My girlfriend and her toddler son stayed over at our house this past weekend. And her son was pretty cranky, obviously thrown off by being in a strange place. He cried and clung to her every time he saw her. It was difficult for him to sleep. He was into everything because we no longer have much babyproofing, especially for the stairs. We were so elated to be free of baby gates that we didn’t even have any to throw up quickly to block our staircases.
As the weekend went on, all of these things were really getting to her, and she kept apologizing for her son’s “behavior.” She kept saying, “He usually isn’t like this.” And my husband and I kept trying to convince her that it was OK, totally fine with us. “Hey, we have kids. We understand.” But you could just tell that she was really struggling with being able to let it go.
Here’s the thing I couldn’t quite make her understand: I love it when other people’s kids act up.
I’m serious. Whining, crying, screaming, clinging, willful, fussy, and sleepless (well, maybe I’m not totally OK with waking up in the middle of the night — we do have our limits).
Why do I love it, you ask?
Because 9 times out of 10, it’s me feeling the way my friend did. Embarrassed that my kids aren’t acting right. Too loud. Too rowdy. Too rude. Feeling like I have to apologize for them and for my apparent lack of control.
I am so relieved to see that my kids are not the only ones who throw epic tantrums when they don’t get their way.
It brings it front and center that other people’s kids aren’t perfect either. Which is something I often need reminding of, because most of the time I’m comparing my poorly behaved children to everyone else’s perfect little spawn.
I need to be reminded that everything I see on Facebook and at the occasional well-timed get-togethers isn’t the norm.
And so, my friend, I can guarantee you that I am not annoyed when you have to keep getting up and interrupting our conversation to go pull your son down from halfway up the stairs. I love to see willful behavior in action, because I am mostly convinced that both of my children have oppositional defiant disorder.
I promise I am not even remotely upset to hear your son crying half the day. My son screamed almost every day for the first year. Before this weekend, I wasn’t even sure your son ever cried. Now I know.
You were so frustrated that he didn’t go down for his nap like at home. You had to trek upstairs every few minutes to remind him it was bedtime and to lie down. I am now sufficiently over how jealous I was when you and I took our infant sons out for lunch. Remember how your son slept peacefully in his carrier for two hours with his little sound machine while mine threw food all over the floor and refused to sit in his high chair? Envious doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling that day.
So please don’t apologize when your kid acts up. When I see him mashing his little body against your legs and screaming at the top of his lungs for you to pick him up, I can breathe a sigh of relief that my children aren’t the monsters I’m convinced they are.
Really, I am not just placating you or trying to relieve your mom guilt about your child annoying us. I am so glad to see that your kid is not the flawless little angel I had presumed him to be.
Cry on, little man. It takes the load off my heart.
And next time I am in the middle of the same situation, maybe I’ll feel a little less embarrassed when my kids start their antics. Because I’ll know that sometimes your kids are annoying too.