Sometimes, parents start out having their first child, and they work hard to do as much as they can to raise a healthy, happy well behaved child. And, to their pleasure, it works. They go out in public with that child and people marvel at how well behaved he or she is. They get compliments from strangers on their parenting. They begin to think they are pretty good at this parenting thing. These parents see other children out in stores who have meltdowns in public, and think to themselves that those parents probably do not do the same parenting techniques that they do at home. If only they practiced good parenting, then they too would have a well behaved child who would be complimented by strangers in the mall.
These parents know all about awesome parenting. Then, they have child number two. They do all the same awesome parenting techniques, but this time, their child is not as well behaved as child number one. This child tries to run away at the store and shrieks loudly when he or she is told it is time to go home. They were used to getting looks of wonderment from strangers and now they are getting looks of irritation from the awesome parents who have children who would never behave in such a way. Then they start to look at the children screaming in the mall a little differently. Maybe it is not about awesome parenting after all. Maybe the temperament of the child is part of the mix. Sure, there are parenting practices that are better than others. But, a well behaved child is not simply the result of awesome parenting, but a combination of parenting, temperament, and time of day. We all try our best as parents and sometimes our children are the ones people compliment and sometimes they receive the annoyed looks. None of us are really that awesome as parents. We do the best we can, and hopefully, we look at the parents with the screaming child with a look of solidarity. They are not giving in to the screams to prevent the looks of annoyance. Those parents may be feeling like they want to melt into the floor
because none of us like to be the ones on the receiving end of righteous
stares. Thanks to them, their child is less likely to become an adult who screams to get what he or she wants.
If Capri had been our first child, we may have fallen into the awesome parenting trap. She has never had a true public meltdown. Ever. She has had small private ones every once in a blue moon. She learned to use the potty pretty easily. We could have thought it was the result of our great parenting. But, we have the experience of having four at once, some of whom have had epic public meltdowns, the kind that made us want to melt into the floor and be invisible until it was over. Having four different personalities side by side in our home has given us a true appreciation for the joys and struggles that parents face. We have been recipients of dozens of compliments from strangers about our ‘well behaved children.’ We have also received the looks of annoyance that suggest that perhaps we have too many children and they are out of control. They may be thinking that they could give us some awesome parenting advice. Rather than judging, let’s do something to make the world a little more awesome. We can bring a meal to a friend who is working long hours or give a date night to some busy parents we know. We can smile at the busy parents around us and they may be more likely to smile at someone else. While giving back may never seem convenient, it helps us to be a community…and that’s awesome.