I took all four kids to the bank this afternoon.
As the lovely teller was handing over the cash she asked my kids what they were doing for the holidays. When my kids all suddenly got shy I replied “Driving me insane!”
Everyone knew I was joking, but as the teller laughed and Izzy rolled her eyes, I suddenly wondered why I joked about that?
I quickly added that actually my four are pretty good and we really enjoy having holidays together. But as we headed towards the toy shop the interaction gnawed at me.
When did it become normal for parents to so readily exclaim how difficult their children are?
Is it because we are afraid someone will think we are boasting if we say we have good kids?
Is it because we are worried our kids will prove us wrong with a huge public tantrum just as we exclaim how lovely they are?
Is it because we can’t possibly be good parents unless we have to work hard to keep our kids in line?
Or is it because we think our kids need to be ‘perfect’ all the time to be ‘good’?
I don’t know why, but I do know that I fall into this trap of talking about the difficult aspects of my kids by default, without thinking. What’s worse, a by-product of that sort of talk is that I tend to believe that my kids are more difficult, or doing worse than they actually are.
It’s funny how reality can be twisted. How a couple of small things can magically colour the way you look at everything. Suddenly the whole thing seems difficult… there must be something wrong… you must be failing… and the only way to deal with that is to joke about it.
In reality, sometimes my kids are difficult, sometimes we go through rough patches, sometimes they really do drive me insane, but in general, they are ok. 80-90% of the time they are easy, happy, ‘good kids’.
Sure the Noah screeches like a banshee when something doesn’t go his way.
Yes Morgan howls like a wounded beast when things don’t go his way.
Yes the girls fight with each other…
But those are not all the time things.
In fact, now that it is holidays, now that we have time to just hang out, without too much extra stress, without deadlines, those things are rare. And even when they do happen, often they are sorted out without my input.
Izzy placates the screaming three year old by skillfully talking up another option.
Zoe makes two attempts to apologise to the brother she upset and succeeds with humor on the third go.
Morgan goes to great efforts to include everyone in his play and keeps it together when someone doesn’t want to join in.
All of them get up all turn off the TV without prompting to go outside, or draw, or build or pretend.
Noah pees on the potty!
Perhaps the stress of a busy school week doesn’t encourage such ‘good’ behavior? Perhaps these things just go unnoticed during the rush of school term? Or perhaps I am just not looking for them because I am so quick to joke about how terrible my kids are?
As I sit here typing this, all four of them are playing a complex imaginative shopping game with the Lego. They have not needed my input, mediation or direction for over an hour.
I look over at them and contemplate how I can keep these ‘good’ children when school goes back, but also knowing that I don’t have to.
Now that I’ve noticed, now that I know, now I can put up with the hard bits, the fighting, the whining, the crap parenting, because I know… despite all that, my kids are ok.
And next time I am in a position to tell someone that, I will.
Am I the only one who falls into this trap?
Do you sometimes fail to see how ‘good’ your kids are?