I Am A Better Parent When No One Is Watching

Caroline doesn’t know how to walk. She skips or runs or jumps or hops or flings herself forward in space with no concern for where she will land. Right now she mostly gallops, which often ends in tripping over her own feet while shouting “Mommy I’m galloping like a horse!”

Yesterday on the way to the car for school she galloped herself right onto her face, slamming into our brick walkway hard enough that she reacted with stunned silence instead of immediate tears. I reacted exactly the way you are supposed to, calmly and tenderly, scooping her up to quickly assess the damage without scaring her or focusing on her pain. I collected the things she had dropped and got her into her car seat before I grabbed my well-stocked first aid kit from my purse. I told her I was going to clean off her knee (which luckily was the only injury bad enough to need attention) and wiped it with an antibacterial wipe without ever mentioning that “it might sting a little”. Since I didn’t TELL her it might hurt, she didn’t even notice. I let her pick a bandage (big or little?) and help me unwrap it and stick it over the scrape. Then I suggested maybe her baby doll had gotten a scrape too, so we put a band-aid on Baby’s knee.

The whole thing took maybe 90 extra seconds and no one cried. When we got to preschool, she flung herself out of the car and galloped inside, having completely forgotten her booboo. I looked around my empty car and thought “Man, I wish someone had been recording that. I am an AWESOME parent right now.”

After school we had doctor’s appointments. Two for me – non-stress test and ultrasound – and Evan’s 5 year well-child visit. Both kids were fine through my visits (due 1% to my stern talking-to about how they needed to be quiet and calm and due 99% to the fact that I brought both iPads and the hospital has public wifi) but they were D O N E by the time we got to Evan’s check-up.

When the nurse asked Evan to take off his clothes and put on the paper gown he stomped his foot and said “I DON’T WANT TO”. I bent down to his level and simultaneously bribed and threatened him: “If you can be a good listener during your check-up we will go get ice cream AND cheeseburgers. If you are naughty you will go home and sit in your room with NO iPad.” He glared at me with his arms crossed while the nurse waiting and I wondered what good parents do in this situation.

It went down hill from there.

I lied about his finger poke, saying it didn’t hurt at all (it does and I used to freak out even more than he did when I was little). When he flailed and screamed I held him down and said “KNOCK IT OFF YOU ARE FINE!” instead of being calm and understanding. I did a lot of clenched-teeth hiss-whispering after the nurse left, but none of it worked. When the doctor came in he wouldn’t cooperate, wouldn’t hold still, wouldn’t be quiet. I alternated between standing back and helplessly doing nothing and getting right in his face to threaten/bribe as he cringed.

The whole time I was acutely aware of how I looked, how I came across as a mother, what the whole office staff was thinking about me. What they said when they left the room or after I had dragged the kids out to the car. I am sure none of it was good.

I think it’s that self-conscious awareness that makes me a better mother when I am alone. It’s the opposite of the stereotypical dysfunctional family – we appear to be a mess in public but at home, behind closed doors, I am calm and understanding and loving.

(Don’t get me wrong, we are a yell-y kind of family. There is often yelling. especially when my children have occasional bouts of deafness after being asked to pick up the Legos or go put on their jammies or to PLEASE JUST STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHER.)

But without the scrutiny of strangers to judge my behavior (or more accurately, my children’s behavior) I am more confident in my parenting. When I lose my temper or get to the end of my rope I can regroup and reassess without anyone watching. Of course, it also means I can just IGNORE them when they are horrible, instead of dealing with it. But that also gives me more time to think about what I am doing, instead of reacting with something, ANYTHING to just make them stop.

I’m about ready to move to that commune my friends and I joke about, where we raise goats and co-parent everyone’s kids and no one judges you if your 3 year old throws herself on the ground screaming because you wouldn’t let her bring SEVEN different stuffed animals/dolls to the store. Again.

Although even commune-living would require trips to Target, so I don’t think parenting entirely unjudged is ever possible. I can only dream.


