For the past week or so, ever since the baseball incident, Detective Munch has been at the top of his game.
He’s been on his best behavior, in a good mood, helpful with The Hammer, cooperative with us. There’s been nary a fit or whine-fest, and we only almost missed the school bus once. It’s kind of scary. He’s been so good it’s almost like our parenting is paying off!
This is when I need to remind myself not to get cocky, kid. Stay woke!
When your kids are being good? It’s blissful and beautiful and boring. The best kind of boring, for sure, and I wish nothing but boredom on all of you, but it won’t last. Odds are it will be gone in a flash. It may be evidence that something you’re doing is working, but it’s also nothing more than the eye of the storm.
If your kid is well-behaved, you’ve clearly done something right. At some point, something you did sunk in and now it’s paying off. Or else it’s a fluke and you’ve gotten incredibly lucky. Either way, congratulations! Enjoy it. Have a drink. Have three! Victories are few and far between, you’ve got to take advantage when you can.
But be careful. Don’t get smug. And definitely don’t get complacent. Because it won’t last. Parenting victories are short-lived and will fade fast. So don’t get too pleased with yourself. Save the bow until the show’s over. Stay woke!
Anyone can parent a well-behaved child. The Hammer can parent Detective Munch when he’s being his best, calmest, most rational self. And vice versa. (Let’s be serious, though: the Hammer is a toddler, he has no rational self.) It’s easy. It’s also gravy.
My 6-year-old has been being good for a week, and that week has flown by. It came and went in a flash, and it was generally uneventful (other than the baseball to the face, of course). It’s about to come to a screeching halt, one way or another. And I’ll go from being blissfully bored to being completely engaged. Engaged by anger and frustration and futility, but still. Engaged AF.
You’re not really parenting when they’re asleep. You’re not really parenting when they’re at school. You’re not really parenting when they’re watching TV quietly in the other room, or playing with their LEGO sets. You’re not even really parenting when they’re reading or doing their homework. You’re basically just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Obviously, you’re there, and that counts for something – that counts for a lot, actually – and if your kids are happily reading or independently completing their math worksheets or simply happily playing together, you’ve clearly done a lot of heavy lifting and you deserve the break. Those rare moments when things are going right and your kids are being their best selves, they’re lovely, and they make the rest of it worthwhile, that’s not what this gig is all about.
It’s not the breaks that really test your mettle, it’s the work, and the work never stops. The minute you think you’ve done something right, you’ll be forced to prove yourself again. And again. And again. So you can’t fall asleep at the wheel. There is no autopilot for parenting.
This week has been great, but soon enough, he’ll be throwing a fit in the middle of Target, and I need to be ready for it. Because that’s when my response really matters. He’ll refuse to clean her room, or he’ll scream because he has to leave the playground, or he’ll say “I hate you” when you won’t buy him the new toy he desperately wants. The minute I snap, the minute I get a little too angry or make a little too harsh of a threat, any satisfaction I had with myself will evaporate, and this last week will barely be a blip in my memory.
It’s when they’re being terrible and you’re trying your best NOT to be terrible, that’s the heart of this job. It’s when they’re in pain, when they’re angry or upset or confused or sad that they need you the most.
Their good behavior? Their happiness? That’s the payoff. That’s the proof that you’ve done the work. Nice job.
Don’t forget to clock in tomorrow.