Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Childrenfreude. If Your Kids are Acting Up, Come Sit by Me

Childrenfreude: the secret pleasure of watching bad kids happen to good parents.

When I first read about this concept many months ago, I was enthralled. I'll admit it, I LOVE seeing other people's kids misbehave. Not because I want to gloat over my superior parenting skills. No, just the opposite -- it makes me feel so much less alone with my own parenting skills, which at times feel inadequate. As I've mentioned before, I have "those" kids. You know the types, the ones who are always up to something and into everything.

I feel like I spend a good deal of time worrying that my kids aren't as well-behaved as everyone else's children are, and that somehow I'm a less effective mother than my counterparts. So, when I see someone else's darling throwing a temper tantrum, or having a hard time sharing their toys, it's all I can do to refrain from busting out in a happy dance right then and there. Maybe I'm not such an ineffectual disciplinarian. Maybe these antics are normal. Maybe we'll all be okay after all.

Not too long ago, our family was at a child's birthday party. This particular kid achieves angel-child status about 99% of the time. However, on this day, he was having a hard time sharing. My husband and I nearly high-fived each other, witnessing his "real kid" antics. When his mom apologized to us for his unwillingness to share, I blurted out, "Are you kidding me?! That was the best thing I've seen in ages. It's always my kids who are struggling to share or use only gentle touches. I feel so much better now."

Then, this morning I was at Target with my little guy. Long before I saw it, I heard a vicious temper tantrum coming our way. You know the kind, lots of tears, snot and screaming. Again, I loved it. Hooray! My kids aren't the only ones to garner looks from strangers while running errands. The look on the mom's face was one I'd worn many times before -- embarrassment, exhaustion and a fierce determination to get the hell outta dodge as quickly as possible. I gave her a look of understanding and solidarity. A smile that said, "I've been there. I get it. Go you!"

But then, I got worried. What if she misinterpreted my smile? What if she thought it was a smug-mum judgy smile? What if it somehow made her feel worse? I realized that we moms need a secret hand signal that we can use to encourage each other in such times of need and public humiliation. A flash of empowerment and understanding, easily recognized and understood by all. I'm thinking something along the lines of the Black Power raised fist that was popular back in the 70's.

Let's face it, being a mom can be rough and downright humiliating sometimes. Sometimes, when our kids are at their worst, our friends and family aren't there to tell us it'll be alright. We need other moms, moms who may not know us to say, "Go on with your bad self, fellow mom. I've been there too. I get it. Hold your head high with pride cuz you're doing the best you can." Any ideas for a mom-empowerment hand signal we can claim for our own? (Because, as is evidenced by the picture above, me in my polka dot jammies with no bra and no make-up at 10:00 at night is not the look of empowerment we moms should be aiming for)

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