I’m Really Not That Bad, I Swear

When my daughter Hannah was three years old, she was a runner. Whenever we found ourselves in a public place, she’d seize the first opportunity to run off, laughing the whole way. She thought she was hilarious. I thought that she was infuriating. The fact that I was pregnant with my son at the time didn’t help matters, either. On many occasions I found myself yelling at her to Come! Back! Here! Right! Now! as I frantically tried to finish checking out library books or paying for groceries. The stares of all the strangers as she totally ignored me and ran even faster just made it all that much worse.

Upside down girlThese little episodes always ended more or less the same way. Eventually, I would have no choice but to run after her, panting under the weight of the ever-growing baby inside my belly. When I finally caught her, grabbing both arms firmly to keep her from escaping again, she would do two things. The first, which you will be highly familiar with if you’ve ever parented a preschooler, is she would go completely limp. The second, is she would yell loudly, “Ouch, you’re hurting me!” Since all eyes were already on us, anyway, there was no doubt that everyone within earshot heard her clearly. They had no way of knowing that she used the word hurting to mean stopping me from doing what I want to do. At home, she would say I hurt her when I denied her a cookie. They probably thought that I was squeezing her really hard, or pinching her, or something.

Kids have a way of making you look much worse than you really are. There’s a famous story from my own childhood in which I informed my grade one teacher, the delightful Miss Tan, that my daddy hit my mommy. This was patently untrue. What was true was that my parents sometimes play fought in the way that non-abusive couples will, in front of me. It was all very chaste and not at all worth mentioning, unless you were a six-year-old who had just heard an anti-abuse talk and didn’t really understand. Luckily, my teacher knew my mother well, and no one called in the authorities.

Sorry about that, Mom.

Shopping buddyMy son Jacob is a pro at making me look bad in front of other people, too. Like when he tells the doctor that his favourite breakfast is jelly beans, when I have never fed him jelly beans for breakfast. He just doesn’t know the difference between breakfast and lunch and snack and occasional treat. Or when he shows his grandmother the bruise he got when he ran in front of me while I was walking and I tripped and fell on him, saying, “Look, Mommy hurt me here.” He’s not trying to make me look like a bad parent, but he’s doing a pretty stellar job of it.

Fortunately, I think most people understand that this is just the way kids are. They’re like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, keeping a catalogue of wrongs inside their little heads. When you combine that with developing language skills, sometimes it all comes out sounding much, much worse than it really was. All you can do, really, is laugh it off as best you can, and try not to care too much about what strangers may think of you. That, and hope that their grade one teacher knows you well enough to tell the difference between an abuse allegation and a confused six-year-old.

Or maybe you can wait until your grandchildren are making your kids look bad in front of other people. I’m sure my mother is enjoying that very much right about now.

Have your kids ever said or done anything in public to make you look like a terrible parent? Please share, I could use some commiseration!

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  1. My biological daughter is 5 and just did a project for school about herself. The only picture she liked and would use showed all of her cousins, no immediate family and the book she wanted to take was about being adopted! I have a parent teacher meeting tomorrow so I’ll get to hear her teacher’s reaction…

  2. I so relate to this post! Miranda has also made me “look bad” on a number of occasions. Most recently, Miranda wore a pair of boots to school which don’t have good grips on the soles. I had carefully pointed out to her a few times that the boots are for fashion, not rainy weather, but on this occasion there was some unexpected rain and she forgot to change her shoes before going outside at recess. She then had a minor fall (didn’t even hurt herself, which is always a risk with her medical condition). For whatever reason, Miranda got all stressed about it and started crying in class, insisting that I would be “really mad” at her. She was apparently inconsolable the rest of the day. I think she remembered me telling her about the boots having poor grips, and so she thought this meant I would get upset with her. I felt horrible, both that she would be so worried about this and also that the teacher must have thought I’m a complete ogre! Needless to say, I was not mad at her in the slightest, contrary to her fear. Luckily, the teacher was very understanding and just treated it as one of those, “who-knows-why-kids-sometimes-act-the-way-they-do” things. GAH!

  3. Ha ha! One of the pieces of work that #2 brought home from JK in June was scribed by his teacher. It was about a “bad day” (making a connection to a book they had read). His was something along the lines of “I had to go to the library but I didn’t want to. I was running away. I had to go to my room and I stayed under my bed. I was too hungry.”

    Ahem. Yes, we went to the library, which he normally loves, and I literally had to grab one book off the hold shelf and check it out. He decided he couldn’t wait, and ran out the door (which opens to the driveway). I chased him, setting off the alarms. I never did get to check out the book (which I needed for a class), I gave up and carried him out to the car. We went home, and he took himself up to his room, I didn’t send him–he WANTS to be alone when mad sometimes, and he will often go under his bed with a book. I did NOT tell him to stay under his bed, and I did NOT let him go hungry–the reason he came back downstairs was he was hungry for lunch, which we ate. The end. (It was months before we went back to the library…)

    I can only imagine what his teacher thought! But as it was the end of the school year when I saw it, I never got to explain!
    Andrea’s last post … Sometimes, Things BreakMy Profile

  4. Teresa McGillis says:

    Roland, for sharing time at preschool once said “Sometimes, we can’t go to my Gramma’s house because she drinks too much wine.” His teacher wasn’t even phased by it and just replied “Oh yeah, I drink too much wine sometimes too.” The bad part was, it was a parent participation preschool and I was working that day so got to witness the whole thing, complete with about 3 other parents laughing their heads off. The only time ever that my mom had a hang over on the day that we were supposed to visit, and it got ‘reported’, yikes!!

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