This past summer we were lucky enough to have a fantastic vacation, first to visit my sister-in-law and then to my sister. We loved it… and yet… and yet… I was so relieved to get home. I couldn’t figure out why until we were alone in the house and my kids were listening to me (and each other) for the first time in two weeks.
I started to break it down and realized I was exhausted from spending so much time parenting in front of other people. I spent two weeks being self-conscious of every thing my kids did or didn’t do, and ridiculously self-aware of my reactions to them.
When I’m with family or friends I don’t see very often, I overparent. Does this happen to you? Where you bark at every little thing? I don’t mean to do it, but I realize subconsciously I’m thinking, oh if I yell at the kids about this they’ll think our kids NEVER act like this.
The results of this overparenting are, of course, completely predictable. The kids, who were probably acting just fine to begin with, stop listening and stop behaving, and I just get louder and louder and hate myself more and more.
Halfway through our last vacation, I realized I’d been harping on my son non-stop, and I thought, I’m acting as though I don’t even like him. I love him! I love all the crazy stuff he does. Shockingly (not), when I turned my behaviour towards him around, he turned his around on me and we were both able to have more fun.
I’ve decided to try a few things going forward when I’m around people who don’t see my kids very often, play date, vacation or otherwise. One is to remember no one is thinking about your children’s behaviour as much as you are. I feel hyper-judged by people that I KNOW love my children deeply. This is my own craziness and I need to actively work to let it go.
I also try to have the conviction to stand by OUR family rules, even if they aren’t the same as another family’s. As long as my kids aren’t being rude or mean, I only need to apply our expectations. It’s not fair to change the rules just because we’re out of province!
The final technique is the most difficult; remembering my kids are NOT an extension of me. Their behaviour isn’t ALWAYS a reflection of my parenting choices. This removes some of the pressure I might put on them. They are who they are.
An added bonus now that I’m aware of my insecurities around other people is how it affects my relationship with other parents. I’m so much more empathic to other parents going through the same thing. When other parents overapologize to me for their offspring’s behaviour I can answer truthfully “All I noticed was how awesome your kids are.”