Our Little Stars

One of the hardest things for parents to do is to shut their trap about their kid. Seriously, how obnoxious are those parents who make their toddler perform for their friends (“C’m’ere Junior, show Aunt Rita and Uncle Jerry how you can do the Macarena....”), or the ones who casually let slip after Story Time that their 2-year-old likes to sing nursery rhymes in Spanish?

When we’re not showing off our child’s talents or putting them in accessorized ensembles just for the “oohs” and “aahs” of fellow moms at the park, we’re apologizing to random strangers in the checkout line about how “he’s usually not like this” when our whiny little boy is melting down over wanting a candybar, or admonishing our shy little girl when she doesn’t pipe up with her name and a clear “Hello! How are you today?” when the sweet senior citizen stops our cart and tries to engage her in conversation.

Believe me, I’m admonishing myself as much as anyone else. I have been known to interrupt my happily playing toddler with a gentle command to perform for some relative over the phone: “Kostyn, come here and sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ for Nana.”

Why do we do this? Why can’t we just leave our kids alone to be who they want to be, to sometimes speak up and sometimes stay silent? To dance and sing when they want to, not when we want them to? Are we worried that our child’s every move is a reflection on us, on our parenting skills or discipline tactics or genetic imperfections? What are we trying to prove, and more importantly are we trying to prove it to the rest of the world, or to ourselves?

I was wondering all that today as I found myself biting my tongue more than once at the pediatrician’s office. We were there for Kostyn’s 3-year checkup and Evan’s 15-month checkup (which, hello, scheduling two kids to get two shots each at the same time can absolutely not be done unless both parents are there), and Kostyn was acting like a 3-year-old. Which is to say he was not answering every question the pediatrician asked in the way in which I know he is CAPABLE of answering.

How old are you now, Kostyn?” she asked.

“Two,” he said, and I smiled and waited for him to laugh at his obvious joke, which he did not.

“You’re 2?!” I mocked surprise, obnoxiously trying to coax him into a correction. “How old are you now?” I sing-songed, hating my tone of voice instantly and vowing to keep my yapper locked unless spoken to from then on.

And that was hard. Oh-so-hard. It was hard to do when the pediatrician asked where his heart was and he proudly held out his left hand. You know where your heart is! I thought as I bit my tongue and smiled, watching the pediatrician scribbling notes in his chart.

And it was hard when she pointed to the color orange and he called it yellow. He knows his colors! I thought as I clamped my jaw.

And it was especially hard when she asked him all sorts of questions and he basically answered with monosyllabic grunts. Because my kid is normally very verbal. He’s articulate. Opinionated. Outgoing!

“He’s usually not like this,” I kept thinking. But I didn’t say it. I let him be who he wanted to be in that moment. So what if he wasn’t displaying his *obvious brilliance; he was polite and cooperative, and he got a clean bill of health (and a kiddie sundae at Dairy Queen across the street after braving the needles). Really, what more could I ask for?

I swear I’m not even going to prep him with answers before his 4-year checkup.

*Old habits die hard.


Heather said...

Glad to know that my daughter wasn't the only one at her check up acting like she didn't know her colors :)

Lyn said...

For me, Leah has been the most amazing and important and beautiful and wonderful thing I've ever done with or made of my life (and probably ever will)....I think it is only natural to want to show EVERYONE ALL the time just how AMAZING she is...even if she doesn't feel like showing how amazing she is (which is almost always the case...it is like she knows how much it bugs me when she hides her brilliance....ironically, once she hits a "grown up" age, I would be just as ambarassed if she acted arrogantly...so, go figure?!?)