The other day in Meredith’s gymnastics class I found myself paying extra attention to the interactions between all of the parents in the class (myself included) and their two year old children. As I listened to all of the exchanges between parent and child, it led me to wonder this… why is it that we, as parents, become completely humiliated by the behavior of our own two year old, but view the same behavior as normal and acceptable in others?
I can’t begin to tell you the number of times that I have reassured a fellow parent that it was not only their child behaving in a certain way. I feel bad when I see a parent get upset with their toddler, when I witnessed the entire exchange and know for a fact that my own toddler was as much, if not more to blame for the toddler altercation. A kid behaves a certain way, getting reprimands from his/her parent and I often find myself saying, “Oh, they all do it. Don’t worry about it.”
And this is true. I know that it is completely normal for a two year old to not share well, not wait his/her turn and have complete meltdowns for the most insignificant reasons. I don’t think less of the parents of these children. In fact, it often makes me feel better to know it’s not just my kid. But, when the behavior originates from my child, I am right there with those other parents, apologizing for her behavior and trying to make it stop. Why does it feel so much more epic when it’s your own?
I am not saying that because most of this behavior is normal that we should ignore it. I do believe there are still lessons to be taught and parents should take advantage of those opportunities to teach. But, that isn’t exactly what is going on. You can almost hear the panic in their voices, that fear that someone might think their child is undisciplined or rude. Maybe it’s because what everyone is seeing is just a snapshot of your life. You don’t want them to walk away with the impression that this is what your child is like all the time.
It is interesting though because even as we all engage in this knee-jerk reaction to parenting, there is also a sort of fraternity that develops from it. No one else understands what you are handling on a daily basis quite like another parent.
One of the mother’s in the gymnastics class arrived looking frazzled and made some comments about the difficult morning she had just trying to convince her daughter to put clothes on. It made me smile. Not because they had a rough morning. But, because I have been there.