How To Fail At Parenting In Public

wild connection Jul 16, 2021

You’re out in public with your child. (Horror movie music begins.)

A restaurant. The park. The grocery store. (Dun-dun-dun.)

Your child does things that kids do. Some of them are loud or messy or angry or tearful or violent or rude. (Gasp!)

Your mind fills with the imagined expectations from other people. You think they think you should be stricter with your child. Keep them under more control. Stop spoiling them.

You may be right about what those people think.

Everyone has an opinion on how to parent. If you agree with me, then your ideas of what makes a supported, nurtured childhood are very different from the mainstream.

You cannot please those people.

There is no heroic parental magic trick that will sail you through this moment to receive the unadulterated praise of your audience.

You are going to fail at parenting.

At the moment you feel the piercing gaze of the disapproving judges, you have already failed.

Accepting this, embracing this, becoming at one with and at peace with this realization is your first step to truly not caring if other people are watching.

But for now, remind yourself that you can’t recover.

Having acknowledged that you’re about to fail at parenting, make your best effort to FAIL BIG.

You’re at the grocery store and your child is wailing about the cookies they can’t have. Sit down and hold them anyway. You know that they are deeply disappointed and need a companion through their big feelings. Even if it takes 20 minutes. Even if they cry the whole time. Other people think you should punish your child or whisk them out of the store. Shut out all the voices except yours and your child’s and fail big.

You’re at the park and your child just got done hitting every child in sight. Take some nurturing alone time with them anyway. Sit with them and comfort them and try to figure out what’s going on. Other people think you shouldn’t be nice to a “misbehaving” kid. But you know that your child’s behavior is a signal about what’s going on with them. And you care what’s going on with them. Shut out all the voices except yours and your child’s and fail big.

Your child is jumping in the mud puddle at the park when all the other parents are guiding their children away from the mess. Vow to enjoy the moment as visibly as possible. Ignore the disapproving glances and laugh and laugh and laugh. Jump right in there yourself and fail big.

You’re eating at a casual restaurant one night and your child insists on loudly singing while waiting for the meal. Other people start to frown in your direction. Remind yourself that when a table of adults gets rowdy most people don’t bat an eye. Even the servers occasionally break out in a birthday song for a guest. Onlookers think you are failing at controlling your child, but you’ve got your eye on more important values. Go ahead and sing right along with your child.

Other people may think you fail at parenting. They may think you fall short in areas like control, punishment, and “teaching that child a lesson”. If that’s parenting, who needs it?

Hold your child. Comfort your child. Understand your child. Connect with your child.

Be proud to fail. And FAIL BIG!


~~Issa Waters

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