I’ve accepted that embarrassment is just a part of parenting.
Most, if not all of my clothes are stained with food.
I drop stuff all of the time. Phone, keys, food on myself.
I’ve gone out for a few hours only to realize that I’ve had peanut butter on my face after returning home.
When I leave the house I probably look like I was recently bitten by a zombie and I’m well on my way to becoming a full zombie.
I trip over my words both at home and in public.
Last night, for example, I meant to ask my wife what time a doctor’s appointment was. At that same moment the TV announcer said that Larry Fitzgerald was on his way to breaking a receiving record. When I opened my mouth to ask my wife about the doctor, I instead asked her how many receptions Fitz currently has now. I remember thinking this question in my head, but I did expect for it to come out of my mouth. She did not hear me and I was left dumbfounded. I decided for my own safety to stay quiet and not go for a second try.
These examples are good and all, but they are no match for the level of embarrassment I’m about to talk about. It’s similar because it’s parent related, but it’s a very different kind of shame. This embarrassment drills down deep to the core and hurts within my moral fiber.
Take toddler to playground. All of the other children are playing nicely. Maybe a few whines and whimpers here and there but nothing out of the ordinary. Toddler is repeatedly running around in a circle screaming at the top is his/her lungs with glossed over eyes. Toddler also periodically runs up to the parents of said children and screams in their faces. Parents awkwardly smile and play it cool, but are clearly horrified. Parent smiles at the parents but in reality would prefer to be hiding behind the twisty slide.
Toddler goes to a class (music, gymnastics, art). All seems well until class begins and the instructor starts giving directions. Toddler takes off running. Assistant has to be patient and repeatedly bring toddler back to spot to try to do the same exercise for the fourth in a row time with toddler. All of the other kids are growing impatient and waiting for toddler to just go so everyone else can have their turn. Later when picking toddler up, instructor is trying their hardest to not just blurt out and say to never bring toddler to class again.
Toddler bites another child. The other child is screaming crying. Enough said.
Parent tells toddler that they must leave the grocery store because of their “poor choices”, i.e., running away, trying to throw eggs, pulling and crashing cart into everything. Toddler screams and kicks the parent in the face. Toddler drops the hammer and says “I don’t like you and I’m not going with you”. Parent’s soul is crushed.
These 4 scenarios are horrifying and fortunately, I have not had to experience all of these, but I have met people who have experienced some or all four.
Being a parent takes a tremendous amount of patience, which is extremely hard, especially with 3 hours of sleep at times. For the most, part parents are tired, nervous and constantly preoccupied, which makes them always on edge.
Also, parents are people.
We’re sleep deprived and we’re fragile, and yea, at times we’re sensitive. Being told by your toddler that he/she doesn’t like you in front of ten strangers cuts pretty deep. Getting whacked by your toddler after only adds insult to injury. Never in my life did I imagine that someone with less than 50% of my mass would be able to posses over 1000% of my strength both emotionally and physically.
I’m like Superman and they’re Kryptonite.
I’m the Genie and they’re the lamp.
I’m strong, but at times I am completely powerless. My toddler usually gets to decide when to render me powerless no matter how hard I may try. Most times it’s like trying to battle back against a hurricane. There’s no point. You just have to sit and wait it out.
Having an instructor insinuate that your child is a menace who does nothing but disrupt their class is hard to stomach. To see that they’re fed up and that they would prefer to not have your kid is their class is devastating.
What can I do?
Can I climb into one of those mini cubbies where all the kids put their stuff?
Nope, afraid not. I’m a parent. This is my job. (24/7, 365)
Every time something like this happens it unearths every insecurity I have about my parenting abilities. When I am standing around these strangers I can’t help but feel self-conscious. I don’t really know these people, but sometimes I feel like I’m being judged harshly, especially when my crown jewel isn’t so shiny because he/she refused to eat breakfast and use the potty before we left the house.
So then what the hell do you do?
Suck it up and shake it off.
That’s what I try to do every time. It’s the only thing I can do. I deal and I know that every parent has a kid that has their moments. I was in IKEA a few weeks ago and there was a five-year old in the fake flower section who was completely losing his mind. By the fake flower section I have lost my mind also and that’s well before the madness at the registers.
As I was walking by with my two perfectly behaved children, his grandfather said to the boy “see, look how good he’s behaving”.
I told this man not to be fooled because it was a rouse. My children were in no better condition than his grandson was not even ten minutes before we crossed paths.
So there. I get it. As parents, we gauge ourselves by our child’s behavior. When our kid is losing their mind it sucks. It makes me feel tiny and like a helpless failure. I’m hurting but I gotta deal. All kids have bad days and bad moments, just like adults do.
So, the next time you’re getting kicked in the face by a three-year old while he/she’s screaming “I DON’T LIKE YOU”, remember that you’re not alone.
Other parents are looking but we’re not judging. We’re not thinking, “oh my, look at that awful child with her incompetent mother”. What we’re thinking is…