You’re only “that parent” to yourself
It was lunch hour in the middle of a very large metropolitan Red Robin that was way over capacity. We had 4 starving children and we were pushing nap after 2 very full days visiting the Portland Zoo and Ikea during Spring Break. The wait would be long but because we knew it would be at least that anywhere else we decided to stay put. However, because of the crowd inside and the fact that it was pouring outside we ventured into the area between the interior and exterior door. That’s when it happened. I was chatting with our friends when all of a sudden lights were flashing and sirens wailing.
My son pulled the fire alarm.
My son was the reason the alarms were screeching and the reason over 1000 eyes were turned our direction wondering what was going on. I myself didn’t even realize at first that we were the cause of the disruption until I looked down at my son, sheer terror in his eyes as he realized what he had done. My friend confirmed what had happened. Looking down at him I knew instantly that he already knew what he had just done was wrong but as if the sirens and flashing lights weren’t consequence enough I mercilessly thought it necessary to also scold him because rather than thinking about what was best for my son I was more concerned about what those 1000 eyes were thinking about ME if I didn’t. He crumbled. His shame and embarrassment evident. Instead of taking that moment to offer grace, my harsh, quick tongue did more damage in 3 seconds than I would have ever thought possible.
I knew he was already embarrassed. I knew he already recognized that he had made a terrible mistake. So why did I scold him? What. Was. I. Thinking?!
I was afraid of being “that parent.”
I was afraid my success as a parent was being measured by what my child did and in this case I was sure I wouldn’t be receiving a passing grade. In that moment, I wasn’t thinking, at least not about what I should have been, but honestly I haven’t stopped thinking about that moment in the restaurant since it happened and I have come to realize one thing…
You’re only “that parent” to yourself.
I tend to often miss the mark on this one. Somehow I have gotten so caught up in what others are thinking of me that I often miss the mark of parenting altogether. I put my own feeling of worth as a parent, or rather what others are thinking my worth is, above the needs of my children. I endorse my (and always convince myself that others are doing the same to me) parenting skills and success by my children’s behaviors, abilities, accomplishments, etc and clearly if my child has just pulled the fire alarm disrupting an entire restaurant then I must not have any skills. In my sought for perfect parenting I am in turn expecting perfect children which is not only completely unfair to all of us but isn’t what parenting is about. Rather, I should be helping my children learn and grow from incidents such as this one. I should be putting their needs first.
In my fear of being “that parent” I missed the moment my son needed “his parent.”
He needed grace. He needed me to kneel down, give him a hug, and let him cry his embarrassment on my shoulder. He needed to know I was with him, not against him. Later, in the privacy of our home, I could have talked to him about his reasoning behind pulling it and learned that he thought it was a new handicap exit (he can’t yet read)…one that you pull instead of push to get the doors to automatically open. If he had pulled it because he was curious, well we could have talked about curiosity and how it often gets the better of us (Adam and Eve ring a bell?) and how we need to make sure we’re not letting it. But when I lashed out I shut down all of those opportunities for learning. Sure, I backtracked immediately, apologized for my quick tongue, and tried to repair but what was done, was done. He was no longer interested in what I had to say. Whereas the restaurant had forgotten about the incident within 5 minutes of it happening, my son hid his head in shame when I would try to engage in conversation about it even days later. I missed the opportunity to connect with him at a deeper level. I missed parenting at its core.
From now on, instead of being concerned I am “that parent” I am going to be striving to simply be “his parent” because I am only “that parent” to myself.