My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Why you might think my kids are little derelicts, but I don’t

I think we can all commiserate about the number of awesome blogs out there and the sheer lack of time to read them all. I frequently read  and I occasionally comment. Infrequently, I’ll return to see if there was any further discussion.

Today, I did just that with the blog Mommy Man.  The post was regarding “Time Outs” and how they’re perfectly okay to use. The comments went like this: “We do/do not use time outs. Do what works for you, and I love your blog. The End.”

But one person commented something like this (I paraphrased, but if you’re curious about the post and the comment, check here):

I love your blog. I don’t have kids yet, but I plan on using the parenting methods you talk about and I’m glad to see that they work.

I don’t understand why more parents don’t discipline their kids. I work in a business and I often see parents come in with wild, unruly kids. I would be absolutely appalled to let my kids do this! As a child, when I was in public I waited silently by the side of my mother. At home, I was allowed the freedom to be loud and rambunctious. My parents employed time outs and spankings as discipline. I’m now 24 and consider myself successful. I’m married and we are homeowners. I credit my responsible lifestyle to the discipline that I received at home. My parents tell me stories about how corporal punishment was used quite liberally in their homes, and they, too, turned out to be successful people and raise productive kids. (Not that I’m saying physical punishment is optimal, but you understand my point.) Allowing your children to run freely in public and giving in to their every desire is a good way to turn them into selfish people that will never be able to contribute to the community in any meaningful way…..all this being said in my humble opinion, of course.

That last line is a direct quote. Everything else was toned down for the purposes of my paraphrase. Before I begin to respond to this comment (or ones like it, since I think we’ve all been there), I would like to confess the following:

  1. I take my children on errands frequently.
  2. I do not believe in spanking. I don’t believe the “I was hit and I turned out fine”-argument is a case for continuing to promote physical punishment.
  3. I don’t do time outs. I mainly don’t do them because I have not found them to be helpful. They are an awful lot of effort for me (screaming, kicking, repeatedly returning the child to the chair/room, etc.) and they are horribly anxiety-provoking for my children.
  4. I believe that my children are children, not little adults. For more on that, see this post. I treat my children (I hope, at least on good days) as people who are deserving of the same dignity and respect that I would give you or your grandmother. I don’t consider them banned from public viewing simply because they are still learning how to control and regulate their emotions, in the same way that I don’t consider myself banned from Zumba class simply because the Latin dance gods have not yet blessed me with rhythm.

And now, my response to this commenter, despite the obvious fact that she commented on someone else’s blog.

