My Kids Used To Embarrass Me In Public! But Not Anymore!

I used to hang my head in embarrassment when I was out with my little boys. They just didn’t fit the mold of what I felt was good behavior in public. Or at least what I felt others deemed as acceptable.

Recently, our family doctor appointments piled up over the course of one week and I noticed something particular in the waiting rooms.  At every appointment, moms sat with their young daughters who listened attentively, read books, or colored pictures. One time, I went alone to a lab for tests. I had a 30-minute conversation with another pregnant mom as her daughter sat beside her without making a peep, allowing us to talk uninterrupted. Later that day, I went to another appointment with my kids. Sure enough, a mom sat across from us with her daughter who quietly turned the pages of a picture book. 

And then there was this:

Yep, that's what my boys were doing. 

It got me thinking…..

I don’t have a clue if that mom is a “good mom” or not. I don’t know her parenting methods or how much effort she puts into her relationship. She seemed like a lovely woman to me and for all I know she is mother of the year or neglecting her kids. No idea.  I do know how I parent, however. I quit my full time classroom job to be home with my kids, I speak about parenting issues and faith to groups of parents, I run a mommy blog, contribute for other websites on the topic of motherhood, and I’ve co-authored a best-selling book on gentle biblical parenting. But……my kids would not sit still at the doctor’s office if my life depended on it.

I like to think of myself as a “good” mom, but if you were watching my kids as we waited for the doctor to see me this week, you may have had a different opinion!

My boys had to wait for 15 minutes with me for one appointment. In the span of that time, they climbed all over their dad, got up and down from their chairs constantly, played charades, yanked on each other’s hats, ate snacks, guzzled water, and fell off their chairs onto the floor. To the observer, I probably did not come across as a “good mom.” 

For many moms and dads, this would be an instant trigger toward frustration and anger but I chose to cherish their banter they were so obviously enjoying. After a little while, another couple walked in with their three sons who promptly began to display similar behavior. We smiled knowingly across the aisle.

I know that there are many moms of boys, AND GIRLS too, who feel embarrassed about their kids’ lack of decorum in public. I get it. I used to feel that way too. And while I did spend some time in the waiting room reminding them to lower their voices and keep their hands to themselves if things got out of hand, I also let a lot of stuff go because I know that they are testosterone-charged little dudes who truly can’t find it in themselves to sit still.

Could I train them into submission using threats, constant practice, or discipline? Sure, I could. I know we can use various methods to get the results we want in kids. But you know what? That’s not me. I don’t want to squelch that spirit in them that makes them vibrant, rowdy, and boisterous. I know God made them differently from me as a female and that there is a purpose behind our differences. I believe that my short term satisfaction of forcing them to sit quietly would come at too costly a price, for them.

I do attempt some creative options, like “Simon Says—Seat Version” and “I Spy With My Little Eye” but even games like these have a short life span for my kids before they get squirmy…and noisy…again.

Instead, I continue to work on one of my favorite parenting mantras: “Don’t make decisions because of fears or peers.”

If I’m more concerned about what people think than what I believe is ultimately best for my kids, then I’m headed down a slippery slope. Yes, there is a time and place for them to settle down and be cooperative—I’m not saying that we ignore all behavior and let them act like maniacs, but early on in my parenting there was an imbalance in allowing them room to be the boys that they are physiologically because I was more concerned about what people would think of me as a parent. Those days, are happily gone! And it’s brought great freedom for both me and my kids!

The good news is that they still know when they need to shape up most of the time. For the most part, they listen to their teachers at school and know how to behave during Sunday School story time. I think they know that time with mom and dad allows more freedom to simply be their more rambunctious selves and I want to be that safe place for them to let loose a bit more than with other adults. If relatives, friends, or strangers don’t like it, so be it.  I take that concern off my plate. They may be a little too loud and a little too wiggly for some, but for me, I’m learning to embrace it.

I know there are a lot of parents out there who feel pressured by the standards of others. I want to let you know that you can let that go too. Instead, let’s get some clarity on what WE believe is best for our individual kids without fear or pressure. God gives us all the wisdom we need to parent the kids He has uniquely given to us. Don’t let embarrassment, fear, or guilt get in the way of following His leading! Go ahead and let your kids break that “seen and not heard” mold! Love their disorderly nature and maybe others will learn to too. 

YOUR TURN! Are you ever embarrassed by your kids behavior in public? Can you relate to my experience? Is it difficult or easy for you to handle the scrutiny of others?