Friday, November 4, 2011

Parenting Reality

I don't beat my children. I don't neglect them. I feed them, clothe them, bathe them, read to them, play with them, snuggle with them. I love my kids completely. So, why do I feel like such a bad parent most days? I don't make all their food from scratch. I don't play with them every single second of every day. Sometimes I turn on the TV so they will stop fighting and I can cook dinner in peace. When we go to the park, I use the opportunity to enjoy watching them play and occasionally chat with grown ups instead of chasing them around the slides and swings. I don't make them clean up their toys every night. I run out of patience after answering the same question 6 times in 6 minutes. I am not a competitive mom. I don't care if your kid walked, talked, potty trained earlier than my child. I don't care if you have the most expensive parenting gadgets, car seats and strollers. If I can operate the equipment without supervision, I consider it a good investment. What really gets me? What really makes me wonder about my parenting skills? When we are out in public and my kids ignore me, fight and go all out crazy. And it is ALWAYS when we are around other kids who appear to be the most angelic, mild-mannered and obedient kids on the planet. "Yes, mother dear, I would love some more broccoli. But, first, I should go help my little brother on the swings. It's time to leave the park? Ok, thanks so much for bringing us. You are the best mom ever". Here is how my kids would behave. They would run around like someone (their inept mom) fed them Red Bull. They would fight with each other and every other child at the playground. They would complain about the snacks I brought. They would fight over who gets to eat which substandard snack. When it's time to leave, they would alternate between ignoring my requests to pack up and whining and arguing with me.

Don't get me wrong. I may be exaggerating (slightly) for dramatic effect and sympathy. People assure me that my kids are "normal". My kids are not future criminals. They are very sweet, kind and wonderful kids. But, in my head, my parenting skills are all or nothing. I'm either a great parent who has a grip on things or the worst parent with no patience or skill. If the kids aren't listening, fighting or whining, it is because I'm a failure as a parent. We have days when I seem to have everything under control, including the kids. I can handle the housework, homework, errands, bath time, bedtime and dinner time without losing my cool. Then we have days where I feel like I cannot do a single thing right and I'm doing permanent damage to their fragile psyches. Sadly, you can guess which days prevail.

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