I took my oldest in to a public restroom (a very clean, well-maintained, no-worries-from-this-mama kind of public restroom) ...and while we were in there, I witnessed a mom talking to her toddler as together they prepared to tackle "potty-time" in a nearby stall. She may have been performing for on-lookers - as oftentimes moms feel the need to do, but either way, this is the scene that unfolded...
Mom: "Honey, I know you're not a fan of public restrooms." [Child says nothing.]
Mom: "Sweetheart, are you going to be scared of the loud toilet when it flushes?" [Child says nothing.]
Mom: "Okay, this is what we'll do. We'll go to the potty, and then I will take you outside and let you stand by the door while I come back in and flush the toilet." [Child says nothing.] #amberalert
Throughout this interaction, I did not hear the child say a word...She didn't cry...or show any sign of fear or discomfort. What I heard was the mom creating a problem...encouraging anxiety...and then complicating the situation by setting up a ridiculous scenario regarding how they were going to get the toilet flushed without upsetting little Susie Q. (It seemed that the mom herself was the one with the anxiety over public restrooms.) Let me remind you again, the child appeared perfectly calm...showing no concern or issue whatever.
Can you picture this scene? I feel like I've watched similar situations play out in front of me 100,000 times.
Now, hear me out...loud and clear, please. I realize that I do not know this mother...or her child. I do not know their specific situation...or the whole story behind their interaction. I also understand that many young children are somewhat terrified of automatic toilets, noisy hand-dryers, etc. My oldest is not a fan. I get it. So, I don't want to ignore the fact that this may have been one of those situations - even though the little girl seemed completely fine to onlookers.
What I want to address...what I can't get off my mind...are the completely together kids who are capable of handling normal life situations - such as using the bathroom in a public restroom - but yet their parents plant seeds of questions...concerns...anxieties...that are completely unnecessary...then resulting in the children having issues.
As a former classroom teacher, I will be the first to stand up and say that there are children who are struggling with REAL difficulties. Many face physical or psychological challenges that require assistance. I am in no way addressing these families. The families that are dealing with these kind of struggles deserve nothing but our kindness, our compassion, our consideration, and our encouragement.
With that being said, would you allow me to think out loud for a few minutes? I can't help but wonder whether or not - in most situations - if we - the parents - are the reason that seemingly few children can cope with real life? Are we part of the problem? Are we so sheltering and so hovering over our kids that they are completely incapable of handling normal, everyday life situations?
Could it be that it is quite possibly our over-parenting that is creating many of these issues....Could this be the reason that we are dealing with kids who can't function normally? I'm not talking about regular ol' developmental stuff. I'm talking about the "out-of-control-ness" of all of this. Could we be the reason that our kids are incapable of eating anything but chicken tenders and Oreos? Could we be the reason that our kids have become obsessive-compulsive germaphobes? Do we insist on maintaining such sterile home environments that when our little ones go outside of the house, we are to blame for them ending up with 36 colds and 9 rounds of the flu? Is there any chance we are the reason our children struggle to make friends - because we have never failed to micromanage their social situations? Could we be the reason that many children require pills just to be able to take a spelling test? Could we be the reason that our teenagers are incapable of facing job interviews as well as major decisions about their future - where they will go to the college, etc?
While I realize this kind of parenting is usually done out of true love for our children...concern for their safety...an honest desire to see them happy and healthy and thriving, we have got to reign ourselves in a bit. Parents, we are completely out of control.
What happened to simply dealing with expectations...learning to work through the difficult....facing challenges head on and growing from the struggle?
And using a public restroom without finding yourself on the brink of a panic attack?
No one ever said that everything should be easy...and comfortable. School is supposed to be challenging...Jobs are typically stressful...Family life is going to be exhausting...and toilets can be noisy. That's life.
I guess these thoughts have been on my mind for a long time...when I was in the elementary classroom...as I have begun raising kiddos of my own...and even more recently as I've been reading "Crazy Busy" by Kevin Deyoung. I especially loved Chapter 6 in his book: A Cruel Kindergarchy (You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids). K. Deyoung is a parent to six kids, so I felt like I wanted to tune in closely to his thoughts on raising children. In fact, I'm planning to read this chapter a second time...and then maybe a third. I'll leave you with a few of my favorite thoughts from the chapter:
Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be...that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of "Starry, Starry Night". They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can't leave the car seat until they're about five foot six. It's all so involved.
...We think of our children as amazingly fragile and entirely moldable. Both assumptions are [wrong]. It's harder to ruin our children than we think and harder to stamp them for success than we'd like.
Maybe our hearts are too busy with fear and worry. Maybe we are overanxious. Maybe we are over committed. Maybe we are over-parenting. And maybe we are making our lives crazier than they need to be. While we can't avoid being busy with our children - with a good dose of prayer, a shot of Biblical reflection, and a little common sense, we can avoid freaking out about them quite so much.
As I think out loud about this tonight, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter...
For more great book suggestions, check out my Must-Reads for Moms: