We just concluded a play date with a friend from Noah’s and Luke’s preschool class this morning. Gabe is a sweet little guy whose energy level matches that of my own children so they get along like three amigos. They were all sweating and running around the yard, building Lego towers, chowing down on chicken nuggets and having a riot. And it’s awesome because Noah and Gabe will both be in kindergarten at the same school this fall. I am crossing my fingers that they’ll be in the same classroom as well.
Gabe and his family were just blessed with their second child, Oliver earlier this year and as most second-born children are, he was a little angel. I kept forgetting he was even here. It’s probably because of Jeanne, Gabe and Oliver’s mom. She is one of those people whose spirit I wish I could embody all the time. I’ve never heard her say a mean word about anyone. She appears so calm and easy-going. Even when she was walking around the back yard with Oliver in his baby carrier, she just looked relaxed (meanwhile, I sweated and reprimanded Noah for being sassy to Luke). Which is why I found it to be such a relief when she said she struggles with patience at times and she worries about many of the same things I do. Although I didn’t see her once raise her voice because Gabe was behaving so well, I have no doubt that Jeanne has trying moments just like I do.
Earlier this year, I wrote that my New Year’s resolution was to make my home a loving haven for my kids. It kind of makes me laugh some days because I catch myself needing a time out myself when I hit that overwhelming feeling of discouragement. I’m not even angry with just the kids. I am angry at myself for not being better at this. I read so many articles on “Working with a Strong-willed Child,” or “How to Empower Your Child,” etc. They make it seem so easy! I even think, “Yeah, I can do that!” But something else just happens in the heat of the moment…
I secretly love it when I hear a parent flip out on their kids at a store. Not in a physically or verbally abusive manner (well, not too verbal anyway), but it brings me an inappropriate level of satisfaction when I hear a mom or dad yell from the next aisle over, “What is wrong with you?” or “Just wait until we get home!” or “NO! NO SPECIAL TREAT!” or “Do not even think about touching your sister again! Don’t even look at her!” My personal favorite is a stress-induced stutter which I frequently suffer when I am at a total loss for coherence or a smart remark which doesn’t involve swearing to halt the bad behavior. It’s like all those good-parenting tips, constructive disciplinary tactics and extensive research about the damaging effects of saying, “no” to your kids go right out the window when you’ve reached that point of no return.
On some level, it’s music to my ears. It’s like verses of the Frustrated Parents’ Anthem when I hear someone else freaking out on their kids. We all get to that point. I’m going to just call you out and say you’re a liar if you tell me you don’t. I think of parenthood as a common denominator in many ways with the rest of society, or at least the people with children. Maybe we don’t all parent the same way, but I am willing to put money on the fact that we all go through the same emotions triggered by mischievous behavior or having to repeat ourselves ten times. We’ve all been there no matter how well-behaved our kids are.
My cousin’s wife and I were talking this morning and as we were talking, she discovered her two-year-old daughter had taken a lime green marker and a permanent marker and drawn all over the walls and a heat register on the floor. I could feel her frustration and anger through the phone. Because I have also had this happen or something very similar. So her stifled expletives were just a refreshing validation to me that yes, even this wonderful mom with adorable, well-mannered children feels like this now and again.
You’re not a bad mom or dad if you yell at your kids or if you don’t give choices when discipling. And you’re not a bad parent if you don’t yell or do give choices. You’re still ok in my book even if you spank your kids on occasion. I have spanked my kids before when they have done something potentially harmful or life-threatening to themselves or someone else. It’s not beating. To me, it’s a quick effective way to get your child’s attention and to let them know that their action was a poor choice. We also talk about it afterward. I let them know I still love them and I explain why they were punished. I don’t think you’re a bad parent if you don’t spank your kids either. I know a mom who has her kids do wall-sits while they think about what they’ve done. It’s all about what works for you.
The only time I think you can fail as a parent is when you stop trying to be one; when you walk away and quit. And I haven’t met anyone like that. Just waking up every day and trying to be a mom or dad and to be present in your children’s lives qualifies you as a good parent. I don’t think we prove anything to anyone by pretending that parenting is a breeze or that we never get frustrated. It doesn’t make me doubt that you love your kids just because you yell at them or complain about them. It makes me feel like I’m not losing my mind. So THANK YOU to all you normal parents, for losing your sh*t now and again. I salute you.