parent opinion

HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: You’re not imagining it, your kids are naughtier with you.

Have you ever been here: 

Your favourite friend/family member/babysitter is looking after your child. 

This person has heard you complain (I know, I know, we don't complain about our kids, we share) about your kid on a few (make that a lot of) occasions. 

Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

Just ordinary stuff like tantrums, fussy eating, talking back... you know, small human realities. When you arrive to collect your person from their care, your kid immediately goes into overdrive. 

And your friend/family member/babysitter says to you: "Oh, but they were an angel while you were gone." Or, if it is a family member, they just call it like they see it: "They're just so much better behaved when you're not around." 

And because parenting is one giant rat-king-sized shame ball much of the time, you feel shitty about that. And it makes you a bit sad. And you think, 'What am I doing wrong that they're doing right?' and you think, 'Does my kid like my aunty/sister/best mate more than me?' and you think, 'Why am I so terrible at this?'. 

And you skulk away, dragging your tantrum-ing child by the hand as their toes drag across the floor, only to hiss at them in the car, "Why can't you be good for meeeee?"

Yes, you've been there. And you've heard your friends say it around you about other people, too. 

"Betty says Sebastian's a nightmare, but he's just lovely at my house," with the kind of raised eyebrow that suggests... So, what's going on at Betty's house?

Well look, I'm here to help. I'm here to help in the form of a cheesy meme. 


Here it is: 

It's rare that an inspirational meme from Instagram makes my life better, but in this case, it did. 

Basically, it's saying that kids don’t always get the chance to express their feelings or overcome strong emotions that come from different situations that they face during a typical day. 

But they can, when you're around and they're clinging to you like that bloody door in Titanic

And this meme made my life better because all kids are somewhere on a spectrum of this behaviour - feeling safe to let their guard down around their parents (particularly, it seems, their mum) - but kids who are neurodiverse deal with this in spades. 

"Masking" is what we call the effort that neurodiverse people put in to appear that most awful of words - "Normal" - on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis. 

Masking is why my son can just about, these days, manage to get through the school day without major disruption, but can explode into a shower of frustrated fury when he walks in our door.

Why he can do a playdate now, but when it gets home, he might - literally - climb the walls for a while. 


Listen to Holly Wainwright on Mamamia's parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess Big Kids. Post continues below.

It's also why my neurotypical 11-year-old, who's knee-deep in wading through the social politics of friendship groups, is sometimes blisteringly rude to me, when she's trying very hard to appear sweet and cool and friendly in the playground. 

(Obviously, the rudery still has to be picked up, but I get the frustration has to go somewhere, and she knows I'm not going to ditch her.) 

So next time you're "here" - feeling the shame ball rising in your chest because as soon as your face is sighted at pick-up, your kid gets a devil-ish glint in their eye, remember the cheesy meme. 

And tell the other person. Yeah, "My kid's much worse when I'm around, because I'm kind of a f**king big deal". 

It's hard yards, being a safe place. Godspeed.

Feature Image: Instagram / @wainwrightholly

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