There’s a refrain my kids often hear when I drop them off at school, summer camp or a play date: You’re a good kid. Make sure you remember your manners and behave yourself.
Or, if I’m feeling less patient: For the love of God, please don’t get into trouble today.
My older child is one of those Type-A kids who listens in class, follows instructions and is generally adored by her teachers and classmates. She’s sweet, she’s smart and very funny. She is also sassy as heck TO ME SPECIFICALLY, considers listening at home ‘optional’ and at 8 years old, can roll her eyes better than any sixteen-year-old I know.
My younger child is a six-year-old boy and in many ways, the exact opposite of his sister. After a busy day of encouraging anarchy on the playground and getting into fights with older kids at recess, he snuggles up on the couch so we can chat about dinosaurs and his favourite animals. He sometimes grabs a book or a bin of Lego and wanders off to relax in his room. He’s easiest at home, in his comfort zone, away from the chaos of his peers and public spaces. And yes, sometimes he fights with his sister.
Kids are complex, developing creatures whose knowledge and behaviours don’t always connect the way we’d like them to. Sometimes they’re little darlings and the other times, they get overtired or hangry and morph into rabid wolf cubs set on destroying everything in their path.
I’m kidding, mostly, but you get my point. My incredible, kind, loving children occasionally act like honey badgers, and it’s usually at the worst possible place and/or time. Why does this matter? Because your kids are probably like this too, and that’s totally okay.
If your kid comes over to my house for a play date and they forget their manners, it’s cool. Some kids are shy, and others take a while to settle in. We all get anxious sometimes, especially in new situations, and I’m not offended if your little one is quiet or forgets to say please and thank you. Your kid is still welcome in my home.
If your kid comes over and gets super excited, it’s all good. They aren’t the first kid to be hyper on a play date or jump on my couch. That happy shrieking? It may not be how you want them to behave, but I’m not judging anyone. Your kid is still welcome in my home.
If your kid eats everything in our snack cupboard, refuses to try the dinner I’ve made or spills juice all over my floor, it’s not a big deal - I probably won’t even remember by this time next week. This is what children do. Your kid is still welcome in my home.
If your kid is having a bad day and acts out, willfully misbehaves or generally acts like a jerk in my house, it’s fine. I’ll get over it. You can talk it out with them at home, ground them or do whatever else your family does to manage poor behaviour, but don’t worry about me. It happens. Your kid is still welcome in my home.
And if your kid comes over and is a perfect angel who remembers their manners, plays nicely, uses kind words and is a joy to be around - that’s awesome. I hope they had fun. But even if things go awry next time they’re over, they’re still welcome in my home.
I hope my kids behave well at school and in your house but honestly, there will be times when they slip up. I’ve raised them well, taught them manners and demonstrated how to be a guest in someone else’s home...but they’re kids. They might be well-behaved nine times out of 10, but that one time they’re not, it probably involves a full-scale meltdown in front of as many people as possible. If you worry about this sort of thing like I do, just remember: it takes a village to raise a child and if I’ve invited your kid over, you’re a part of my village. You are welcome in my home, and so is your child - perfect or not.