I haven't figured this out yet . . .
When you become a parent, you find that you have to do a lot of undignified things. I never thought about all of the indignities I would suffer as a parent, even though I should have been prepared. I just figured that, sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do, and there’s nothing undignified about that.
I was wrong. A lot of the things I have to do remain a source of shame and embarrassment and there’s no way around those feelings.
I’ve itemized some of the most undignified things I’ve done as a parent, and here they are.
1. Changing Diapers. Yes, you have to do it, and I gladly change my children’s diapers so that they don’t have to suffer bodily waste clinging to their sensitive ares. And there in lies the shame of it. I’m happy to be changing my kids’ diapers. No one should be happy to change a diaper. It’s disgusting and sometimes met with hostility by the person who’s diaper you’re changing. Now, the level of shame in this is not very high because everyone who is, has been, or will be a parent is going to do it daily. There’s some small comfort in that. But no matter how well justified it is, there’s nothing dignified about wiping someone else’s behind.
2. Public Temper Tantrums. I can’t think of anything more embarrassing for a parent than a temper tantrum in the middle of a store or shopping mall. A temper tantrum is enough to send any parent pink in the face. Even those parents who try to pretend like it’s no big deal and there isn’t a screaming child throwing their body at mommy or daddy’s feet. I once dealt with a total meltdown in Target, in which G shook his body furiously, swiping wildly at every piece of merchandise he could reach from the shopping cart while screaming at the top of his lungs. I got a lot of dirty looks from other customers as I was removing him from the store. I’m considerate of other people trying to shop in peace, and I understand a screaming child in a store is an unpleasant thing to witness. So I didn’t appreciate the sympathetic, angry, and mostly judgemental looks from other people when I was trying to get my kid out of the store. Just pretend it isn’t happening, ok? It’s not easy to manhandle an outraged two-year old. I was afraid people in the parking lot were going to call the cops on me as I forcefully tried to shove my son back into his car seat so we could leave. And I’m sure every parent out there has an embarrassing story of public breakdowns. If you don’t, you will.
3. Your Kid, The Bully. I’ve been on both ends of this one and neither is fun. You’re at the playground where you hope your child makes friends with the other kids only to see your pride and joy push down or hit another. It’s embarrassing because you’re always going to feel like you’re responsible for every action your child takes. I’ve been fortunate enough to never run into a parent who wasn’t at least a little understanding about playground violence. Honestly, some parents are just glad they don’t have to be apologizing to you for their kid beating up on yours. At least that’s how I feel, especially if my children haven’t been seriously injured.
4. Scolding A Strange Kid. I had to do this at the aquarium a few days ago when G was playing with a dolphin sonar exhibit and this big kid pushes him out of the way to play with it. I was a little taken aback at the sudden rudeness and had to resist the urge to physically remove the boy from the spot he’d just muscled away from my son. Instead, I reprimanded him for his actions and was completely ignored. I looked around for a parent and didn’t see any that looked like they belonged to the boy. They may have just been feeling shameful parent experience number 3, and hiding to avoid confrontation. Luckily, the insufferable child who supplanted mine decided the exhibit was boring and left almost as quickly as he came. What’s embarrassing about this is the fact that I was ignored by an eight year old, then made to suffer the child, even if it was for moments, lest I be arrested for laying my hands on a child.
5. I’m Sorry, I Can’t Afford That. If you’re well off, then you’ve likely never had to experience this. My kids are fortunate enough to have very loving grandparents and they get a lot more than I had as a kid. Every parent wants to give their child the best, but there always seems to be something out there that your kid wants and you can’t afford. I’m listing this one as more of an anticipatory embarrassment because I haven’t fully experienced this, but it’s bound to happen when you come across parents with a different economic class from your own. This is particularly embarrassing for you as a parent when your children are old enough to be made fun of by other kids for the type of car that YOU drive.
We all have to suffer these shames of parenthood, and there’s some sense of solidarity in that, but that doesn’t make them any less embarrassing. So if you’ve experienced these too, I’m right there with you.