Parenthood is hard, but some kids are just blessedly, blissfully easy. You know the kind: He’s the kid whom everybody loves. He’s well-mannered and polite, doesn’t throw public tantrums or lose his shit at restaurants/sporting events/church/wherever you’re most likely to be mortified, and is always helpful — sometimes without even being asked. His teachers adore him. His friends’ parents say he’s welcome to come over any time, and they actually mean it.
You can take him anywhere without being even the slightest bit apprehensive that he’ll suddenly start acting a fool, and you’re always proud as a peacock (and all right, a little bit smug) because YOU ARE THE PARENT OF A GREAT KID.
You don’t need a bumper sticker to proclaim it to the world. Anyone with eyes can see that your child is the gold standard to which all other children should be compared. Look and learn, parents of undisciplined heathens and ill-mannered oafs. Look and learn.
The thing is, though, those kinds of kids are not typical, average kids. Their consistently stellar behavior might have you fooled into thinking it’s a result of your superior parenting, but it’s mostly that you got lucky. It happens, the same way that people sometimes hit the jackpot or find a diamond ring in a parking lot or breeze through all green lights on the way to work. Occasionally, genetics work in your favor and you get an easy kid.
And because of this, you tend to develop a sense of parental self-righteousness. You don’t actively cultivate it, it just happens on its own as you observe your child versus their peers. You see a meltdown at the park and inwardly scoff, “My kid would never do that.” You dish out side-eye with barely concealed disdain, perhaps without even realizing it, when you hear another kid talking back to his mom: “My kid wouldn’t dare speak to me that way.” Because, yes, your child is one of those honor-rolling, good-citizen-award-winning friends of the world.
But even the greatest, most agreeable kids are still kids. And any person — especially a kid, who is still learning by trial-and-error how to interact with the world — can have moments of weakness. So mark my words: No matter how good your child is, one of these days it’ll be their turn to be the asshole. Whether it comes in the form of a public sass, an angry outburst, or a rude comment to a friend, your kid will one day go off the rails in an astonishing and unexpected manner. Suddenly you’re on the receiving end of the side-eye, and you can hardly deal with this newly turned table. It will leave you reeling because your kid is the good kid!
Yes. You know they’re still good; this was a fluke, and they’ll return to their model-child status shortly. But please, parents of good kids, let this knock your sanctimony down a few pegs and take the lesson to heart. You wouldn’t want a bystander judging your child’s entire character (and/or your aptitude at parenting) based on a few bad moments or poor decisions. So don’t do it to anyone else.
Because no matter how well-behaved your child is, they’re human, and therefore fallible, and therefore prone to being a dick at least once in a while. Just like you can’t take all the credit for having a good kid, you shouldn’t be blamed for their occasional mishaps — and neither should other parents. They’re trying, but sometimes our kids’ behavior is out of our hands no matter how great our efforts. And just like your kid’s assholishness doesn’t indicate a flawed personality or a future prison stint, neither does theirs. You may not be seeing the other child’s sweetness, but it’s there: eclipsed by their temporary actions, to be sure, but present all the same.
So the next time you prepare to cast some holier-than-thou shade in the direction of that weary parent with the fit-pitching child, as yours sits quietly and obediently beside you, think twice and show them a little grace instead — maybe in the form of an empathetic smile. Because when it’s your kid’s turn to be bratty (and it will be), you’ll be infinitely grateful to get the same in return.