You should keep your kids home if you can’t…
Watch over them at every moment.
Control them in the restaurant.
Make them behave.
Stop the baby from crying on the plane. Or at the movies. Or in the church service.
Keep them safe at the zoo.
People who say this can’t truly grasp The Shining-like claustrophobia of parenthood. There are times as a parent when you just need to get out of the house. I don’t mean like, “Hey wouldn’t it be nice to get out for a little bit?“ I mean, I need to get out of the house like my lungs need oxygen. If I don’t get out, I will suffocate.
Leaving home is not an easy decision. The biggest paradox of parenting is that no amount of conversations with friends, episodes of Full House, or books could have ever prepared me for constantly facing the maddening choice of either staying home and watching the kids tear the house and each other to pieces OR deciding to go somewhere, fighting to get ready, and loading into the minivan only to have my kids equal parts horrified and heartbroken that, no, we’re not going to get frozen yogurt right now.
The struggle is real and unrelenting. That’s why it’s hard for me to hear, “You should just stay at home unless you can control your kid at every moment.” This is a standard I know I can’t live up to. I’ve tried. I’ve talked about manners. I’ve bought toddler leashes. I’ve bribed my kids with suckers. Then I learned bribing with suckers was bad for their teeth so I bribed them with stickers.
There are always a few seconds that I fail. When I’m tying my four year old’s shoe and my one year old creeps too close to the escalator. When I am unbuckling one kid and the other wanders into the parking lot. And yes, tie me to a stake and light it on fire, there are even a few moments when I’m feeling a little lonely or I want to share a freaky weird thing one of my kids said, so I post on social media while I’m supposed to be parenting.
I have news for you, America. I’m going to keep taking my kids out in public.
This is where I need some of you. There will be times when I need wingman (or wingmom) out there in the wild, wild world. It doesn’t have to be long. Fifteen seconds can make a big difference in the life of the Stennett family. If you see my kids being a little rowdy at the playground, you can ask them to play nicely. If you see them about to break a statue, you can ask them to take a step back. If you see them wandering a little too close to the gorilla pit, you can remind them that’s not safe.
For the record I’m not blaming the bystanders at the zoo. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just confessing I can’t do this by myself. [I feel so old typing any sentence that starts with when I was a kid, but I’m still going to say it.] When I was a kid, adults talked to me and it wasn’t that weird. You can talk to my kids. Please, don’t snap at them. Just be the adult and kindly remind them about the dangerous situation. I’d rather you offended my kid than watch her get injured.
I know this isn’t easy. The other day I was in the grocery store and my daughter wiggled her way out of the straps and stood in the shopping cart while I was looking for avocados. “Sit down, honey,” a woman said. Honestly, I was offended. I thought, Are you judging my parenting? It’s not my fault my chid is the Houdini of grocery cart straps.
Then I took a deep breath.
The woman smiled at me as if she once had kids that age. I nodded. We had an understanding. At that moment, this complete stranger and I were on team Parent together. I told her “thank you” and buckled my daughter back into the cart one more time.