Good Parenting Doesn’t Always Look Like Well Behaved Kids

Mel and I took all three kids to the dentist yesterday. We live about an hour away from the closest dentist our insurance will cover, so we lined up all three kids with appointments back to back. We were there about two hours, which was basically a test of endurance.

Despite how difficult it was to wrangle three kids under 10 at the dentist office, and despite the standard guilt trip we got from the dentist about how our children weren’t flossing well enough…Or ever (Flossing my 3-year-old feels like sticking my hand in a lion’s mouth), the most frustrating part of all was when the secretary who scheduled our next appointments said this to my wife about our 3-year-old, “I hope she’s better behaved in January.”

Then she gave a raised eyebrow smug look that made Mel feel like she’d totally blown this whole parenting gig.

I was in the van at the time with Aspen and our oldest son.

Mel told me about it after the fact, her face slightly red, eyes down. I could tell that she felt like she’d done something wrong.

And you know what, I’ll admit. Aspen was being a handful that day. But she always is.

She’s three.

She screamed when Mel told her to stop climbing on the waiting room furniture. I took her outside to blow bubbles, but she spilled them on herself. I hauled Aspen back inside to clean her off, her squirming and crying like a soapy seal, me straight faced and exhausted. She got into magazines. She tried to wander down hallways. She made noise. She even wouldn’t open her mouth for the dentist.

Basically, she acted exactly like a three year old stuck at the dentist’s office would be expected too.

And true to character, were two parents, right at her side the whole time. I took the day off work, so Mel wouldn’t have to handle all of this alone. Mel and I chased Aspen. We redirected her. We entertained her. We took her outside. We took turns comforting all three kids as they were shuffled between the X-ray machine, the waiting area, and the doctor.

To be honest, we did everything we should have done as parents. We worked as a team. We tried, only to have someone look at our parenting as if it wasn’t good enough.

This has to be one of the suckest parts of parenting. When you do everything you should, and yet, your child is still out of control. Then, after enduring the embarrassment of your child making a scene despite all your efforts, someone still judges you.

I think all parents have been here.

This is what they mean by “parenting is not easy.”

But you know what, if you are the kind of person who judges parents when they are having a difficult time with a little one, I want you to take a look at all the support that is going into keeping that kid in line. Look at the parents chasing the child when she runs off course. Look at the way they tell the kid “no.” Look at the way they redirect the child, pull her away from anything troubling, or haul her outside because she’s being disruption.

Then I want you to realize that this is what parenting looks like. It doesn’t always look like well behaved children. Often times it looks like frazzled parents and active, lively, loud children who cannot, for the sake of sanity, keep from climbing on the waiting room furniture.

If you see a parent chasing their child, telling them no, redirecting them, or anything else that looks like parenting, don’t judge them because it isn’t working the way you think it ought to. Realize that those parents are doing everything they can. Then give them the credit they deserve for caring for their child.

They are not failing. They are not doing it wrong. They are doing exactly what good parents should.

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