Ever have those days when you feel like you must be doing something wrong as a parent for your kids to be as rude / loud / disobedient / difficult as they sometimes are? And that everybody else — if they’re watching — must think the same thing?
Please tell me it’s not just me.
Alastair had a show to do Sunday morning, so I decided to go with the girls to church. I wasn’t in the greatest mood to begin with. The girls had been a challenge all weekend — pushing limits, whining, refusing to understand that the “inside” in “inside voice” doesn’t mean inside the Boston Garden at a Bruins game.
Then, getting out of the house was (per usual) a total stress-fest. Which was partially my fault, for allocating only 30 minutes, not the more realistic 45, to get everyone dressed and tressed and tooth-brushed and shod and coated and out the door.
But I had the quiet, reflective time of church to look forward to. So that was good. In theory.
During the first part of the service, kids over three join the adults in the sanctuary before going down to their religious education classes. Little art boxes with crayons, paper, pipe cleaners and stickers are provided to help kids occupied and quiet. (Nice, huh?)
It works like a charm for Clio, who also finally understands — an important lesson, I think — that you’re supposed to be quiet in church (and similar situations where sitting quietly and listening is required). So she’s not usually much trouble, and this time was no exception.
But Elsa. Oh, Elsa. The second we got into the sanctuary she sprinted down the aisle to get to her favorite pew, third row from the front — not sure why, exactly, since it’s not like she watches or listens to anything that’s going on — saying “Come on, Mommy! I want sit down here!!” I had been headed toward the back section, but I wasn’t about to try to chase her and bring her back, so I folded.
Then she pitched a loud mini-fit because one of her best buddies was sitting in the very first row with the children’s choir. Elsa wanted to sit with her, AND she wanted to go up and sing. The children’s choir only happens a few times a year, and we haven’t let the girls do it yet because we don’t feel like Elsa’s ready to do things like, oh, sit quietly with the rest of the children’s choir while waiting to go up and sing.
Then she started complaining because her art box didn’t have enough crayons. And then she wanted a tissue. Finally, I gave her the choice to either sit quietly here, or for us to leave and go into the parlor. She chose the first option, and settled down. But several times again I had to remind her to whisper.
Then, when it was time for the kids to leave and go down to their classes, Clio wanted me to walk her downstairs (per usual), but Elsa wanted to try doing it on her own — as she let me know, loudly, when I was already headed up the aisle with Clio, thinking she was right behind. So now I’ve got two kids yelling at me from opposite ends of the church, wanting opposite things, and everyone in the congregation is watching me flounder.
Of course, once we finally all get downstairs, Elsa doesn’t want to go into her class, and is running around like a lunatic while all the other kids obediently line up. So while other parents are heading back upstairs to the sanctuary, I’m there with Elsa, letting her get her jollies out.
Eventually I got her into her classroom. And went back upstairs. But by that time I was in tears. And walking down the aisle felt like a walk of shame: There she goes, the mom who can’t control her bratty kids. Whose almost-five-year olds act more like three-year-olds — at least one of them, anyway.
Thing is, I’m used to being pretty good at things. I was a straight-A student and valedictorian of my high school class. I’ve always been excellent at my job, whatever it has happened to be. I’m used to people approving of and admiring my performance, and my achievements.
So it is more than a little challenging for me when people are watching me and my kids and thinking that I’m not doing a very good job of parenting. Parenting: this one thing that’s harder than anything I’ve ever done before.
I know, I know. They aren’t all thinking that. Some — the ones who themselves had spirited kids — may be thinking, gosh, it’s hard; I can relate.
But I’m sure some of them are thinking less charitable things.
And sometimes, I honestly feel like they’re right.
Ever have one — or a zillion — of those days?