I often wear sneakers when going anywhere with my children. You never know when you might need to swiftly move in to grab a child out of a dangerous or problematic situation, or, in the case of my youngest, the desire to be at the center of everything.
Neither of my children are wallflowers, so I was far from surprised, when my little one attempted to go on stage during the local elementary school talent show.
My family joined others in the packed cafeteria/performance space to cheer on our little stars in the making. As I learned the evening before, fifty acts would grace the stage, making it a long night, especially for those parents of older kids, who would be performing later in the show.
Smartly, my husband convinced me we should take two cars. I was hopeful both of my kids would make it through the show, but I had to be realistic when it came to our almost four-year-old.
At first, I was delighted by my youngest’s behavior. He calmly sat with the other children, eating a snack, and watching the acts on stage. Occasionally, he would get up to walk around, but caused no more disruptions than any of the other children in attendance.
As the the night wore on, however, the restlessness kicked in. My youngest made several attempts to play the piano, which was located just to the side of the stage. Perhaps he was inspired by his brother, who had just played the piano earlier in the show.
Thanks to my sneaks — and some quick reflexes — I was able to swoop in a grab my kid before too much harm was done, but not before he most certainly made his way into the pictures and videos some unsuspecting parent was trying to get of their child.
I didn’t want our son to be a disruption, so I asked my husband to take him home. I did not want to be the one responsible for ruining another child’s evening. Admittedly, I was a bit flustered and embarrassed. After all, no other kids were acting up.
After my husband left, I settled in to enjoy the remainder of the show. My eldest insisted on staying, and because he was behaving appropriately and enjoying time with his friends, I saw no reason to leave.
Without my energy consumed by attempting to control the behavior of my kids, I was able to take in the room and really observe everyone around me. As I took in my surroundings, I began noticing all the toddlers and preschoolers wandering about the room. I saw kids of all ages cut in front of the stage, while other kids were performing their acts. I heard loud chatter, yelling and laughter.
I also noticed the adults. Many looking as frazzled as I must have looked earlier in the night. I saw moms swoop in to grab their youngsters, and dads trying so hard to get their children to sit quietly for just a bit longer.
Like me, I imagine, each of those parents must have thought their kids were the only ones acting up.
Yet, as I was able to see unencumbered by my own children, you are never the only one.
You are never the only one, whose child won’t sit and listen at storytime.
You are never the only one, whose child has trouble in school.
You are never the only one, whose child refuses to eat anything.
You are never the only one, who has trouble communicating with their children.
You are never the only one, who feels like everyone else has it all figured out.
In our own little vacuums of parenthood, we often feel like nobody else can understand our experiences. Yet, when we step back and see the bigger picture, we see we our struggles are often universal.
Next time you find yourself in a flustering moment with your child, where you feel no other parent could possibly be dealing with anything like what you are, step back and notice the world around you. You might be surprised by how many other parents feel just as you do and are ready to help you through it.