Time Off for Good Behavior

01kgrhqrhye1fhtyejibngwbyiznw0_3As a mother, I’m daily frustrated by my kids’ trickle down behavior-you know, using up all the good stuff with other people and saving the not so good for the home front. And I get it, because I do the same thing, and I bet you do too.

Just like we were all spectacular parents before we had kids, we’re all better parents when other people are around. We’re on our best parenting behavior. On a plane, in a restaurant, with other parents. Oh, if only we were always the parents others see–the mum with the patience to endlessly pick up the toy their toddler keeps throwing on the floor without hurling it across the room; the cool, calm collected mother who is able to repeatedly tell her toddler to stop kicking the plane seat without losing her shit. The smiling Saturday morning Dad in the park who gently encourages without asking how it is statistically possible to drop a ball 100% of the time. Those parents on the bus who calmly use logic and redirection and positive reinforcement, even though it’s the 67th tantrum of the day and they really want to get off and leave their kid on the bus.

What a relief then when you get home and you can let your gut hang out and tell your kids what you really think. Because man, it’s hard to be on your best parenting behavior for long periods of time. It takes a lot of work not to yell at your kids. It uses up a lot of energy to refrain from rolling your eyes. It takes a steady hand to avoid sarcastic. It’s exhausting.tumblr_mqi8elgIz51sn9lzco2_1280

We recently had friends come to stay with us. It was nice to catch up and to reminisce, to hang out, but it was nice too when we said goodbye and I could finally yell at my kids in peace.

None of use are perfect parents. We all lose patience, threaten to strip privileges, say things we really don’t mean. Just as our children can be whiny and teary and cranky after a day at school on their best behavior, after long periods of time spent with other people pretending to be more patient than I really am, I get cranky and whiny too.

The truth is: I yell at my kids. Not all the time, but I do. From time to time I say things that are not helpful or kind. Some probably even border on mean. I’ve called them not-so-nice names and have been known to question their intelligence levels. I’ve cursed, I’ve stomped, I’ve thrown things, (not at them, but still…). I’ve ignored them, pretended I didn’t realize the allotted hour of iPad time was up, given them hot dogs for dinner without any vegetables two nights in a row. I’ve taken money from one kid’s piggy bank to use at tooth fairy money and never replaced it. None of those things are going to prompt anyone to call child protective services on me (I hope), but they’re all the things I try really hard not to do when I’m around other people. You know, when I’m on my best parenting behavior.

bj-werner-1967-mugshot-fashion-ladySometimes you find a group of like-minded friends and you can let your hair down a little. Confess that why yes, just this morning you called you child an idiot and that no, you really don’t feel bad about it because he was being an idiot. That’s when you know you’ve found your parenting tribe. Stick with them. You need a group of friends you can parenting fart in front of. Because everybody farts. I mean yells, everybody yells…

If only you got time off for good behavior.

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17 thoughts on “Time Off for Good Behavior

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      1. The goal of perfect parenting was my thing. I had this ideal that seemed so easy to achieve, but in the long run it killed so much of my joy of parenting, eventually I figured it out. You seem to have had that figured out from the start.

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      2. Ha. You give me way too much credit. I think we all had a pedestal standing ideal of what kind of parent we would be–if we’re lucky we realize early on it ain’t gonna happen. The same way we all have an idea of what our children are going to be like. One of the harder parts of parenting is loving and raising the kids you’ve got, rather than the ones you wanted. Same goes for recognizing your strengths and weaknesses as a parent.

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  1. I feel like people how exercise endless patients with their kids, people who never yell, are doing their kids a disservice. That doesn’t prepare them for the real world. Kids need to learn, through social reinforcement (sometimes yelling) which behaviors are annoying.

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    1. My mother was a yeller. I had a pretty awesome childhood. I agree with you too, I think if you always hide anger and frustration from your kids then they never get a chance to see how someone deals with anger and frustration, that those are emotions everyone feels and they’re not the end of the world and there are things we can do to cope with those feelings. And sometimes yelling just feels good. 😉

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    1. It is. I was talking about it to a friend recently, the low level of awareness you are constantly maintaining in your brain–who is where and what needs to be done. I think that’s what is tiring and exhausting. Having to shove all of that over to give yourself your own headspace. BTW, I started Not Without My Father the other night and am LOVING it.

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  2. I actually think the parents who engage in endless discussion with their little kids about stuff they shouldn’t be doing are confusing the issue–and the kids. Nothing wrong with “because I said so” when you are talking to someone with an immature brain.

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    1. In my best parenting mode (evolved Mom form), I like to explain at least once. In my every day mode (normal Mom form) I’m silently wondering if they are out to get me by their refusal to understand what I’m telling them!

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  3. This rings so true for me in particular. I am now on point to watch my kids with my wife, the bread-winner. And sometimes I get unhinged, and just drop the parent thing altogether and talk to them like REALLY, what the fuck? Because I think they need that. And when I do they look up at me like I’m not following the script, they give me that look that’s part astonishment and embarrassment, but I rarely apologize for it. Sometimes…but then, I’m only apologizing for myself. The photos you chose for this are brilliant. That look of glazed detachment, just perfect.

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    1. Aren’t the photos great? I found them and fell in love with them. I think most kids cycle through pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing some more, pushing even more and then stunned silence when you stand there like a maniacal dictator taking away phones and iPads and other fun things. But they aren’t stupid–they recognize when that happens they’ve pushed too far and usually, for a day or two afterward, they’re quiet and grateful. And then the cycle starts again. I often say the hardest part of parenting is the obsessive compulsive strength you need to maintain consistency. I don’t think it exists outside of books.

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D.E. Haggerty

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