When your husband has an above average intelligence, there are certain things you learn to expect as a mother. Yes, mother, because when the bulging IQ is passed down to the children, and they combine that with their own love of various subjects, that is when your general knowledge begins to fall far short. You have to learn to stomach correction from people who can’t tie their own shoelaces and who don’t brush their teeth unless they’re told to.
Me: “These are lovely leaves, I wonder what kind of plant it is.”
Lola: “It’s a bamboo.”
Me: “ … um, of course it is.”
Me: “Oh little duck please don’t cross the road.”
Lola: “Where’s a duck?”
Lola: “You mean the Egyptian goose?”
Me: “… um, yes.”
Me: “I can’t get this peddle off.”
Lincoln: “That’s because you’re turning it the wrong way.”
Me: “ … ” sigh.
This kind of thing I am getting quite used to, but being called up on my behaviour by my own child, it something quite new. Let me tell you, it was a rather humbling experience.
Let me set the scene: I have had a rough 2 weeks. I feel like that’s all the explanation that’s needed, and quite frankly, I don’t have all that much more to add. Grown-ups are always on about how they’re having a rough time for some reason or the other, it almost goes without saying. We’re dropping balls, forgetting to do things and running late for meetings. Same same but different.
So here we are. I am in the kitchen, irritated that the children aren’t listening to me, and stewing over how they are able to put me on mute whenever they feel like it. Lola wanders in and in my mind I am already cross. She doesn’t even have a chance to ask what she can do and I am issuing instructions.
“Pass the salt,” I say, without a second thought.
“Do you think maybe you forgot your manners?” she says with a wry little smile.
I am stumped. I literally stood there with my mouth open.
She is completely right. Who do I think I am? I correct them all day on being polite and having manners, and then I turn around and behave like a ‘rude’ child. I was horrified at myself. A seemingly small event put my cogs into motion and I mulled over what had happened for the rest of the day.
Seriously, where do we ‘grown-up’s’ get off?
We run around believing we are entitled to bad moods and hormonal fluctuations. We blame ‘waking up on the wrong side of the bed’ and not getting enough sleep. Work stress or family drama. We act like we, alone, experience this, expecting the best from our children at all times. Anyone who’s read a parenting book can tell you that children have hormonal fluctuations at various ages, behaving like moms with PMS and dad’s with testosterone surges. Most of us place little weight on this information, scoffing at it, shrugging it off as less important than our own issues, possibly even choosing to forget it, but the facts remain.
They have bad days in the same way we do, and they sometimes don’t get a good night’s sleep. You might say, “But I told them to go to bed early!” and you would be right. But how many times have you stayed awake for whatever reason, past what you knew was a good time to go to bed? I’d wager many, many nights. We all do this and we all know how it influences us the next day. It is no different for them. Would we berate another adult for making a mistake and lose our temper with them? Probably not. We would, however, not tolerate rudeness because they were tired and grumpy. If they behaved badly we would probably give them a wide berth, and tell them when we didn’t agree with their behaviour. I don’t think most of us offer our children the same courtesy.
Do we think we have somehow earned the right to treat our children with less respect than we would treat another adult?
I know with absolute certainty I would not yell at an adult in the same way I have yelled at my kids. Yes, they may have been asked several times to do something. Yes, they may choose to ignore us. And yes, they may do seemingly ridiculous things. But let’s be honest, they don’t even have a quarter of the life experience we do. It is our job to demonstrate how to behave, to be the example, especially when they are flailing about on the sidelines. I’m not for one moment saying don’t discipline your children, quite the contrary. Set boundaries and stick to them, just don’t fly off the handle when your children push against them, because they will.
Sometimes they may not feel very social, or they may feel downright bolshie. Accept it, we ‘grown-up’s’ have those days too. Don’t insist they give granny a hug or make them feel like an awful person because they didn’t. Explain why it might be important that they give granny a hug, and tell them it would be nice if they behaved in a different way the next time, but don’t humiliate them or reprimand them in public. I can’t say enough how a quiet word, alone with my kids, has gone a long way in improving their behaviour. I’m pretty sure my kids aren’t alone in this. We need to choose how to react to our kid’s behaviour; with every reaction we are teaching them something. It’s one hell of a responsibility.
All this thinking has made me realise just how important ‘tagging out’ is. Having someone we can hand the baton to when we know our patience is waning. Sometimes all we need is a little space. This is true of every person in the world. Playing ‘tag’ with your spouse is an absolute necessity! If you don’t have that as an option then ‘tag out’ with a friend or a grandparent, use the TV or mandatory quiet time. Invent a way to give yourself some time alone to regroup, so you can continue to treat your children with the respect every person on the planet deserves, regardless of age.
I’m not pointing fingers and my intention is certainly not to preach, I’m the first to admit fault. I am simply asking if we should all reassess how we treat our children? Take a look at our own individual parenting quirks that may, in fact, be constituted as ‘rude’ if we behaved that way to another adult. I can’t help but feel we exercise less patience with our kids, when we should be using more. It’s certainly worth a thought.