When you tell your child to be quiet, you don’t always know what you’ll get.
I was in the post office the other day- all by myself! I was enjoying the moment of not having to keep my kids quiet since everything echoes around and sounds even louder there.
While in line, I heard a little girl singing at the top of her lungs. “My mom told me to be quiet, so I’m not going to make any noise! I’m going to be so quiet, ’cause that’s what mom wants me to do!” I had to smile and appreciate the fact that parents’ efforts aren’t always realized the way we envision. I also thought, “gosh, if only my kids could sing that kind of song when they’re being noisy in here. At least people would know I tried!”
Normally, if kids are being excessively loud, some people get annoyed or cast dirty looks at the child- or the parent. (why can’t you keep your kid quiet- mine was always perfectly well behaved!) Even if people don’t say anything, it’s easy to feel the sting of criticism.
Because of this little girl’s song, the entire post office knew this mother was trying. Instead of dirty looks, there were smiles and the exchanges of understanding glances. There was a feeling of understanding and joy in childhood. What could have been a frustrating situation for this mother was instead a positive experience for all.
I’ve thought about this visit as I’ve returned to the post office and there are several things that I want to remember.
1- Don’t judge
It’s easy to see a situation from the outside and notice what we would do differently. It’s much harder to admit that we don’t know this individual child as well as their own parent hopefully does, and not judge them. There are as many different parenting styles as there are parents and maybe, just maybe, that parent with the screaming child in the grocery store actually knows the situation better than you do. I remember seeing a child throw a tantrum over a toy in a store. An older woman made a comment about how spoiled the child was. I actually knew the family situation and the child was far from spoiled. There were other things going on that the older woman had no way of knowing. Imagine how nice it would’ve been for that mom to be able to deal with her child WITHOUT the criticism of a complete stranger.
Let’s take the higher road: withhold judgment, even when we think we know the situation.
2- Embrace the joy of childhood!
Honestly, the acoustics in the post office are awesome. What joy and creativity could be expressed by belting out your favorite song. That little girl experienced something few adults would ever dare.
3- Be nice to yourself
Kids aren’t perfect every second of every day- but neither are adults. Give yourself a break when your kids don’t behave exactly as you’d like. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if your child has an epic meltdown in the worst place possible. Life is an ever-changing path and we’re continually learning and changing. It’s okay!