Saturday, December 14, 2013

Who Is Actually Doing The Parenting?

So around Christmastime, we were at my parent's house for dinner. My mother went around the table and asked us all what our goals were for the new year. I thought about this for a few minutes and responded that I was going to work on being more patient and less quick to snap at the kids over the small stuff. It isn't working.

 I took the 5 month old, 6 year old and 8 year old to Target yesterday. Big mistake considering the 5 month old was awake before 5 am and I obviously hadn't had enough coffee yet.  However, I had told them the day before that I would take them so they could spend some of their piggy bank money.  So, off we went. I had already warned them that I was exhausted and not in a good mood so to please try their hardest to be on their best behavior. No arguing with each other, no asking me to buy things, no annoying me.

When we arrived we headed to the back of the store to start looking at toys.  After about 5 minutes of 8-year-old looking at the Our Generation dolls (think inexpensive American Girl dolls), the following conversation ensued;

8-year-old: "I have to go to the bathroom."
6-year-old (as he waddles out from the next isle over): "So do I.  I have to go number 2!"
Me: "OK, OK, I don't need to know what you have to do. Let's go. We have to go ALL THE WAY back to the front of the store!"
8-year-old: "Sorry Mommy."
Me: "It is OK, you don't have to be sorry. It isn't a problem."

Navigating through the store is a whole other issue. 8-year-old is pushing 5 month old in stroller. 6-year-old is pushing shopping cart. You know those bumper cars they have at county fairs where you can run into the other cars and smash the crap out of each other? That's pretty much what it was like.

CRASH!!! "Watch were you're walking, not what other people are doing!"  SMASH!!! "Stop looking at the clothes, look where you're going!"  WHACK!!! "SERIOUSLY! Pay attention to what YOU ARE DOING!"

I swing myself around and give them my icy "I'm going to lose my marbles" look. They just look back at me all wide eyed and cute.

Me: "It is OK, no problem, just watch where you're walking."

We make it to the bathroom and they each go in their own stalls. (I still don't let 6-year-old boy go in men's bathroom alone.) About 45 seconds later, 6-year-old comes back out and is washing his hands.

Me: "That was quick."
6-year-old: "Yeah, I didn't have to go number 2 after all."

So we're off to the toy section again. 8-year-old resumes her search for the perfect doll as 6-year-old and I stand there, patiently watching.

After a couple of minutes, the 6-year-old (holding himself and bouncing slightly), says: "OK, now I really do have to go number 2!"
Me: "Cheese and rice...You've got to be kidding me!"
6-year-old: "No, I really have to go!!"
Me: "But we were JUST there!"
6-year-old: "I know, but I didn't have to go then but I do now."
Me: "You are unbelievable. Come on then. Off we go all the way back up to the front of the store. Again."

Now I'm pissed. I mean, he knew he had to go the first time we went, but didn't. We're never going to get out of Target. The 5 month old is awake and will no doubt start "complaining" at any minute. After dodging, and narrowly missing, various other shoppers with our game of bumper cars, we make it back to the ladies restroom and all shuffle in. 6-year-old does his business and everyone is happy. We're off to the toy section again.

8-year-old decides on her doll and 6-year-old starts looking at boy toys.

8-year-old: "I have to go potty again."
Me: "What the heck are you talking about? We were just there. TWICE! and now you have to go again? You are unbelievable!!"
8-year-old: "I can hold it. I'm fine. I'll wait."
Me: "Are you sure?"
8-year-old: "Yes. I'm sure."

Great . Crisis averted. 6-year-old can pick out his toy and we can stop at the restroom on our way out.

1 minute goes by...

8-year-old (while crouching on the floor and bouncing up and down): "I REALLY have to go now, Mommy. I can't hold it any longer!"
Me: "Oh. My. God. Let's go. I can't even believe this! I'm DONE! Do you understand me? DONE! This is the last time I'm taking you. If you have to go again, you can go in your pants!!!! Or maybe you want one of the baby's diapers??"

As I snarl that last threat I catch another mom looking at me in horror. I'm sure she was one of those "perfect" moms who never yells, curses or freaks out at her kids for needing to go to the bathroom. I just look at her and smile sweetly as I turn back to look where I'm going. That's when I see it what no parent ever wants to see. I see the look of shame and embarrassment pasted all over my 8-year-old's face and now I'm the one that's horrified. I mean, really, what is the big deal? So she needs to go to the bathroom...again...so what? So what if we never, ever make it out of Target. It isn't like we have anywhere better to be.

Shit, what do I do? Quick, make it into a joke...

Me: "Maybe your brother should wear one! Or what about me? Should I put one on? We could all wear them...over our clothes...like superhero underwear!"

With that, we all start laughing.

As we made our way back to the ladies room, I really got thinking, who is actually doing the parenting? We are supposed to be teaching our young how to react to certain situations, how to handle issues that may arise, how to share with other kids, how to be someone's friend and not be mean, how not to say anything if they don't have anything nice to say. Sometimes, though, I find myself reacting in the exact same way I would tell them not too. It takes me stepping back for a moment and looking at these beautiful, innocent creatures, to realize that life is really too short to stress out over all this petty shit.

Need to go to the bathroom? No big deal, let's go. Knock over your drink at dinner? Who cares - that's why we have paper towels. Drop your snack on the floor because you weren't sitting up to the table? So what - we have two 4-legged vacuum cleaners. The way I look at it, they are only going top be kids for a short while. Next thing I know, I'll be packing them up and sending them off to middle school, high school, college. If 75 trips to the Target bathroom is the worst thing I have to deal with, I've got it pretty good.

I believe if we all sat back, took a deep breath and observed our little minions more often, we could learn a thing or two from them.

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