As 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.
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.
Sometimes 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.