Even after 8 years I find Parenting in Public (PIP) to be one of the most trickiest aspects of raising children. Lets face it, we parents know (even though we are not supposed to) that we judge other parents. We also know that other parents are constantly judging us. Most of the time I can takes the stares, the head shaking and the "tsk-ing tsk-ing" of other parents in stride. Sometimes I think the judges out there keep some parents in check, which is a good thing. But I am fairly confident in my parenting that I do my best to make sure the judges do not affect the way I handle myself with my kids. I believe kids know parents get embarrassed and they try to exploit this weakness to get their way. Kids know other parents are judging. I try not to get embarrassed by tantrums and other public displays of meltdowns. I try my best not to give in.
The other evening I took the three boys to the swim club pool in an effort to give Lauren some peace and quiet as well as to wear out the kids before bedtime. My plan seemed to be working until it was time to leave. I instructed each of the boys to go to the showers, rinse off and get into their summer time pajamas, which is basically shorts and a T-shirt. They argued with me from the shallow end of the pool, the 30 foot walk to the grassy area where our towels and bag were, back around the pool past two lifeguard stands, across the 50 feet of deck, past the pool office and into the boys changing room. There was a cacophony* of whining, bickering, moaning and bellyaching the entire way. I was clearly frustrated during this walk and may have barked a few orders at the kids while trying to avoid any real parenting in public.
After 5 minutes of arguing over who got to use which shower and then complaining about why so and so got to use the striped towel "which was not fair because he got the striped towel last time and no one likes the towel with the seahorses and Jackson sticking his tongue out at me and I don't know why we need to leave yet the sun is still out which is not fair and Wyatt hit me with his towel and Max is shaking his butt at me and Jackson gets to wear the Batman shirt which is not fair because it is my Batman shirt even though it does not fit me anymore and it is not fair", I lost my mind.
We were the only people in the changing room and I did not feel the Parenting in Public stress nor the judging eyes. The changing room at the swim club is a small cinder block structure with a raised roof. Wrapping the building, between the top of the walls and ceiling, are sections of 2 to 3 foot screening vents. The venting provides ample circulation to avoid mold issues in the damp environment. I forgot about the venting when I lost my mind.
Through gritted teeth I started with my parental tirade."I have had enough of the bickering. Quit your bellyaching and put on your clothes...stop shaking your but....I swear to you if you shake your penis at your brother one more...do not snap the towel at him...get over here so I can put this...God help me...no God help you if you snap that towel one more...stop running in circles...I will never take you here again..."
I was getting louder and louder with each word until I was at a full on yell.
"I am not going to tolerate this behavior one more...Jackson get your heinie over here...both of you sit down right now..Jesus, Mary and Joseph...I am going to...knock. It. Off." I realized at that moment my voice bouncing off the cinder walls and out to the pool area.
I heard someone enter the changing room.
Just at that moment Jackson slipped in a puddle on the floor and banged his head. He started crying.
The person who entered the changing room turned the corner. It was a life guard.
"Everything okay in here?" he asked raising his eyebrows.
"Yes. He just slipped. He is fine." I said.
He looked over at Max and Wyatt who were both half naked shaking their butts at each other. There were clothes strewn all over the place. The life guard rolled his eyes and gave me the slightest bit of a judgemental head shake.
I hung my head and sighed. The kids won this round.
*Cacophony is one of my favorite words from Mrs. Dunn's, my High school English teacher, word of the day.