Parenting with an audience

  • “Do you ever yell at your kids?” I ask a good friend.
  • “I do. But I yell mostly at home, in private.” She responds with disarming honesty which I love.

When I see my parenting from from a far away perspective, it looks clever, funny and balanced. Except I often feel it’s not. For the most part we don’t discriminate the circumstances of when to correct our daughter. Occasionally I feel bad for the onlookers who witness our parenting. I use my sharp tone often. Sometimes too often. 

The other day though, I remembered that this is just a season. A season of patience worn thin, of frustration, of tiredness and a sense of futility. 

For most of my life I embraced kindness. And learned early on to go out of my way to put people at ease. I don’t know why. 

So why do I feel so unkind lately? I don’t like to declare firm boundaries (but I do it daily – eventually she will learn where the boundaries are), explain consequences and then follow through with them. Because she tests us and the limits. Then she tests some more. But I must. I must follow through with the consequences I present. The alternative is worse. 

The disagreements with my husband about what’s imperative and what is optional are a bear. Deciding in the moment what is more important: grace for our daughter (flexibility, leniency) or a united parental front. When I am exhausted I frankly don’t care as much about the united front. I want peace and I want grace. And then we fight about it. 

The saving grace is something we learned in the first years of our marriage “To not let the sun set over our anger”. We think about it. We are not too proud or insecure anymore. We ask for forgiveness. Or we reconnect and call each other on our stubbornness.

As for disagreeing in earshot of our kids. We do it. Because life and circumstances and non-soundproof small home. Jackie most often asks followup questions to our heated discussions. And we answer them. Sometimes she asks plainly “what are you fighting about?” Sometimes she tells us what to do: “I think you need to apologize.” 

I search my heart. I ask God to search my heart. I teach her honesty, justice, integrity, kindness. And we go with the flow. Most often we adapt and try in earnest to do better the next time.