Dear childless sir or madam,

I was once like you. I once held the keys to the castle. Before I had children, I knew exactly what to do and what not to do. I was never going to let my children watch TV, eat McDonald’s or pick their noses.
My dear, they’ve done it all. And more. Way more.
I am a stay-at-home mom, which is a complete oxymoron since no one that I know with that title actually stays at home all day. I am constantly on the go, trying to run the household but also trying to enjoy our lives. As a result of my being their sole caretaker most days, my children do nearly everything that I do (which is why it takes me freaking forever to do anything because I have to also shlepp two kids in and out of every store, bank, doctor’s office, library, school, business, etc.). My kids have been places and seen things that I could have only dreamed about at their ages (3 and 5). They ride in the car for hours at a time, and have flown (though not recently) many miles. My three-year-old has been to the Georgia O’Keefe museum, and I don’t even think my mother knows who Georgia O’Keefe is. My five-year-old has visited at least 12 states, more if you count driving through and spending the night in a hotel. This is to say, to my kids the store you work in is their world. We do not have a different definition for behavior on an airplane, in church, at home, or in the sandbox. We are kind, polite and respectful whatever our environment. In theory.
When I was a kid, I was 7 or 8 before I’d ever left the state. I was not exactly worldly, but then again, nearly every relative I had on the planet lived less than 60 miles from me. My parents had the help of extended family members if they needed it.  I live 1000 miles from my parents and 300 miles from my in-laws, and anytime I get the chance to see them it is essentially as though we move in with one another for a few days. Thus, my kids’ grandparents, unlike my grandparents, have seen my children at every emotional stage possible. They can tell you, as I will, that my kids are no angels. They hit each other, they throw fits because they cannot have cookies for breakfast, they slam doors, they forget to flush, they are sore losers, and they call me such names as “meanie poopie butt.” All this, and I still think that it’s worth defending them.
First off, why do my kids act out in public? That’s a good question. I’m always reminding them to use polite words, calm their bodies, respect others, refrain from taking off their pants, etc. Yet, they will not listen!  Perhaps it is because they are hungry, tired, or simply bored. I don’t know the answer, but if you asked them, you might get a response. I don’t see how your concern over her behavior would prohibit you from giving my child the benefit of the doubt. If you saw an adult who was exhausted and cranky, you wouldn’t assume that this person was void of discipline and bereft of manners. You might just think to yourself, “Golly gee, looks like that guy is having an off day.”
Why don’t more parents use discipline? That’s a good question, too. What you’ve addressed in your comment is commonly referred to as punishment. Time outs and spankings are not discipline. I don’t use punishments frequently, but I try to use discipline. We discipline our kids by setting clear expectations, by speaking with respect to them, by giving them choices and by allowing them the freedom to make mistakes. Trust me, if they are hooligans in your store today, they won’t be coming back with me tomorrow, and they’ll know why.
How will my kids ever be “successful” in life? That’s the million-dollar question. Being a productive member of society takes on a different appearance for different people. Maybe my daughter will be jumping from a plane fighting forest fires or singing in an opera. Maybe she’ll be traveling to Finland or working hard at an automotive plant. The point is, I don’t think their behavior today at your store is a predictor of their success in life.
I can tell you what success is not. Success is not impressing a perfect stranger with my child’s behavior. I have been complimented, and I have been the recipient of looks that could kill. It is all the same. This is my journey as a parent and it is my children’s journey as children, and we will encounter many people along the way. Whether or not you choose to be supportive of families is your choice to make. Afterall, my children are “normal,” whatever that means. They do not suffer from a severe illness, they don’t take multiple medications, and they do not have a diagnosis that requires four different therapy providers. Despite their “normalcy,” it is still very challenging to discipline them with love and to model good behaviors. Doubly so in public when you are trying to accomplish something. Please don’t judge the families that you encounter based on your limited definition of how a child should behave because you simply may not have all the facts.
Good day to you, source of pre-children parenting wisdom.
Just a couple of kids, reading on a chair

Just a couple of kids, reading on a chair


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I love your response. We are all brilliant and then the kids come out and we become fools? Not quite. Life is much more complicated than we realize. It’s too easy to pass judgment.

Comment by memyselfandkids

The road to realizing our folly is rather humbling, isn’t it? I thank you for commenting, as always. I’m totally behind on reading your stuff–I have to catch up!

Comment by jaymers

Sure is.
I hope you enjoy the catch up.

Comment by memyselfandkids

I love this Jayme! Thank you!

Comment by Amy Garcia

Amers, I’m so glad you enjoyed. Most of the time, I think the “perfect” kid is the one who actually acts like a kid (in that messy, high-spirited, trying-to-figure-it-all-out way) and definitely not the kid who acts like a robot.

Comment by jaymers

Miss you Jayme! This was wonderfully put. Reminds me of a story my mom loves to tell of me having a tantrum around the age of 8 or 9 and screaming “I hate you” at her. She told me to go to my room and on every step up the stairs I said “I hate you” once i got to the top she told me to come down again- i repeated I hate you on each step down- then she told me to go up again- I got louder that last time. My uncle- childless at the time said to her “MY children will never say I hate you. I wouldn’t allow that in my house.” Needless to say- his kids are normal too and I suspect his views have changed 😉 It’s so easy to judge from the other side. Wish you were closer so we could “stay at home” together!

Comment by Jen

Aw, Jen, it’s times like this where I really wish that I could spend time seeing my old friends as mommies-in-action. I bet you and Q would be super fun buddies. Your name has come up a lot in the past 24 hours because Jessica is staying with us for a few days (and it’s soooo good to see her–it was at your wedding that I last saw her!). The parenting gig is so funny in that it will remind me daily just what an arse I was for ever thinking such outlandish thoughts such as, “Potty training? Oh, it can’t be THAT hard?” or “Why do parents bring cheerios to feed their kids at church?” Seriously, I think my two kids were born as a physical way of saying, “In yo’ face, know-it-all!”

Comment by jaymers

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