time I make him wear shoes is if we are going to a public place that requires it. At the indoor gym, he runs around jumping on trampolines, climbing ladders, and swinging on ropes. No need for shoes, in my opinion.
The mother made a comment about my son being barefoot because she said that she struggles with her daughter when she won’t wear her house shoes. She said that since she was a little girl, she needs to keep her socks looking pretty and not ruin them by wearing them without house shoes inside the home.
Please remember again that I am writing to explore, “Am I the toxic one.” If you are judging this mother, ask yourself the same question. In the moment, I was so full of judgment towards her.
Even after the play date, I still wasn’t asking myself, “Am I the toxic one.” Instead, I called a friend to vent about how awful it was to have to spend time with this mother because we were so different. I even said that I was going to do everything I could to avoid another play date because it’s so uncomfortable for me.
I Was the Toxic One
Guess what? After several days had passed, I answered the question, “Am I the toxic one” honestly. Without a doubt, I was the toxic one. I had to step back and realize that I wanted to teach my child to be accepting of others.
How am I supposed to teach him to be accepting of others if I am not portraying that through my own actions and words? Admitting I was being toxic hit me hard because it took me back to my childhood.
My mother did exactly what I was doing to my son. I remember numerous times when my mother would act as if she were great friends with somebody when she was in front of them. As soon as we were away from them, she would bash them. I did not learn anything positive about accepting others.
Here I was doing exactly what I vowed I would never do with my son. I was teaching him to judge others. That makes me sick to my stomach.
Accepting others is something I had prided myself on teaching to my son. This just goes to show that what was ingrained in us as children can pop up so quickly without us even realizing it. That was a tough moment for me as a mother.
Owning your mistakes is hard. Saying “yes” to “Am I the toxic one” seems to be even harder for me with this situation. I’ve worked so hard to teach my son how to be non-judgmental.
There I was doing everything but teaching him how to be non-judgmental. I can’t even begin to explain how hard this hit me. When it comes to owning your mistakes, I feel like I am good at that for the most part.
However, this was different because admitting that I was doing something toxic like my mother made me ashamed of myself. Many of us parents vow to never do the unhealthy things to our children that were done to us.
If I were to pick the main thing that I wanted to do differently than my mom, it would be teaching my son how to be non-judgmental. Since I realized I was the toxic one and I was not teaching my child about accepting others, I have spent a lot of time processing it all.
Unhealthy Patterns Ingrained from Childhood
What I realized was that this mother triggered a lot in me. My mother is incredibly concerned about appearances and what others think about her. There were several comments the mother of this little girl made that reminded me of my own mother.
That shows me that I have some more work to do on that and I will. Here’s where I am with it for now. I can see that the mother of that child is different than me. Her priorities and ways of living for herself and her child are different than mine.
That does not make her wrong or bad in any way. In order for me to practice how to be non-judgmental, I thought I should find common ground with her. That common ground is our love for our children and desire for them to thrive and have connections with other children.
I can even go so far as to say that she has me beaten on that. I’m introverted and prefer to spend my time with my son, being just with the two of us. However, my sweet, angel baby is highly introverted.
This mother is doing a better job at trying to provide connections for her child because she initiated the play dates each time. I can appreciate and respect that. Not only that, but I can learn from her.
She is forcing me out of my comfort zone by inviting us to play dates because I typically only do play dates with a couple of moms whom I know well and have similar views on raising our kids.
Shifting into Positive Energy
Now, I wrote everything above in this post early this morning. I just sat back down to finish it. The question “Am I the toxic one” and the echoes of recognizing that I had behaved like my mother were screaming. I knew I needed to do something to correct it.
I texted the mother of the little girl and asked them to join us at the park for a play date. Yes, I mentioned that she doesn’t like to be outside, but our first date was at the park so I thought she might be okay with it.
As soon as they walked up, I found myself feeling softer towards the mother. I was allowing myself to get to know her and not just focusing on our differences. I think that’s one of the important things to do when practicing how to be non-judgmental.
For myself, when I felt like I was being accepting of others whom were different than me, I did just that. I accepted them, but I didn’t really shift into a softer energy. Today was different for me. I let go of the judgmental voice of my mother.
The slides at the playground had a little bit of water and dirt at the bottom of them and the mother told her daughter not to slide down them because she’d get dirty. Any other day I would’ve just thought, “They’re kids. We’re at a park and kids gets should get dirty.”
Instead, I just thought, “Well let’s see how we can problem solve for her to still be able to play on the slides but honor her mother’s wishes of her not getting dirty.” Well, my son beat me to it.
He loudly announces that he’ll slide down and clean the dirt and water off so that she can slide. Off he went with a proud smile. The little girl followed him down the somewhat freshly cleaned slide.
Now, the little girl still got dirty, but I saw a shift in her mother. She didn’t seem to be bothered as much that her daughter had gotten a little dirty once she saw my son with a soaking wet and incredibly dirty butt.
As they continued to play, there were other differences that I was aware of but my reaction to the differences was different. I wasn’t coming from a judgmental place anymore. I actually enjoyed watching the kids play and also seeing their differences didn’t matter to each other.
Allowing Others to Be As They Are
My son has very little fear. He stood up in his swing to swing. At the other play dates, the mother was telling my son that the things he was doing were dangerous. This time was different.
She told my son that he was so brave to try swinging standing up. I don’t know what was going on in her mind, but I felt a huge change from previous times. This is not to say that her change was a result of my doing some personal work on this.
I don’t know what created the change, but there was definitely a change. We will probably have more play dates for our kids because they enjoy it. Maybe I’ll even be able to talk to her about how I initially judged her.
Owning Your Mistakes
I think that would be healing for me to be able to do that. As I said earlier, owning your mistakes is hard. I don’t think it would be hard for me to have this conversation with her, but I do think I’d need to spend a little more time with her before doing so.
Admitting that I had been toxic really was beneficial to me. Not only that, but doing my own personal work will ALWAYS benefit my son. He will learn better ways of accepting others.
Changing toxic generational cycles is HARD! As I mentioned earlier, these kinds of things get ingrained in us and it’s hard to do things in a healthier way all the time. If you have struggled with this, I encourage you to read my post 3 Steps for Parenting Yourself (Breaking Generational Cycles).
So, allow yourself to get really honest from time to time and ask yourself, “Am I the toxic one.” If so, don’t beat yourself up for it. Instead, use it as an invitation to go deeper into your healing journey.
If you don’t have a licensed therapist who can help guide you on your healing journey and you need one, check out my post 5 Steps for Finding a Good Therapist. I wish you such peace and love as you navigate how you can do things in a healthier way than what you may have been taught.
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.