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That Time I Got Called Out For Being Patient With My Kid

I walked into my 4-year-old's preschool the other day to pick him up. I had my 6-year-old in tow and, usually, it's no problem. The preschool is where they both go to day camp over the summer, so my oldest son feels perfectly comfortable there.

Maybe too comfortable.

As I checked in, arranging for my 4-year-old to be brought to the office, my older son started playing with the Lego set up. There are tons of blocks and a snazzy table. He happily played while we waited. Everything was great.

Great, that is, until he dumped the entire thing on the floor. Every block. Every single one. The room stopped—everyone looked up from their desk to see what the commotion was. Ten different heads popped up, including the one of the school's director.

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Channeling Mary Poppins, I said, "Honey, that wasn't very nice. Let's clean that up."

The director of the school, also the mother of small children, giggled and said, "He's lucky he did that here. Could you imagine if he'd done it at home?"

It got me thinking.

She was totally right. If it had happened at home, I would have yelled, gotten angry and doled out punishments. I reacted differently at school, because I was out in public.

I want people to think I'm a good mom.

Then it hit me: I do this all the time. I parent differently at home than when I'm out with my sons.

The thing is, there are just so many factors at play when I'm out. Maybe I'm on my way to somewhere else, and there's no time for an argument (that day, we had 15 minutes to get ourselves to karate class). Or maybe I'm just embarrassed to yell at my kid in front of other people (in front of the director of the preschool? Yeah, I wanna play the part of perfect mommy who never yells).

I want people to think I'm a good mom. I want people to think I have endless patience for my children, that I don't yell or get flustered or just get plain old annoyed. But I'm only human. And sometimes I yell.

I do think discipline is important. I'm not one of those mothers who thinks it's cute when her kid throws a dozen eggs onto the supermarket floor. I punish my kids. They understand that there are consequences for their actions, that they can't get away with bad behavior.

We have our public selves and our private selves.

But I don't want to be judged for it.

I don't think I'm alone in this. I think lots of people parent differently when they're at home compared to when they're out in public. Maybe that's even a lesson kids need to learn. Functioning members of society act differently in public than when they're home. Society couldn't function otherwise. Could you imagine if your lawyer showed up at court wearing sweatpants? What would you do if your kid's teacher came to school and grazed on a bag of popcorn all day?

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We have our public selves and our private selves. So, maybe that's OK. That said, I will try to bring a little more of my Mary Poppins persona home with me in the future. Sometimes it's good to dance like no one is watching, to be your private self. And sometimes it's good to exercise a bit of patience with your kids, to parent as if everyone at your son's preschool is, indeed, watching while you encourage your kid to pick up those Legos.

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