I’m not sure I can write this post without sounding a little judgmental.
I sent my two older kids to school this morning and I breathed a tiny sigh of relief, but also was a little sad to send them back. Mostly because I will miss not having to get out of bed at a certain time every day.
Anyway, so, I decided to take advantage of just having one kid with me, and I went to the grocery store. One kids seems like a breeze now. As I was checking out, I heard this awful kid scream. You know, the kind where you whip your head around to see who is abusing their child? Well, across the store, I heard this dad (I’m assuming) yelling at a toddler to come to him. Meanwhile, the toddler is somewhere where I can’t see him screaming his head off still. About what, I’m not sure.
I tried not to stare and looked at my happy baby in the shopping cart and was happy that it wasn’t me. My first thought whenever I see a kid throwing a tantrum in a store is, “That poor parent”. And, I try really really hard not to judge.
But, then I got out to the parking lot.
As I was loading my groceries into my car, I see this man (probably 20 something) with the above mentioned toddler and he is now in a stroller, but obviously still upset. Tears are streaming down his tiny face and he is sobbing. The man is obviously pissed. He is yelling at this little boy to shut up over and over. And, he is talking to him in such a hateful way that it makes my skin crawl.
I wanted to run over and snatch that little boy away and take him home with me and tell him that it’s OK. He’s wonderful. He is precious, and sweet, and adorable. Something told me this kid doesn’t hear that kind of talk too much.
I watched as the man circled back over to where I was, and got to his car. Sitting in the car were 3 other twenty something men. Thugs. I mean, I don’t know if they were REALLY thugs, but the looks on their faces….I don’t know, they just looked thuggish. And, the fact that they were all looking thuggish made me sad this little boy was stuck with them all day.
Now, I don’t know this guy’s story. I don’t know the story of the thugs either. But, I know that speaking to a child the way he was speaking to his kid is harmful. It damages their innocent spirit inside them. I couldn’t help but hurt for that little boy and think he was destined for similar thug-like behavior.
But, then I thought, “We all have a cycle to break.”
Who knows, maybe that is the only way he was ever spoken to as a child.
The one I am desperately trying to break is that same behavior I saw in that man. Except, not nearly to the extreme. I have never yelled shut up at my kids. I try really hard to watch my tone in public. And, I’m trying even harder to watch my tone at home.
When no one is watching.
But, there is always a cycle. I was raised with yelling in my house. It was normal. But, I don’t want to raise my kids in a house like that.
But, kids are kids. They annoy you. They ignore you. They don’t obey. They make messes on accident and on purpose. They start to lie. They learn to manipulate. They know your hot buttons and they learn to push them. They have strong wills. They say mean things. They act out just to see your reaction. Need I go on?
I think parenting isn’t about what we teach our kids as much as what we need to learn as parents. I would even go as far as saying that parents (no offense to my child-less friends out there who are really good people) are being trained by their kids to become better members of society in general.
But, you have to do the work. Because, not all parents are good parents.
And, it’s a lot of work. Every. Single. Day.
If I had a way of measuring the amount of restraint I’ve used in my 6 years of being a parent…. The level of patience I’ve acquired…. The selfless love I’m still learning to use effectively. I would probably feel a lot better about myself.
But, unfortunately, there is no voice telling us, “Congratulations, Meredith! You are now 25% more patient than you were last year thanks to the horrible temper tantrum you just endured by your 3 year old in the grocery store with grace and style” Because there is no such thing. A tangible measure of good parenting doesn’t exist.
All we have are those little faces looking back at us. Are they happy? Do they smile more than they cry? Do they say, “I love you, Mommy” even when they don’t need or want something? Are they becoming good people themselves? When they aren’t being bratty at home, are they being kind to someone else? Do people ever tell us that our kids are so well behaved? Do they spend hours drawing on boxes and playing together happily in them?
If we can answer yes to any of those. Then, MAYBE, just maybe, we are doing alright.