Does it really matter what ‘other people’ think?

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Girls - Mar06_1The other morning at church, someone said something to me. Something that kind of bothered me, although I know it wasn’t meant in a hurtful or condescending way.

One of the girls’ Sunday school teachers came up to me before the service started, to ask me where Abby and Hannah were since they’re usually with me at the beginning of the service. I explained that they were going to be singing, so were getting ready with their choirs. She mentioned that it must be nice for me to have a break. She then said something on the order of, “not that they’re not wonderful girls, but they do demand a lot of attention”.

I didn’t really know what to answer, so I just smiled and luckily the service started right after that. Her comment has been running through my mind off and on since then and I can’t fully put my finger on what exactly bothers me about it.

Or maybe I can. Is this how the world sees us? Sees me? As the mom who is lucky to get a break from her three demanding children? And even if so, why do I care?

Maybe it’s that since having Becca, I feel like I’m always in a rush, and never where I need to be when I need to be there. And when I am out by myself with the girls (such as at church, for example since Ron doesn’t come with us), I’m constantly after one or the other of them to, “come over here” or “please talk quietly” or “stop running!”. I feel like I’m always being pulled in 3 different directions at once.

I see other parents out and about who seem to have it all together. Their kids’ clothes and hair are ‘perfect’ and they’re walking or sitting quietly instead of dancing through the store aisles or toddling away with that “come chase me!” expression on their faces. Or playing hide-and-seek in the clothes racks (like I used to like to do as a child too).

Before I had my own kids, I’d see harried, frenzied parents whose kids’ noses needed to be wiped or their hair combed and think, well I’ll never go out in public with my kids looking like that! And yet, nowadays if we make it out of the house with everyone at least dressed and fed, I consider it a success. I do Abby’s and Hannah’s hair every morning and within 5 minutes to an hour, it looks like they’ve slept on it for a week. And Becca – now that she actually does have some hair, won’t let me put anything in or on it, and I’ve noticed that she’s starting to actually look a bit shaggy (I don’t want to cut her hair at this point – a fun little clip or ponytail would do the trick, if she’d keep it in).

My kids aren’t perfect. They don’t always listen to me (ok, they often don’t listen to me), and they aren’t afraid to express their opinions. They are loud (Abby). They have a hard time sitting still (Abby and Becca). They like to be the center of attention (Hannah). So yes, I guess they can “demand a lot of attention”.

Do I like being seen as the mom who can’t keep her kids under control, who’s always needing an extra hand to help hang coats up or chase down a straggler? No. Yesterday I had the rare opportunity of taking Hannah to cheerleading and leaving the other 2 kids home with Ron (who had gotten home from work early for once). And the difference was amazing. We had a real conversation in the car, I was able to pay for her lesson without having to keep two other kids quiet, and I spent the 45 minutes knitting and catching up (somewhat) on Pediacast instead of chasing Becca down one hallway or another and keeping Abby from hanging on every table or coat hook we passed (like last week).

I don’t know how it makes me feel, to wonder if I really can handle having three kids. If I can be the kind of parent that I truly want to be to each one of them. Lately I feel lucky to just make it through the day. When I complain to my doctor that I’m tired, she looks at me in surprise and says, “you work, you have 3 kids – of course you’re tired!” Is it that obvious to everyone but me? Do I need to keep trying so hard to keep it all under control? Do I need to worry what the childless people in the grocery store or the other parents at church really think of me and my parenting skills?

My kids are happy (most of the time). They are fed (somewhat healthy-ish foods), dressed in clothes that match (usually), and they aren’t afraid to speak up for themselves (unlike me as a child). They want to do “the right thing” and really try so hard to be “good” and do what I want them to do. They love life and aren’t afraid to express that (Abby). They are busy learning about the world and how everything works in it (Becca), and they love to share what they see and hear with other people (Hannah). They are amazing little girls, and so what if they come across to some people as “demanding a lot of attention”…

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose.

I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? Please tell me that I’m not! 🙂