It seems like everywhere I go I am witnessing parents demonstrating a behavior my husband and I have affectionately labeled PDP: Public Displays of Parenting. Maybe it is the start of the school year, or maybe it is just that I am noticing it more, but I feel bombarded by PDP everywhere I go, at the store, in the park, in school parking lots.
Signs that you are displaying too much PDP include, but are not limited, the following:
- Using every millisecond of quiet time with your kid in public to “teach them a lesson”. Example, you are walking into school, and instead of chatting with your child about things like, “Did you remember your lunch?” or “Are you looking forward to your soccer game this afternoon?” you wait until another parent is in earshot to lecture your child on how the tree in front of the school is actually a black walnut tree, and its toxicity level is stronger than the American chestnut tree in your yard. I doubt many parents are impressed by your knowledge of local flora. Note: It is totally normal to have thoughtful, academic discussions with your child on a regular basis. However, when you deliberately start these conversations only when another parent is nearby, it is called “showing off.”
- When another parent confides in you about an issue they are having in parenting their child, you respond with something like, “Well, my Liam never has done anything like THAT, but you should do XYZ to remedy it.” I betcha Liam HAS done that, and chances are if I look over my shoulder at Liam, he is doing it right now.
- You go all out on EVERY aspect of parenting. You are the parent who throws the fanciest parties, brings exquisite homemade baked goods to all formal and informal get togethers with other parents, is dressed to the nines every time you walk out of the house (and when complimented, say, “Oh this old thing? I just threw it on after my 4:30 AM workout at the gym.”), and volunteers at every school event. You can go all out as a parent, but don’t feel like you have to be able to do it all. I, personally, go a little nuts with details for kids’ parties…that’s because I sometimes miss being able to use my classroom as a creative outlet. However, that’s my one thing. I don’t bake, I am lucky if my shoes match in the morning (and have never made it to the gym at 4:30 AM…or 4:30 PM for that matter), and I can rarely volunteer at school because of my work schedule.
I guess the point of my ramble is that we as parents need to stop competing with each other. No one expects us to be perfect, especially not all the time. I feel gratitude when I see the woman in sweatpants at the supermarket juggling two squirmy kids because it makes me feel like I am not alone in my trial and error efforts of trying to figure out parenthood. When staff at school have complimented me on my 4 year old’s sweet and cooperative behavior, I respond, “It makes me so happy that he behaves well at school, we have a tough time following directions at home sometimes.” (Translated: It is not my parenting skills that are making him behave well here, it must be you. At times he seems possessed by the devil at home.)
I am fortunate to have a close group of parent friends that have made me feel comfortable being the parent that I am. When they come over, they don’t expect a spotless house. When we have play dates, they know I am not afraid to give my kids a time out if they’ve crossed the line. They sure don’t expect baked goods (and if I did happen to make something, they are smart enough not to eat it…unless it in my grandmother’s cookie recipe, one of the only edible things I can make). I can honestly and openly ask them for advice in parenting my boys, and I know they won’t judge me for for my inability to solve my dilemma on my own. I hope everyone in life is lucky enough to find true friends like these…and…
Let’s all make a concerted effort to recover from our own bouts of Public Displays of Parenting and just try out best to be the most authentic parent we can be.