I'm not sure what I expected when I had kids, but it certainly wasn't boredom. After years of hearing about harried moms, I was genuinely shocked when faced with long stretches of mind-numbing naps and early bedtime. Turns out, having one infant and no job isn't very exciting most days. Then, I discovered the play date...
It took some time, but I found a mommy tribe to welcome me and my little tyke. There were parks and goldfish crackers and great conversations. Then, my baby turned into a toddler — a yelling, biting, kicking, defiant toddler. It was fun while it lasted.
There is nothing worse than being asked to leave the play group. Yet, there I was, getting the boot from my best friends. What's more, it wasn't really my fault. My adorable mini-monster bit another kid, and I looked around at all the other docile kids and wondered what was wrong with mine. Finally, I found a new tribe full of moms who also aren't welcome at play groups. We are the moms of the "spirited, exuberant, intense and difficult" kids.
Yep, we're the moms of the scary kids.
The problem with having a kid who's hard to handle is the assumption that it's all your fault. Whether you admit this or not, most of us believe that children's behavior is a direct reflection on parenting methods. As a society, we truly think that you can train children much the same way you train a dog or a horse. Apply the correct discipline, and viola! Perfect kid.
We're slightly more tolerant of kids with a diagnosable label like ADHD, autism or sensory processing disorder, but mothers should not feel obligated to disclose behavioral challenges to a group before getting acceptance. There are also a large subset of kids who are developmentally average but who don't act socially acceptable.
Just so you know, it's not always the mom's fault. You can't always judge a mom's skill by her children. Kids come with their own temperaments, regardless of parenting. In our family, I have one child who makes my parenting look like the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I have one kid who routinely got me kicked out of play groups. Same parents, same household, same discipline.
It may feel uncomfortable to watch another kid going nuts, but have a little sympathy for the parents. I promise that the mom of the wayward child is dying a little inside. Disciplining in front of a crowd is a no-win situation, so for years, my telepathic mantra was, "Please, please, please, just stop already."
Give your mommy friend the benefit of the doubt, and stay on her side. You don't have to let her kid hurt or bully your child, but don't shun the mom for the actions of the kid. Moms of scary kids needs friends too — probably even more so than other moms. If you really can't tolerate hanging around a crazy kid, invite his mom to a girls' night out. Be a good friend and show her some compassion. We moms need each other in so many ways.
If you have an unruly kid, take heart. He probably won't stay that way forever. My out-of-control first has grown into an inquisitive, funny 5-year-old, and he hasn't bitten anyone in years. In the end, persistent parenting will prevail, so don't give up before you reach the good part. Remember that you need friendships, and make time to cultivate relationships with other moms. If invitations aren't forthcoming, make your own party instead of waiting around for someone else's.
We all need a mommy friend — whether our kids are perfect angels, little demons or somewhere in the middle. We also all have the power to make sure no mom is excluded. It's up to all of us to make sure every mommy has a friend.