There’s this thing I do when we are out in public.
(See also: on airplanes.)
I am acutely aware that there are other people around us—people who may not care for the fact that I have three children in tow. Surprise! Some people don’t love children who don’t belong to them. In fact, some people don’t love children at all. This, clearly, is crazy because my children are just wonderful and lovely and perfect at all times. You know, when they are not being children-of-the-corn-like heathens. And when they are not yelling, fighting, or whining—or doing all three in tandem. It’s a skill, really.
In other words, they are kids.
But because I am aware of this, I do this thing.
I am not proud of this thing.
But I do it.
I care much too much about what the people around me think of me and of my parenting skills.
Instead of remembering that children are, well, children and it’s completely normal for them to actually be children, I want the skeptical and possibly judgy people around me to think my children are not just regular children, but Stepford children. I want them to be pleasantly surprised when they walk off of that airplane or out of the doctor’s waiting room. I don’t want them texting “wow..you would not believe the crazy kids I am sitting beside.” to their lucky loved one who is not, in fact, sitting beside a trio of crazy kids. It makes me happy when the owner of our neighborhood Menchie’s turns to me and says, “You know, your children are really very polite. Each one said please and thank you, completely unprovoked.”
Now before this becomes a debate about ALI YOU ARE AN ASS, SCREAMY CHILDREN DON’T BELONG AT THE OPERA! or some such nonsense, I will have you know that this is not what I am talking about. I am a firm believer that when children are disruptive in places that they should not be disruptive they should be removed from the situation, if it’s at all possible. That child who is yelling during the movie? Should be taken into the hallway. That baby who is crying in the middle of the nice, fancy restaurant? Should be taken out until he stops crying. That toddler who won’t stop whining about how boring the ballet is? Should be gently walked out of her seat and into the lobby. Those are situations where it’s less okay for kids to be kids—where kids are welcome, as long as they are not disturbing other patrons too much.
I’m referring to, more, well, situations where it’s okay for kids to be kids. (Think: kid-friendly fast-food establishment, as opposed to the cloth-napkin restaurant with the mood lighting.)
I’ll give you an example.
On Monday of this week, I took all three kids to the dentist for some fancy molar sealants. Lucky me, after spending the majority of the afternoon getting my own fancy dental work done (crown #1, ftw!), I got to return for another two-hour stint at the dentist. Now, the kids brought ipads and tablets with them; they brought coloring books and crayons; they brought their stories to tell. I’m often like a boy scout—PREPARED! But, the kids had just finished a full day at school and now they were at the dentist. They were a little cranky, a little restless, a little unhappy to be at the dentist. I mean, can you blame them?
I looked around at all of the other waiting-room waiters and hoped that no one would be annoyed or irritated with the whines about how hungry/tired/bored my three were.
For the most part the situation was under control, there were not judgers in sight.
Until I had to take a work call.
And then that call was interrupted.
“Excuse me. Your daughter is peeking into my daughter’s room. I am uncomfortable with this. She needs to stop—she’s going to agitate my daughter. I’m sorry to interrupt you, but have your daughter stop doing that.”
Me, to the woman: “OHMIGOSH, I am so, so, so, so sorry. It will not happen again!!!!”
Me, to my daughter: “ISABELLA! Come and sit right next to me, love. You cannot wander around the dentist looking into other kids rooms! You are scaring that other little girl! Don’t get up again until it’s you turn to go in. You don’t want anyone coming into your room and scaring you, now do you?”
The woman was happy.
My daughter was not.
When it was all over and we were driving home from the dentist, a little voice came from the back seat of the car.
“Are you mad at me?”
“Mad? Why would I be mad at you?”
“Well, you were so angry when you asked me to come and sit beside you.”
“Oh, baby. Of course, I’m not mad. But you have to remember that you can’t really wander around the dentist office, okay?”
“Mama? The hygienist told me I could come in the back and watch something. And I didn’t look into that little girl’s room. I really didn’t. But also, Mama? Why would she care if I looked into her room? I know that if I was in the dentist chair and a little girl came in, I would be happy. Not scared.”
“Mama? I’m sorry if anyone was mad with me.”
Like a dagger, it was.
I was so quick to placate this other person that I didn’t even really stop to asses the situation.
I was so quick to make sure that this woman wasn’t judging my children that I didn’t even see that Isabella had done nothing wrong.
I was so quick to think that someone might judge my parenting that I didn’t even stop to realize that I am actually a pretty freakin’ good parent and that even though sometimes my kids are kids (understandably, since that’s exactly what they are) they are pretty darn awesome and amazing, even if there’s no Stepford in them at all.
So, I’m letting this be a lesson to me…sometimes corn children are better than stepford children, right?