Every now and again, we parents are called upon to respond to something for which we are not prepared. Maybe we didn’t anticipate a particular comment from our child or maybe his behavior is outright embarrassing.
In these moments, we have a choice: We can hide under the table and freak out, we can blush and back out the door of the grocery store, or we respond with creativity and calm—maybe even with a sense of humor.
At the end of the day, it’s our children who remember our reactions, who absorb our behavior and who will benefit from a deep breath, followed by a positive response.
There’s a quote I like to keep in mind, one that has been attributed to many people. No one really knows who the real author is:
You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening
And live like it’s heaven on earth.
It sounds like a prescription for happiness and the ability to live your truth. What if I changed the quote up just a tad?
You’ve gotta parent like there’s nobody watching,
Love so they’ll never feel alone,
Sing like your children are listening
And live like they’re heaven on earth.
Parenting as a profession can become tedious. Every day, we wake up to the same smiling faces—or possibly the same cranky faces, as some kids need more time in the morning before they feel like smiling. We pour the same cereal, flip the same pancakes and kiss the same boo-boos. Even though the day is different, the parenting responses can become predictable, easy, comfortable…and stale.
Once in a while, wouldn’t it be refreshing to parent like there’s nobody watching? Like our neighbors’ opinions won’t affect how we joke around or play with our kids? Because, the truth is, we should be concerned with making memories for our kids, not for our neighbors.
We should be enjoying the daily rituals, rather than robotically going through the motions. We get one shot at creating a childhood for our kids. And wouldn’t it be great if the memories cemented in their minds didn’t solely revolve around holidays and birthdays? We can choose to parent creatively each and every day.
Lately my 4 year old has decided that her pajamas are super comfortable and that she’d prefer to wear them on any given day. I thought about it for a moment and told her that she can wear whatever she wants, unless we’re going to a family affair or taking a family portrait, in which case I do insist on approving the outfit choices of all the kids.
When I picked up my 10 year old later that day, she pointed at her little sister with a questioning glance: “Is she feeling OK?” I told her that yes, she was, in fact, fine. “Then what’s with the pajamas?” she inquired. “She is happy dressed like that, and doesn’t she look cute?” I replied.
There are many directions this situation could have gone. I could have fought with my 4 year old over her clothes and been late in picking up my 10 year old, with a tantrumming kid in the car and probably a bad attitude myself. I could have joked with my 10 year old about how silly my younger child looked in pajamas and rain boots. But what is the benefit of either of these reactions?
Am I worried about what other people will think? Or the real question: Am I more worried about other people, or am I more worried about my daughter’s experience?
As parents, this can be a great opportunity to be honest with ourselves and separate our true feelings from our insecurities.
I have four lovely children. We make teeth-brushing an essential part of our morning and evening routine, but it is common for my kids to fight brushing teeth. I used to sit down and explain about cavities, dental visits and oral health. But those things are much more meaningful to me than to my kids. Then a friend suggested I let them know that their toothbrush needed a good meal.
“He is hungry, and wouldn’t it be nice to give him a taste of your yummy dinner?” I began to say. My 4 year old now tells her toothbrush what’s on the menu and can’t wait to share her goodies with Mr. Toothbrush!
The examples are endless. How many times have I been stuck in line at the store with a cart full of items I actually need and have no intention of leaving behind? Then, all of a sudden, my baby decides he’s had enough of this shopping business. I have been known to bust out some tunes, singing a favorite Beatles song to my cranky 9 month old while waiting to pay.
Who is going to remember that sweet gesture? Myself and my baby. And if anyone else has a takeaway, it will most likely be positive. I just might inspire a mother waiting in the lane next to me to play Peek-A-Boo with her restless toddler.
So parent like nobody’s watching.
Or better yet, parent like only your kids are watching. And sing like they’re the only ones listening. Because most of the time, they are the only ones paying attention.