As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Your Kids Are Great (so cut them some slack)

I took my kids to the dentist last week.  Since there are 6 who see the dentist plus me, this usually takes an entire morning in the dentist's office.  I always feel like wherever I go with them I bring the chaos, and am always extra sensitive to even their tiniest indiscretions.

Immediately upon filing into the office we are greeted by a fellow dentist-goer.  This is a scene that repeats itself often in my life.  As he watches the door, his eyes grow wider with each child that passes through.  He counts them and looks at me with wide-eyed wonder.  "They aren't all yours?" he says.  I've learned to take these interactions light-heartedly, and the two of us laugh about it.  We really are a spectacle wherever we go, and I'm not as sensitive about comments as I once was.

He continues to make an over-the-top big deal of us, asking if I'm operating a daycare and saying I don't look old enough to have this many children. "This is like a reality show!" he says, and we both laugh.  Sensing at this point that I am growing uncomfortable with the exchange he adds, "you know, you just don't see this very often.  I mean, wow!  And they're so good!"  I respond as I typically do, that I hope they behave well but they have their good days and their bad days, and he might feel differently by the end of our morning.

When I went in for my appointment the hygienist, who had heard the entire conversation, was laughing.  "That guy in the lobby," she said, and we exchanged an understanding giggle.  "Seriously though," she replied, "your kids are really good.  Whenever they come we hardly know they're out there.  Not everyone is like that."  I thank her, but in my mind memories of their bad behaviour flood in.  I know my kids are good, but I know like all kids they have their moments too.  And sometimes I feel like people are compelled to say they're good simply because there's so many of them.  "They don't really know us," I think.

Then my dentist, who has been treating me since I was the age of my children, came in to see me.  He is a warm, gentle man with whom I have a great rapport. "Your kids are really great," he says, and I kind of laugh.  Sensing my hesitancy he continues.  "Seriously," he says, "they're always so well behaved.  I see a lot of families and that's not always the case.  That says something about their parenting." Something in the way he spoke urged me not to brush this off as a casual comment.  The man in the lobby only saw us once in our lives, the hygienist a handful of times. But this man has a much longer history in my life.  Something about his words penetrated my false humility and settled in my heart.

It made me feel good about myself, but also my children.  It's true that as parents, we see the good and the bad.  So when people see us on our best behaviour, sometimes I worry they have an unrealistic impression of our family.  I never want to portray us as better than anyone else, and I think I worry about being hypocritical.  So instead of taking the compliment, I "keep it real."  I bring up the bad moments too, because hey, we're all human.  But the thing is, those bad moments don't define us. And especially for the kids, who work so hard to behave while we're out, can't I let them have that compliment?  The insistence of everyone I met in the dentist's office that morning showed me that yes, I can.  When people offer me a compliment, and especially when they offer my children one, it's okay to take it.  It builds us up in a world where so much around us tears us down.  And it gives us the encouragement to keep on trying, to always put our best foot forward, when we're out and when we're at home.

Yesterday we were supposed to attend a family gathering, but half of us were sick.  We sent the children who were not sick (half of them) with relatives and picked them up at the end of the night.  As they unloaded the kids from their vehicle my Uncle said, "you have the best kids in the world!"  I laughed it off and he continued.  "Seriously," he said, "you really do."  And in that moment I realized what a gift children are to the world.

Parents, it's so easy to see the worst in your kids.  We all do it.  But I want you to know that your children bring joy to the world, that their presence is uplifting, and their chaos is seen and embraced much more easily by the people who meet them than you realize.  It's natural to be sensitive and to want your children to be on their best behaviour, and there's nothing wrong with teaching them to behave and disciplining them when they're not.  But the next time someone tells you how great your children are, resist the urge to correct them.  Sure, we all have our bad moments.  But your kids are really great kids.  Believe it, and let them believe it too.

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