Confession: There was a period in my life where I read etiquette books for fun. Not for a class or to prepare for a job interview or an upcoming social gathering, but just because. You might think it’s weird and that’s fine. If you know me personally, you might think “wellllllll, what did you learn, exactly?” because I’m socially awkward a lot of times. It probably is considered weird to most people nowadays, but social rules and manners have just always interested me. But hey, I do NOT consider myself to be perfect, WHATSOEVER. In fact, now that I have my own kids to ‘train’, I’m even more aware of how many flaws I have. Or maybe these things have always been there and have just worsened since having kids. I can’t really be sure, but all I know is that I need work.
For instance, being that I’m in constant “training” mode with my own kids, I’m always using other people and situations as examples of how to act. I use good and bad examples, mind you, which could be a helpful tool if I knew when and how to use it and also if I didn’t take my “policing” too far. Like, if I notice a child being kind, I’ll mention it to Maddie while it’s fresh in her mind, “Maddie, look how nice that girl is being to her little brother.” and somehow tie it into her relationship with Jack. She’ll say, “Yeah Mom, what a nice girl!” Not bad. But all this backfires on me when I point out rude behavior. Maddie just repeats me, LOUDLY, an often while in eye contact with the offender. “Yeah Mom, that girl ignored me and that was rude!” POINTING FINGER. Yeah, Maddie, and that was rude to do everything you just did! Facepalm. I’ve learned to save those ‘negative’ teaching moments for when those people are out of earshot.
I try not to nag my kids constantly, don’t get me wrong, and they are pretty well behaved for the most part. Moral training is really one of the hardest things about parenting for me though, because of situations like I just described. And when your kids are the ones acting up, how do you know which things are acceptable to “let slide”? After all, you don’t want to be on their case constantly. And if you do let things slide, will your kids take it and run next time they have the opportunity? Then you have to discipline them when it’s basically your fault for not handling the situation last time. Blahhhh, it’s tough. It’s like science.
I said before that sometimes I can take things too far. Let me just explain what happened a few weeks ago in Target. I was in the dressing room and there was one other person in there with me. By her voice, I could tell that she was young, probably about 9, and she was just flat out SCREAMING at her dad. It still makes me cringe, thinking of how disrespectful she was being to him. He was waiting outside and was telling her to come out and get one more pair of pants to try on. She yelled no. He said yes. They went back and forth for about 10 minutes and it was just really uncomfortable. He was trying to be calm and patient with her, but she was WAY past reasoning with at that point. He finally bribed her into trying on the pants and as she was literally stomping back in the dressing room (like, it had to have hurt the bottom of her feet, it was so dramatic), I stepped out of my room and started talking to her. This is where I may have taken it too far… I said, “Hey! You know, you should be a little nicer to your Dad. He’s spending his money on you and it would be nice to thank him instead of screaming.” Ooooh man. Daggers. Shooting at my face. Possibly straight into my eyes and through my brain. I didn’t have a scolding tone and I did sort of smile at her, but I realized a few moments later that holy crap, she wasn’t MY kid! Was it out of line of me to say anything?
I know this is getting long, but I just have to share one more important thing that happened to me. Last week, we had a particularly hard day while running errands. The kids and I were at this one store, and Maddie wanted to hold the pinata I just picked out for her upcoming party. I said it was too big and it needed to stay in the cart. Oddly and very out of character for her, she threw herself to the floor in protest. I picked her up and set her to the side of the aisle on the floor and said, “Since you are acting so crazy, this is your timeout now.” I had no other way to describe her actions to her, but CRAZY and I had no idea what else to do. It was bad, guys. After a few minutes, I asked her if she was ready to behave so we could finish shopping and she said, “NO! I WANT TO HOLD IT!” So back in timeout she went. Finally, she she stood up and was ready to be nice. I didn’t realize anyone was watching, but a lady approached me and said she had witnessed everything. Agghh, it’s so mortifying when your kids are being jerks in public. You just want to survive and get out the door without anyone saying something to you about it. I braced myself for what she was about to tell me or the advice she was about to give, but she just put her hand on my arm and kindly said, “You are doing a great job with your kids. You handled that well. Keep it up.” I almost started bawling right there, because after that horrible day and the stress of the tantrum and all the worries and insecurities I have about my parenting, I just needed to hear it. I’m not failing. I’m trying. Keep it up.
I know my own faults and my children’s, and though I may not be flawless in the way I handle every situation, I am trying. I hope that counts for something. I take my job as a mom seriously and I have a huge fear of raising disrespectful children. An even bigger fear though, is being too rigid and strict all the time. “Finding that balance” seems to be everyone’s default phrase of advice, but it really is the key to pretty much everything.
(And to my friends, whose children I have taken it upon myself to ‘correct’, again, I AM SORRY and I love you!)