I am all fucking set with tattletaling.
I would love to argue that this age-old childhood practice has reignited itself in the modern parenting era, where parents have picked up a second job as playground referee instead of parking our asses on the bench and enjoying a moment of “peace”. But I know that’s not true. We have all been guilty of tattletaling, whether we like it or not.
Maybe some parents don’t struggle with it as much as I do. I take Maddy to the park a few times a week, at least. Every single trip to the playground comes with a side of, “Um excuse me, Maddy’s mom, Maddy just did (fill in the blank)”.
I used to immediately call my daughter over and scold her for misbehaving. I used to punish her in front of her friends, embarrassing her. I would make it my mission to ensure the other moms at the playground knew I don’t take shit and my daughter is going to behave like a polite little girl.
And then something started happening after every trip to the park, after every playdate, that made a hole grow in my stomach. We would leave wherever we were, and she would ask me, “Mom, did I do okay? Was I good, Mom?”
I was so afraid of other mothers judging me that I passed my fears and insecurities onto my child. My daughter, who generally DGAF, started giving a fuck. And it broke my heart.
And for what? So nobody will think I’m a bad mom? So another kid will feel satisfied that I believed their story over my own child’s?
Do I have to shame my daughter in public so people will think I’m a good parent?
No, I don’t. And I refuse to do it anymore.
I refuse to take parenting advice from seven year olds. I refuse to accept that something is “wrong” with my daughter, when really she is just spirited and has a natural zest for life I secretly wish I had. Maybe, sometimes, that zest manifests itself in ways that aren’t appropriate for the setting. But that is for me to decide, not another child.
I’m not saying I don’t discipline my child. I absolutely participate in letting her know when her behavior is out of line. She’s still a kid, and I’m still her mother. I wouldn’t be doing her any favors if I let her walk through life thinking everything she says or does deserves a fucking parade.
But I am saying that I will choose to highlight the qualities that make her who she is. She has an unwavering joy, every single day. She is brutally competitive, and it’s either her best friend or her greatest enemy. (We are working on what situations do not warrant a melt down because she didn’t “win”. So far, still crying at lost games of UNO. Here’s hoping). She may be overzealous at times, but she is not a bully. She is inclusive, loving, and fiercely loyal to her friends and family. She is also one of the happiest people I know.
To some, those qualities could go either way. But I don’t care how other people feel about my kid. I care about how I feel about my kid.
So now, when other children come up to me at the playground and start tattling about something Maddy may or may not have done, I take a different approach. I nod my head and say, “Oh, thank you”. I let the other kid feel they were heard, and then continue on with my life. I will not call my daughter over and investigate the situation. This is not a legal case. We are not before a judge. I do not give a fuck about who allegedly cut someone in line for kickball.
And since I’ve started taking this new approach, my daughter no longer asks me if she was good or bad after we leave the park. I’ll take it.