I could imagine the mother’s white knuckles clutching the handle on the cart. I could imagine her lips pierced together in a tight line as she tried to get the remaining groceries on her list. I could imagine because I, too, have been frantically wishing that my child would settle down, would quit the wailing, but not wanting to give in to the demands. Hoping other shoppers would not glance our way when one of my children was complaining and fussing, as I desperately tried to coax them into a quiet compliance. I have pledged to not do the same to other parents, to not look with pity or even worse, judgment. Passing by to get a gallon of milk, I quickly glanced over and tried to offer a smile of “I understand”.
It can start simple enough, the request for just something small, the perfectly pink, sparkling purse that caught my daughters’ eyes, or the round, colorful Bakugan that costs just a few dollars for my son. Or merely, a delicious candy bar before we have eaten lunch. A polite please when asking, but then scrunched up faces and a dramatic sigh of disappointment when I state “not this time”. As the murmurs under their breath turn into louder, clear whining, I pick up the pace and push the cart faster. Attempts at redirection – do you want to hold the shopping list, do you want colored or regular goldfish – are thwarted. The kids’ patience levels with me are wavering, and in turn, my patience level with the kids has certainly wavered, and was left back at the bread aisle.
When in these situations of frustration, I try to remain patient, but firm. I parent like someone is watching me, I want to be perceived as loving, caring, and a good parent to those in the store that are watching me, and deep down, to myself. Again, I parent like someone is watching me…other parents, other shoppers could be watching me, judging me.
Yet, someone IS always watching me even when not in a store, three some ones.
My children, aka human sponges, soak up everything. They are listening when I do not think they are listening. They are watching me when I am scolding them about not being tattle-tales, when I am reading a book to them, when I am talking to my friends on the phone, when I help in their classrooms, when I am giving their dad a kiss goodbye in the morning, and when I am tired and snap at them too quickly. They are watching me when I bring a meal to a friend who had a baby, when I am folding my umpteenth load of laundry, when I am venting about someone who has irritated me, when I am sending a thank you note, and when I am cooking their favorite dinners. They soak it all in, my good behaviors and my not-so-great behaviors. On this mothering journey, I am constantly parenting, and am constantly not parenting perfectly.
Parenting like someone is watching me is a gift I need to give my children, not just the other moms and dads in the stores. It might not make the shopping trips less frustrating. More than likely, there will be shopping trips that willl be cut extremely short, but I will get my milk and paper towels, and hopefully will also get some pride in knowing my children watched me parent them firmly, but tenderly even in the throes of whining and with white knuckles.