One of my biggest struggles as a parent was that I was not prepared for the comparison. I never imagined I would one day look around a waterpark and feel so alone as parent. I hadn’t yet learned how to overcome comparison as a parent and realize that everyone parents differently.
I remember the day I first noticed it. It all started as my son ran screaming past me and my one year old. Running, I caught up with him and balanced my toddler in one arm while consoling his bathing suit-clad self. I could feel the eyes of every parent around the pool looking at me from behind their sunglasses.
All I could think was, Really? A breakdown at the waterpark?! With all these parents and other kids? I looked casually to the side and saw our family friend and their son watching from a distance. In that moment, I wondered why I seemed to be the only one with a screaming preschooler. Why was it me?
Have you ever had a moment like this? That moment where you wonder why everyone else has kids who are perfect and your child seems to be out of control? That moment when you start to wonder where you are going wrong in parenting and how you can make changes.
As I drove home from the water park that afternoon, I remember being so frustrated. And then in the middle of my frustrations, I started to recall memories of the times I saw that screaming child in a store or at a park. Suddenly, I did not feel so alone.
In fact, I suddenly wished I could go back in time and offer that parent a smile and say, “Yep — been there.”
See the thing I had not fully grasped (and honestly still have to remind myself of) is that all we see out in public, at that play date, at church, on Facebook — it is a small window into that person’s life. We are not seeing the whole picture… if you opened the door into that person’s life I am sure you would see things get a little hectic there too. You would see the moments where their child was screaming or having a tantrum.
Remember, as we scan through Facebook and see these perfect pictures that these are just pictures of a single moment. With every picture I take, there usually has been a crazy moment either before or shortly after — that is life.
In fact, just yesterday my boys were sitting at their little table coloring quietly together and having fun. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped the photo. Smiling, I thought, what a great moment! You know it was not even 10 minutes later that my younger son colored on his brother’s paper which set his brother off into a whirlwind of anger and frustration.
That is reality — with little kids there are going to be fun, laughing, giggling moments… but there are also the moments of screaming and frustration.
Chances are on that day at the water park, there was another parent there who had a crazy morning with her kids, or after I left another screaming child. This is what I had to remind myself of… kids are kids. They are not perfect. We cannot expect them to perform perfectly.
My son is slowly learning how to control his emotions. It is a process, a teaching and learning process, that happens over time. And as it takes time, we need to remember not to compare ourselves to “that perfect mom.” There are no perfect people, no perfect parents… we all have moments (I promise you that mom that you see and you think her kids are perfect… they have their moments).
So next time you find yourself looking at that other mom wondering how she has such angelic children and yours are such crazy animals, remind yourself… they are human, they are not perfect, they have imperfect moments.
And the next time you see that parent with the screaming child doing the best they they to contain him, offer a simple smile or a word of encouragement.
We are all in this world of parenting together — so let’s stop comparing and stop judging, but instead encourage one another.