When My Kid Lets Me Down

Today, my oldest son A.’s first birthday party experience was a colossal disaster. Despite a week of anticipation, coddling and even sleeping with the Superman-themed invitation, counting down the number of sleeps till the day of the party, and carefully choosing a present for his friend, he was that kid who had get picked up early because he was screaming for his mother at the door.

I’ve never had that kind of kid before. My son has always been fiercely independent. Even as a baby, he never made strange with anyone, always wiggled out of my arms if our cuddling session lasted a second too long, was eager for playdates with friends, and never had separation anxiety of any kind. He eats anything I put in front of him, chatters at length to strangers in the grocery store, does chores around the house, entertains us with silly antics. Basically, he’s an outgoing kid who certainly doesn’t lack in confidence, but today, he fell apart completely. The tantrum didn’t cease when I forcibly peeled him off me, handed him over the very competent parents who have three boys of their own, and left with the reassurance that I’d be back soon to get him.

Something I’ve noticed is that A. has predictably rougher days at nursery school whenever he and I have fought earlier in the day. Today was a particularly rough morning. His first action after waking up was destroying the neatly folded stacks of laundry I’d placed in his room, and everything went downhill from there. He ran around the grocery store and pulled things off the shelf. The end result was a morning full of reminders to listen and a few time-outs. That likely put him edge to begin with.

Then I blame myself for bombarding him with additional prompts on how to act while at the party. I may have overwhelmed him on an already bad day with descriptions of proper behaviour to the point where he no longer knew what to do. Instead of trusting him to be himself, the usually delightful little guy he is, and trusting the training I’ve given him to date, I made him agitated with my high expectations. The end result, ironically, was having the single worst-behaved kid at the entire party.

This sensation of embarrassment is a first for me. I’ve been angry, irritated, upset, frustrated, and depressed with my kids in the past, but never embarrassed. It’s different when they’re small and act out without understand what they’re doing, but this time I know my son was fully aware of his actions and that’s what makes it embarrassing. Oh well, I suppose this is a good lesson for me, to remember that for all the confidence my little boy exhibits, he’s still just that — a little boy, with sometimes irrational needs and an internal emotional roller coaster that he probably inherited from me. Instead of placing such high expectations on his behaviour all the time, maybe I need to lay off a bit.

(photo: laurahambleton.blogspot.com)
(photo: laurahambleton.blogspot.com)
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7 thoughts on “When My Kid Lets Me Down

  1. Sounds to me like you are being too hard on both of you. I hated birthday parties, both giving and receiving. The kids are so wound up and there are so many expectations, both from kids and parents that it’s hard to have them fulfilled and it sometimes ends in tears. And yes, in future you should trust him to behave himself, because that is the way you are raising him.

  2. The upside:
    1. You got through three years without a single feeling of embarassment, doing something that you basically had no advance training for- that’s practically inheard of.
    2. He didn’t pee on anyone or anything.
    3. You gained some valuable wisdom today, by reflecting on what happened, instead of rolling up into a ball of self-pity.

  3. Don’t be embarrassed. All normal people realise the little guys (and us bigger women) have off days and don’t think any more about it. And I agree with Kelly, the birthday party thing never seems to bring out the best in them!

  4. I have to compliment the hosting parents for having a 3 yr old birthday party without the parent being there. I was never so brace, I had parents come with their child. Having both boys in the winter and having a small house, we usually took them out -bowling, swimming, etc. This way parents always came. Put the episode behind you, things will get better.

  5. I can’t believe I just read this Katherine. Although Alex was clearly upset, he in no way ruined any birthday celebrating and there was no reason for embarrassment…..3 year olds are wildly unpredictable 😉 Hopefully the next gathering at my place he’ll be more comfortable 🙂

    1. Well, I’m really glad to know you weren’t horrified and that he didn’t ruin Z’s birthday party. Like I said, it was just so out of character for him that I didn’t know what to make of it. I suppose that’s parenting for you– an endless learning curve full of surprises for everyone.

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