"You never really KNOW if you're doing a good job parenting.
In fact, if you're anything like me, you see things daily on the micro-level and analyze the hail out of it.
The macro or overall stuff mostly goes unnoticed.
And it's easy to get trapped in the monotony of each day. You'll say things over and over again like:
How could you forget to do the dishes again?
Why do I have to ask you to take out the garbage?
You didn't brush your teeth and it's noon?!
Stop teasing your brother!
Can't you just stop and wipe up the spot on the floor, yes I know it's not your mess!
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SEPARATE FROM EACH OTHER RIGHT NOW OR I WILL LOSE MY MARBLES!
This is also coming from the person who wrote "How to Not Raise Asshole Kids" last week after having endless hours of together time and lax summer rules.
Last night, I had a little epiphany.
After a long day at the waterpark, we wanted to soak up a bit more summer sunshine and enjoy the cool evening breeze.
What that actually means is I wanted to stay out of the house and continue this non-fighting day between the kids.
My crew and I spotted a nearby Costco and a playground. We ran into Costco and grabbed a big ole hot steamy pizza and drove across the street to the park to enjoy the last bit of sunlight for the day.
We had just arrived and found an empty picnic table on the other side of the playground.
The kids weren't interested in the picnic table, or the pizza either at this point, but with our gourmet dinner, it was eat before play.
They sat down for a reluctant split second. They love being at the park.
It definitely brings back memories of freedom and imaginary games from childhood. I love seeing it through their eyes now. But eat first ;)
We sat down and the kids ripped through their slices of pizza so they could earn their right to play without disruption. And by disruption, I mean me, the lady yelling at them to eat their darn food first before the flies did.
They stood up and took a quick swig of water before rushing off excitedly.
It wasn't a huge park so I sat on the picnic table watching them from a comfortable distance.
You know, as parents we know our kids better than anybody. We know what they need or if they are getting into something by just the sound of them (or lack thereof).
I looked over to see my 8 year old put his arm around a younger child that was already playing at the park when we arrived.
He was by himself and seemed really quiet.
There was a circle of kids around them that had obviously been playing together for a while. There were about 8 of them and if I had to guess their ages were 6 to 10 years old.
I wondered what my son was doing jumping in the middle of them. His back was towards me so I couldn't make out what the conversation was at this point.
I heard yelling, some laughing, and then I heard him raise his voice.
"STOP CALLING HIM FAT", he yelled. What's your name buddy, he turned and asked the boy?
"I'm Ethan and I'm 4 years old," he said.
I could feel my heart in my throat.
Ethan was a sweetie. He was a pretty quiet kid and you could sense he just eagerly wanted to play with them.
Ethan was playing tag with the kids and they kept ganging up on him, so he was always the 'tagger'. They would run away laughing at him, pointing fingers over and over.
I could see the leader of their pack was a girl with a sharp tongue. The kind that makes you want to get off your picnic table and with that 'OH HAIL NO' shaking finger and break up their little bully pack.
I wanted to see how my son would handle it, so I sat back and watched.
My son looked at the pack and said, "His name is Ethan, not fat head. Do you guys want people teasing you and calling you names? He's here to play and have fun too. If you guys want to pick on somebody, I'm right here, but don't cry when I fight back."
He looked at Ethan and said, "When people treat you like that, they are scared or jealous of you. Don't be like them when you grow up, okay bro? You'll see what I mean."
He told Ethan to tag him and so he could jump in their game.
The bullies argued back and told him he wasn't allowed to play. He stood in front of Ethan smiling back at them.
The bullies eventually gave up and ended up leaving shortly after.
Ethan came and sat beside me at the picnic table for a minute to take a break from playing.
"That's the coolest kid I have EVER seen," he said smiling and pointing at my son.
My eyes were watering watching the whole thing, I sat there smiling back at Ethan probably like a total creep at this point.
After playing for a bit longer, we headed back to the car to go home.
I watched my sons take a little detour and head towards Ethan's car as he was also about to leave. They reached in his car and gave him a high five.
The boys said Ethan's mom said thank you so much for sticking up and playing with him. She was almost in tears also and said those kids pick on him often when he comes to the park. She didn't know what else to do after trying to talk to them several times.
We all smiled big smiles and exchanged waves as we drove away.
I sat there thinking on the way home.
That day was just another day. I had yelled at my kids for all of the things above and more.
I questioned myself earlier that day, like every day, wondering what type of people they will be when they're older.
I realized something.
It's so easy to get trapped into the day to day nuances of raising kids. It doesn't always feel good and we are often left questioning if we're doing a good job.
Will they be responsible adults?
Will they be good people?
Will they be caring, respectful, and kind?
Will they know right from wrong?
Will they work hard?
Will they be resilient?
Will they stand up for what they believe in?
Sometimes, it's going to take you sitting back and being a spectator to realize, you are raising some darn good humans.
The garbage, the dishes, the teeth brushing, bickering with siblings, or any other monotonous things you yell throughout the day don't take away from who they really are.
Sit back and watch them a bit.
You'll notice things that you otherwise wouldn't see. You'll appreciate them. You'll see who they are as a person.
On the way home I turned the radio off and have a conversation with them about what happened at the park.
I told him I was so proud of him as he smiled and shrugged.
I realized that's who he is. That's what he does. And there's probably a lot more I don't see because I don't often take a breath and look through a different lens.
If you want to know if you're a good parent, you already are.
Sure, we can all do things better.
We can show up better. We can yell less. We can have more patience, compassion, and understanding.
But overall, you're already doing it.
Take the time to talk to them, to shower them with love and appreciation, and tell them you are proud of them.
Tell them what impresses you about them and how incredible they are. They feed off those things.
Keep up the good work mama.
I'm telling you, you are doing a great job.