Kids will test your resolve in lots of ways. As you progress into parenthood, you’ll realize the need to grow more patience and perspective every day, just so that you’re not constantly yelling.
Your kids will consistently find new methods of driving you crazy – many of them develop during the toddler years. Your little one is your pride and joy, of course. And there will be moments that your chest puffs with pride as you show off your darling to the world. At other times, that cute little guy is going to find more ways to embarrass you than you care to imagine.
Just when he looks cutest, he’ll stick a finger up his nose (or yours). He’ll put his hands down his pants while on stage at the preschool Christmas pageant. Or he’ll reveal something very personal about you at the exact wrong moment.
At those times, you feel the world’s judgment pressing down. Before you had kids, you were probably among the condescending crowd, thinking how the parents of ill-behaved kids were failing them by not teaching them discipline. Now you feel the heat as your kids perform for the critics of the world. But in those times, you can rest assured you are not alone. Every parent has stories about the terrible things their kids have done to them – and where. Check out some of the most mortifying things your kids will do in the public eye.
7 Open the bathroom door when you’re inside
The things nobody warned you about before you were a parent: personal privacy would be challenged in every sense. There is nothing sacred when you have kids – pretty much everything you do is subject to the inquiry of a curious mind, and that includes many of your body’s private functions.
So you’re doing your business in the most private of places – the bathroom. You’re catching up on the latest issue of your faviourite glossy and having some time for you.
Some parents are okay with their kids being present while they sit on the porcelain throne in their own homes. After all, a house only has so many bathrooms, and young kids tend to want to be in close proximity to their mommies. So maybe we should all just forget about privacy and let the little ones invade our space.
While it may be okay for kids to come into the bathroom when you’re the only ones home, you may regret this relaxed attitude to bathroom time when guests are over, or your husband strolls by to find you on the toilet and the door wide open, revealing your compromised state. Nothing is sexier than seeing a lover mid-poop. It’s right around this time you may wish you created stricter bathroom rules. Or else installed a locking mechanism high up on the door.
What do you do when your bathroom time becomes a performance art? It’s a cruel joke that in most bathrooms you can’t reach the door to close it while you’re sitting on the toilet. So you’re left with a choice: stand up mid act and try to close the door with your pants down, or just sit where you are and take the shaming. Even if you get the door shut, you have to convince the kid not to open it again.
Embarrassment really has only one comeback. All you can do when your potty time has been interrupted is to laugh it off. After all, if the joke’s on you, you may as well chuckle along.
6 Repeat something that was said in private
Let’s face it: sometimes we all say things that are just not appropriate for mixed company. But when we’re in our own space, we feel secure enough to let go and talk freely about things.
Too bad that one of the hallmarks of kids’ behaviour is their inability to tactfully navigate social situations. Kids will tell others about any aspect of their lives that seems a propos, with no thought to privacy or the feelings of others.
Stories we tell to our spouses or neighbours are not intended for other occasions. So when kids take something you’ve said out of context, and parrot it loudly for everybody to hear, it can be downright embarrassing.
When I was a kid, I told the young man that lived down our street, “My mom thinks you’re cute!” I’m not sure who blushed more, the guy or my mom. Though my mom made the remark at home, and meant it, it was definitely not meant for the good-looking neighbour to know about.
Sometimes, in the sanctuary of your own home, you just need to let off steam. After a bad day or during a time of stress with family members, on occasion you need to just say something really nasty. You really don’t mean it and you certainly never want to the recipient of your anger to hear about it. You’re just vocalizing a bit of pent-up anger.
But we must always be mindful of the little ears that are listening.
When you’re saying – or repeating – nasty things in likely very naughty language, you probably don’t think your kids are listening. Your kiddos are off in their rooms or they’re immersed in Sponge Bob on tv. But make no mistake: they will hear just what you wish they hadn’t.
Out of nowhere, you’ll be visiting with your mother-in-law, and out it comes. Or it gets repeated to a teacher. And the very worst side of you is revealed.
