Brett and I took our kids out to breakfast last weekend, and there was a sweet woman making balloon art for kids.
As she made swords for my boys and an octopus headband for my girl, she walked around to where Brett and I were sitting to compliment us on our children.
“I know you’re really good parents because your children are so good,” she said.
Brett and I thanked her for her kind words and then had to give her a bigger tip because who doesn’t like a compliment like that?!
And it’s true: our kids were being awesome!
Later that day, as we
ignored our children talked about the conversation with the balloon lady, Brett said, “You know we aren’t that good of parents, right?!. Our kids sitting there quietly is like 95% because they decided to and not because we are that great.”
And I had to laugh. Because it’s true. For as many times as my kids have made me look like an awesome parent, they have embarrassed me beyond belief. That day, I walked out with a little pep in my step because of the kind words of a stranger. But I also know all too well the walk of shame and the judgmental stares of strangers.
And you know what I’ve decided? Kids’ behavior doesn’t get to determine what kind of mom you are.
And what really makes a good mom anyway??
That definition is a sliding scale.
For some of my friends, they are at their most proud when their child asks for kale.
The closest my kids come to asking for any vegetable…is asking not to eat it.
For other friends, they’re excited when their kids volunteer to clean.
You already know that my kids think I am grooming them to be Future Maids of America.
What you may not know is that the day my child volunteers to clean is the day he committed a crime that requires bleach and an alibi.
It’s not that I am proud of this (and I am not mocking these kids). Believe me, if my kid asked for kale, all of Facebook would hear about it from now until eternity. It’s just that I can’t define how good of a mom I am by how my kids act. For better or worse. And I can’t decide what kind of mom I am based on societal opinions.
I am amazed by my daughter’s creativity. She is in lala land for most of the school day and will interrupt a science lesson on deciduous forests to tell me what businesses she plans to open this year (at the mature age of 8). I care more about business than science, so her daydreaming derails the whole lesson. Does this make me laid back or undisciplined? Depends who you ask, I suppose.
The funny part about the balloon lady’s compliment is that I haven’t taught my kids table manners very well. Between kids’ activities and Brett’s unique work schedule (and my dislike for cooking), meal times are mediocre at best in my house. I know, in theory, that meal times are an important time for families to bond and to learn good manners and to keep my daughter from getting pregnant and my sons from needing the aforementioned alibi. But, as usual, my life doesn’t translate well from theory to reality.
That day in the restaurant, my kids just happened to decide not to wrestle, scream, and complain. The copious amounts of syrup might have had something to do with it.
On the flip side, I do care about my children being kind and respectful. As I type these words, two of my children are calling each other very mean names. “We build each other up, not tear each other down,” are words I’ve said approximately six million times. And yet my kids act as if they’ve never heard of such a thing.
Even still, their ugly words don’t make me a bad mom. And their kind words don’t make me a good mom.
I am only using the balloon lady as an example. I am way over analyzing the situation for the sake of this post, and I did appreciate her taking the time to be kind. I am externally processing my thoughts about how society judges our quality of parenting based on how our children are acting in that moment and how closely we are following the current societal trends.
I know I’ve talked about this subject many times (including writing about it in my book), but it bears repeating:
Your kids’ behavior has very little to do with you and your parenting…and most everything to do with the fact that they’re little. And little people haven’t quite yet figured out the world. And sometimes show it in big, emotional ways.
Whether you are strict, permissive, fun, serious, eat kale or don’t…toddlers are going to act
like terrorists crazy, from time to time. And teenagers are going to emote angst. And babies are going to cry. And middle age kids are going to sass. And mamas are gonna have the occasional freak out.
It’s just the way the world works. Humans have this weird way of being human.
You are a good mom (or dad). Not because of the mood your child woke up in, but because you love them well. Even when you don’t do it perfectly. You are doing a really good job. And your kids are going to turn out just fine. They may fumble through stages of life, just as you and I still do…but they’re going to be pretty awesome adults.
Adults who willingly eat kale, of course.