It’s Like This For Everyone

Very few of us leave the house confident about the impressions we cut as a parent. In fact, most of us leave the house with a tiny bit of fear—what are these animals going to do today, we think, what fresh idea do they have for embarrassing us?

It’s strange that we’re so self-conscious about something that we share with literally every other parent. Because basically nobody’s kids behave, we’re all riders on the same out-of-control horse. (And if you’re not—or if you see someone who isn’t—you can rest assured it’s because the kids are the ones who are afraid).

We talked about Lincoln recently, who used to bring his “brats” to the office, in the words of William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner. As much as he hated the noise, Herndon actually seemed to admire Lincoln’s ability to deal with this. “The boys were absolutely unrestrained in their amusement,” he noted. “If they pulled down all the books from the shelves, bent the points of all the pens, overturned inkstands, scattered law papers over the floor or threw the pencils into the spittoon, it never disturbed the serenity of their father’s good nature.”

The lesson here is twofold. First off, it’s a reminder that you’re not alone in raising absolute hellions. That’s just what kids are—and they never really stop being them (they find new ways of stirring stuff up when they’re older!). Two, really the only part of this that reflects on you is how you respond to it. If it turns you into a monster, if it makes you mean or nasty or makes you throw a fit in response to their fit? Well that’s the real problem.

Of course, we have to do our best to restrain our kids. We can’t let them destroy other people’s property or leave a huge mess behind them when we get off an airplane. We also don’t need to walk on eggshells or be mortified. Even if some people judge you, most other parents empathize. They know what you’re going through.

So relax. Don’t let it disturb your good nature.

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