Sadly, there’s not very much you can do to mitigate the effects of this disaster. You can only apologize for your words and your child’s actions, and if you’re wise, make a quick exit from the situation.
5 Ask something really embarrassing
Are you a person who sails breezily through awkward moments? Who has no shame about the human body and is so cool under pressure? Well, lucky you, because your kids are going to throw it all at you. They are going to ask you the most out-there questions known to humankind, and expect a factual answer from you (points if you don’t blush while doing it).
Hang-ups about your relationships, your body, or your lifestyle will become really apparent when you have to explain them to a pint-sized investigator.
Asking adults the big questions in life is one of the only way kids have of learning about the world. Before they can read and research for themselves, the encyclopedia Mom and Dad the best resource for making sense of things around them.
Okay, sometimes it feels nice to be responsible for teaching your kids something, to impart some of your worldly knowledge on the next generation. Other times those questions are really difficult to answer.
You have to consider the age appropriate, socially responsible, and non-emotionally scarring facts to include in your response.
The quintessential head-scratcher question parents worry over is regarding where babies come from, but the answer to that is actually pretty straightforward.
However, if your little darling pulls something out of your nightstand and into mixed company and asks “what’s this?” it might be a little tougher to explain. Or if there’s a marital breakup or other grown-up emotionally charged situation that your child wants to understand.
It’s important to remember that, to a kid, every question is an honest one. Your child is not gunning to get a laugh or embarrass you (unless she’s old enough to know better, and then she’s just being rude). In hopes of preserving her sense of curiosity and trust in the authority of adults, it’s best to be gentle when answering, or asking her to please keep the question for a better time. And if you behave like the question is off-limits, you’ll just pass your insecurities along to your kiddo.
4 Wear really terrible things
When you were pregnant, you probably bought lots of cute outfits for your newborn. Each birthday and holiday you’ve enjoyed shopping, and got the cutest dresses, shoes, and matching accessories. Everywhere you went, she was a very stylish kid.
And then, one day she woke up with her own opinion about how she would dress. And her sense of style turns out to be very… different. And you, being the caregiver and guardian of your precious offspring, have to be seen in public with her.
Most times it just seems too hard to fight with kids over something as inconsequential as matching colours, but sometimes it’s worth it. When you see the yellow duck rain boots paired with an inside-out bathing suit and a toque, you’ve just about hit your limit for eclectic clothing choices.
On one hand kids are individuals and you have to let them be who they are. On the other hand they seem to have no concept of the social construct or the pressure to behave a certain way, and they need to learn. You walk a fine line as a parent, trying to respect kids’ rights to be kids, and trying to keep your family from looking like a circus act. So you try to get your kids to comb their hair, wear matching socks, and wear appropriate footwear. This is not an easy thing. Some kids just want to wear what they think is comfortable, regardless of how ridiculous it is. Other kids are very concerned with fashion, but they insist that purple mittens are the only appropriate accessories for a green dress.
While fashion statements are up to the individual, in the end you have to walk around with the kid so you must have some say on how he appears to the world. In those cases it’s best to offer suggestions of two or three choices of clothing, while leaving the final call to the kid. This may be a different story if, say, you have a kid that wants to wear a sleeveless dress in midwinter, or, in the case of my son, refuses to wear any clothes at all well into his fourth year on the planet. Then you have to put your foot down.
3 Behave like monsters
You probably believe your kids have pretty good manners. When they’re at home, you make sure they wash their hands before dinner and wait their turn to be served at dinner. You’ve taught them manners, correct posture, and how to handle conflict with friends. So you’d hope they carry that great training into the world, right?
You’ve worked really hard to teach your kids the proper way to behave. But suddenly when you’re in public, their behaviour will go against anything you’ve ever taught them. They will throw a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. They will take something at a friend’s house without asking. They will be rude, stomp feet, and push to get to the front of the line. Have no fear, it’s not that you’ve failed in any way as a parent, and their actions don’t reflect as badly on you as you worry they might.
Kids have short attention spans and an abundance of energy and excitement, which is exactly what makes them so fun to be around. But it also means that they get carried away and forget what you told them five minutes ago – and fifty times before that. So when your kiddo gets to go to his friend’s house, he may be so excited he forgets his manners. But you’re not alone. Every kid does it, and every kid’s parents feel just as small as you do.
But just because you’re not alone doesn’t mean you can let them get away with it. Kids pick up really well on double standards, and they will get away with whatever they can. So to make sure you come out looking like (and being) a responsible parent, you have to correct the behaviour as it happens. That means time-outs in the cereal aisle, losing window-seat privileges in the car, and forgoing treats for a naughty kiddo. That way, the next time your child thinks he can act up in front of company, he might remember the lesson he learned the hard way.
When kids turn violent, parents wind up feeling really terribly guilty – like their kids’ actions are a direct reflection of terrible parenting.
There is really something special about youngsters’ sense of justice. About the time that you’re trying to ‘socialize’ your toddler by exposing her to other kids, she makes it clear that her private property – otherwise known as her toys – is hers and sharing is a foreign concept. Kids come up with punishments for each crime - She took my toy so I pushed her into the mud. She was being annoying so I threw her truck over the fence. Things that make sense to them just don’t really add up to adults. Most times, you can help them work toward a more reasonable dispute-handling strategy, but there’s one time that parents need to intervene and things can get ugly - and that’s when kids bite. That’s the time that dispute resolution may be needed between the parents, because the bitten kid generally has a big, ugly, nasty mark as proof he was wronged.
If your kid bites, it’s really hard to discern what to do about it. Besides, obviously, expressing your discontent over the situation, there’s little you can do, and if your kid is a continual biter, you wind up feeling really embarrassed at his behaviour. After all, teeth are pretty effective at causing damage – that’s what nature intended them to do. When they’re used as a tactic in a playground squabble, you can only tear your precious kiddo away from his playmate, hiding your face from the gathering crowd as the victim screams in pain.
Though clearly biting is an unacceptable way to handle, well, anything at all, it’s also often overlooked that your biter was provoked. So while you feel horrible that your kid could have hurt somebody, you will also feel angry that your child comes off looking like the lone bad guy, in a wild-west of playground interactions. But don’t feel too bad about your child looking like a violet outlaw – you’re certainly not alone in dealing with a biter.
1 Pull private things out of your purse
Ahh yes, admit it: you’re going through an itemized list of the contents of your purse right now. What excruciatingly personal items could your kid pull from in there during a visit to your up-tight great aunt?
A tampon? You can do better than that. A condom? Maybe. How about medicated cream for some down-there skin flare-up? Or an up-close dirty photo you were saving for your spouse? Now you’re thinking.
It’s time to clean out your purse, maybe. Because just in the time you’re not expecting it, that’s when teeny tiny fingers will delve into the depths of that long-forgotten side-zip pocket and pull our your worst nightmare.
Kids have really great instincts on the worst item to pull from your bag, and the moment for biggest impact. During a bank appointment or in the doctor’s waiting room, your boy has been bored for half an hour and is desperately trying to entertain himself, or your girl’s hungry and looking for a mint to get her through to mealtime. You’re distracted and hushing your kids’ complaints while they treasure hunt through your bag. And boom! There it is: a shocking and mortifying object that you wish never saw the light of day. And suddenly, everyone in the room has seen a sneak-peek into your private life. It’s just that fast.
Sometimes the worst part is the reaction of the people in the room. My boy pulled a pantiliner out of my purse once. I’m not terribly embarrassed by a pad in my bag (most women probably have at least one) but the man who’d seen it gasped and blushed. His flustered attitude made me feel much worse about it.
No matter how quickly you try to holster that weapon, things seen can’t be unseen, and nothing is stricken from the record in the court of public opinion. You have been outed.
If you’re lucky, people around you will be polite, and try to pretend they didn’t’ see anything at all.