One of the most challenging things ever is…
Parenting in public.
I said it.
And at this moment, all the people who just read that, and who are themselves currently a parent (especially a parent of a toddler) just nodded their heads in agreement.
Parenting your toddlers in public is one of the more challenging things in life. It is almost guaranteed to be a lose-lose situation the moment something goes awry.
Sure, if your kids are having an exceptionally (and for many, rare) well-behaved day, then you just go on about your day.
But the minute you’re out in public and:
– the candy aisle seduces your three year old, or
– her brother took away her stuffed animal, or
– nap time was missed, or
– only God knows why, but they’ve got that look in their eyes
Then watch out.
Because you’re about to be “that” parent, with “that” kid.
And there’s not a thing you can do about it.
Yes, we’ve all been there. But the challenging thing is this: how do you respond?
And in a flash you run through the scenarios: do I come in quick and stern, and try and squash this tantrum before it begins? Well, if I do that, people will think I’m harsh and overbearing, and my kids must be terrified of me on a daily basis. Do I take the calm and patient route, and speak in soft, soothing tones in an attempt to diffuse the situation? Well, if I do that, people will think I’m weak and spoil my kids, and I need to hand-out some discipline every once in a while. Do I choose the speak-to-them-like-an-adult route, and try to reason with them… not too firm, but not too soft… just a steady dose of “reason.” Well, if you do that, chances are people will think you’re being irrational for trying to reason with a screaming child, and they’ll wish you’d either shut them up or give them a hug.
It’s hard. It truly is.
I think we’d all like to convince ourselves that we DON’T think about these things.
That we don’t let how others think of us affect how we parent our kids.
But it’s simply not true.
And it’s not just in public places either. Have you ever been over to a friends house who also has kids, and either A) your kid does something naughty, or throws a toy, or puts their kid in a headlock, or just screams for no reason? or B) THEIR kid puts YOUR kid in a headlock, or steals their toy, or starts acting all cray cray. And again you go in to this crazy mental game of “how the hell do I handle this situation?!” And you start judging THEIR kid, only to realize that in all actuality you just got lucky this time that it wasn’t your kid.
And you watch how other people parent their kids, and you start making assumptions like: if they would just do more/less of “this,” then surely their kids would do more/less of “that.”
But of course, in your more sane moments, you realize that anyone could say the same thing about you.
Public parenting is hard.
And people who have never been parents just simply can’t understand. (sidenote: I realize that comments like that can really bother single people or non-parents. And I get it. But you just have to trust me on this one).
But it’s not just non-parents who often don’t understand, it’s also people who USED to be parents of toddlers and are now all grown up. How often have I felt the judgemental stares of older people, as though THEY were never THAT parent, or THEIR kid was never THAT kid!!!
Not a chance.
Anyways, I love being a dad. More than most things. And our 4 boys are absolutely incredible. (And, in my opinion, really well behaved… most of the time)
But nothing gets my anxiety-muscles flexing quite like trying to navigate those difficult parenting moments in public.
So if you’re out and about and you witness a meltdown by a toddler, do me a favor: cut the parent some slack. It happens to the best of us, and it doesn’t mean we’re awful parents or they are awful kids.
And if you’re a parent of a toddler and you find yourself in that next moment of dealing with a meltdown of your toddler, do me a favor: cut yourself some slack. Doesn’t matter how you handle it, really, because you’ll like get haters on both sides. Just be true to who you are and how you want to raise your kids. And know that parents-of-toddlers around the world are standing with you.
You’re not alone.
Parenting in public is hard.