See, in my head, I can flash back to the countless friends who have laughed directly in my face when Ive complimented them on their kids behavior. Like, when Ive seen their son at the mall and he makes a concerted effort to come over and say hi and ask how I am. Or when I see a friends daughter at the gym and she holds the door for me into the locker room and chats me up about my family. Or the kids who just ooze politeness whenever theyre around anyone else but us.
And I know how that feels because Ive been on the other side of that kind of exchange so many times, answering my friends who comment about my kids with something like, “Really? Seriously? You talking about my kid?”
Because the kid I generally see is the one who rolls her eyes at me, lets out a really long and incredibly snarky exhale, and pops in her earbuds when I say good morning. Or, its the one who ignores the labor-intensive dinner I just prepared and served and just focuses on the fact that I chew my vegetables abnormally loud. (In her opinion.) Or, the daughter who locks her bedroom door 23 hours-a-day and gets pissy even when I knock with a purpose, yet expects that mine is a permanently-open and revolving door that spins endlessly, just waiting for her to need something from me.
Thats why its so funny to hear what other people think about our kids when we know sides of our own children that no one else sees. Sides, by the way, that nobody would believe even if we showed them video.
Now as a mom, I get that we want our kids to feel comfortable and uninhibited and safe when theyre around us. Thats how our kids should feel at home. I know its certainly how my husband and I raised our girls to feel, anyway. And Im pretty sure most parents would agree that they feel the same. But, the problem with that mentality is that our kids often take advantage of the family dynamicof the freedom and privacy they have under their own roof that gives them a sense that the outside rules somehow dont apply.
Well, they do still apply. And they should. But because most kids tend to let their hair down a little looser and wavier at home, we often miss out on spending a lot of time with that really sweet, thoughtful, affectionate kid.
Because thats just not who they are most of the time when theyre sprawled out on the couch with popcorn kernels down their shirt, ignoring even your simplest attempts to make conversation. And a big part of why they slide into another personality when theyre behind closed doors with us is because the outside influences that affect their behaviorlike friends or teachers or peer pressurearent around.
At home, kids push boundaries a little more than they do everywhere else because home is safe, home is, for the most part, non-judgmental, and home doesnt stress our kids out like the outside world does.
Unfortunately for us, though, Im not sure theres a real way around all that, at least not when theyre tweens and teens and even young adults. Its just something they evolve out of, once theyre mature enough for those distinctly different personalities to co-exist and meld into one, well-adjusted, consistent personality. But at least the consolation prize is that even though we dont see the version of our kid that everyone else sees, the kid that the gen pop meets is usually the one that reflects their best self. And, consequently, reflects our best self too because theyre a product of their environmentwhich is us.
So, I dont know about you, but I really do live for those moments when I get positive feedback about my kids from a friend or an acquaintance or someone else on the outside. Because it means Im doing most of my job right and my kids are decent human beings when theyre floating around out there in the world. And thats what we all secretly hope for. Thats the takeaway of solid parentingthat were putting good people out into the world.
Just wish we could see even a smidge more of it first-hand.
Although, even a .500 season means were still doing ok.
For more from Lisa Sugarman, visitLisaSugarman.comandTwitterandclick here for an exclusive offer to pre-orderher upcoming book Untying Parent Anxiety.