Tags: , , , ,

9 Responses to “I Am A Better Parent When No One Is Watching”

  1. Audrey says:

    hahahha, don’t worry the office staff is looking at your preggo self and thinking “here is a mom who has a lot on her plate and is doing the best she can right now”. They see it all.

  2. Julie S. says:

    I 110% am with you on this. Kids are unpredictable, and so are our reactions! :) The good thing is that it’s not a contest– we are in it together. My kids totally do that stuff to, especially the touching each other thing to get attention and then I get yelly.

  3. Miranda says:

    Yep, yep, yep! I feel this. I am forever and always grateful for the moms who throw me a head nod of solidarity when the chaos reaches maximum capacity at the supermarket checkout. Forever grateful.

  4. OHHH, I can so relate to this. When my kids freak out in public I tend to just go in survival mode, trying to just get done whatever I need to get done so I can leave as soon as humanly possible. I don’t even TRY to be a good parent in those moments, I hiss whatever threats or bribes I think might actually be effective. I also do the “I’m leaving without you NO REALLY I’M LEAVING WITHOUT YOU” routine as they run away from me giggling. Ugh.
    P.S. You are an amazing mom! And thank you for saying you are a yell-y family, I have been beating myself up about it lately so it’s nice to know the internet is not only comprised of calm, patient moms. It just feels like it sometimes.

    • bebehblog says:

      A friend of mine mentioned on her blog at least 2 years ago that they are a yell-y kind of family and I literally think about it almost every time I yell. I have real-life friends that literally never, ever raise their voice and I admire them a lot…but the truth is I am yell-y, and I don’t think that’s going to change (or do any serious, permanent damage).

  5. Amanda B says:

    Madison went bat shit crazy in an Old Navy about a year ago. She knocked over displays, she almost tipped her baby sister out of the shopping cart, she threw herself on the floor, she screamed, she yelled she hated me. Brandon had the car at the other side of the giant shopping plaza so I stood there in a dumbfounded stupor. I stepped over her, called Brandon, and waited. People watched, stared. It sucked. Even more so because it was over a damn pair of flip flops that she wanted but they didn’t have in her size. Kids suck sometimes.

  6. Kristi says:

    This is my life. I swear no one (especially my husband) sees the good moments when I am kicking a** as a mother. But, I feel like my worst moments are in public or around others that I know (or at least feel like) are judging me. Good to know we are all doing this together…

  7. Barbra says:

    Something strange happened to me yesterday. Knox threw a massive meltdown – violent, screaming, totally unaware of himself or the world around him kind of meltdown. We are moving across the state, his world has been turned upside down with daddy living far away for a couple months and the only home he knows has been torn apart (major renovation and moving). He is highly sensitive in the best of times, and has sensory processing difficulties, not to mention power issues due to his medical complexities. His major meltdowns are not typical three year old meltdowns (even if they are caused by the same “I don’t wanna leave the park” or wrong color cup reasons).
    Anyway, he didn’t want to leave the park and flew into a rage that I couldn’t control. I got on the ground next to him and whispered that he could walk or I would carry him. He didn’t respond so I picked him up and started carrying him home (five blocks!). I was purposefully not making eye contact with anyone because I knew they were staring. He was screaming get away from me and don’t touch me while flailing and hitting. I was so embarassed and afraid someone would call the police.
    As I was leaving the park entrance, a woman came up to me and said, good job mama, you’re doing the right thing with a smile. That gave me the strength to keep going, keep carrying him all five blocks to the house and I outlasted his 45 minute episode without losing my cool.
    I thought about that encounter all evening. Made me wonder if people really aren’t judging as much as we think they are? When I see a mom struggling in a store I don’t think poorly of her or her children. Your post is timely for me – I really think we need to cut ourselves more slack. Raising kids is hard and WE ALL KNOW THIS.

  8. Amy says:

    I am looking for commune land in another tab right now.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge