19 November 2012

Ask Leeza34 : I'm The (Young) Old Woman in a Shoe

Dear Leeza34, 

I am a stay at home mom with four children under the age of seven. It seems everywhere I go, people have the nerve to discipline my children or criticize my parenting. I think it is because I look very young (I am twenty-eight) so they think I must be out of control. My kids are just being kids! Why do people think they can judge me openly like that? How do I tell these people to butt the hell out?

Young Mom.

First of all, let me start by saying you are out of control. There is nothing under control about four children under the age of seven at 28 years old. I have three and I'm barely hanging on by a wisp most days. I'm not saying this to criticize you, only to point out a matter of fact that everyone with and without children should know: kids are chaos. At these young and unpredictable ages, they are making a very big adjustment to the fact that the world does not, in fact, revolve around their wants and needs. They will inevitably throw a tantrum at the grocery store, whine throughout the post office and bounce off the walls at a restaurant once in awhile. If your children are having a bad day or moment, enlighten the critic in the checkout lane and say, "You were once a pain in your mother's ass, too." And then pay them no mind. Some people have learned to live in their own little bubble and cannot cope with public spaces and greater humanity. Older folks either don't remember what it was like or they did the old school thing and kicked their kids the hell out of the house all day, warning the older siblings to watch the younger ones or they'd get the life beat out of them with a wooden spoon or the belt when Dad comes home. These days we call that "abuse" and "neglect."

But before you start to feel vindicated, I want you to ask yourself, truly, are your kids out of control? Because as often as I've seen folks complain about the natural noises and boisterous attitudes of children, I've seen burned out and checked out parents let their kids run wild and act like complete assholes without even giving them a good, stern eyeball. Worse yet are the parents who whine "don't do that" over and over again, or "one more time and you're in trouble..." to no avail.

The red flag in your letter is not your age or number of children, it's that you seem to run into this problem often. If strangers all over town are telling you to mind your brats, chances are you might have a discipline problem. This is a different ball of wax if your children are special needs, but assuming they are neurotypical, you need to provide firm direction and timely consistency to the situation. If you want advice in that arena, you're going to have to write another letter.

On the flipside, if you're one of those parents who think "kids being kids" is code for "I don't want to deal with it" or "my children are too intelligent and 'indigo spirited' to be held back by societal rules," do everyone a favor and leave them at home. Either that or be subject to criticism.

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