When you become a parent, it’s hard. You’re in over your head. You have a new person living with you and they’ve never lived with…well, anyone; they don’t know how to be a good roommate. They puke all over you and your stuff and you keep having to clean up their poop. They even invade the sacred space of your sleep, which can feel like torture. If you’ve never felt any of these ways, then congratulations. You’re a better person than I am.
What I’m getting at is that I get why people complain about their kids. It’s an easy way to bond with people by pointing out your children’s flaws so they can agree with you and complain and point out what’s wrong or annoying about their kids too. See? We can be good friends because we can laugh together about how our kids are ridiculous.
And on the surface, that makes sense. We bond over a shared experience.
But I’ve found that the problem with that is how it colors our perception of our children at other times too. We begin to look for things to complain about rather than ways to help problem-solve. We abandon our children in the places where they need us to stay engaged and be with them inside their emotions and even their tantrums. When they need us the most, we throw our hands up and say, ‘Gah! Kids!’ Like Pilate we wash our hands and blame the fact that they are an infant, a three year old, or a teenager.
You know what? I don’t want the easy out. If E. does something rude at someone’s house, I will apologize (and encourage her to do the same) even if it seems that rudeness is expected solely based on the fact that she’s three.
This doesn’t mean that I plan on punishing her severely for every social infraction. There is some truth to the idea that 3 year olds know less than older people about how to be in the world. They are also not likely to stumble on this easily by themselves. But we can teach them, by reacting in gracious ways to let them know what is or is not acceptable. My kids aren’t perfect, and neither am I. But that doesn’t mean that as a rule I should disengage from a crucial teachable moment because it’s too hard.
I know this is the difficult path, but I think it’s the one worth taking. As a parent I have a lot of power to affect changes in the culture of my family. And with great power comes great….well you know what Spiderman teaches us.
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