The other day I did something I’ve never done before: I took my three little kids with me to the nail salon. I had a fundraiser to go to that night that required me to look somewhat posh and, as per usual, I had very little time to pull myself together, no plan of attack, and old chipped polish on my nails. I was going to take that off and just slap on some clear polish, but when when I opened the bottle of remover it was empty. Classic. With about an hour and a half before the sitter was due to arrive, I made a rash decision and said, 'Kids, get in the car, we’re heading to the nail salon!' We went to a small place right by my house that’s usually empty. I called first and the owner said it was, in fact, empty. I warned her that I’d be bringing my brood — a rambunctious 6-year-old, 4-year-old and 7-month-old — and she was fine with it.
Of course when we walked in, there was an older woman sitting in the pedicure chair and I immediately started to sweat. My kids skew active and lately my 4-year-old can be downright unruly. The baby is crawling so she has no interest in being strapped into her bucket seat, which can lead to screeching. I have no problem bouncing them from public if they get disobedient (or if I feel they’re bothering other people, particularly people relaxing in a salon) but I really, really wanted to get my nails done. So I really wanted them to be cool. I decided to let my daughter get her nails painted and my son was in charge of sitting still and entertaining the baby. I sat in the manicure chair in the middle of them and the most shocking thing happened. My kids were … lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I worried they had been drugged.
The woman in the pedicure chair asked them their ages, their names, and their interests, and they chatted back and forth being sweet and funny. She told me how great they are. I smiled. My 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter discussed nail color and debated options. When I told them to look with their eyes instead of touching, the woman assured me they were being very careful. My daughter let my son choose her color. It was a hideously bright orange and when she showed the woman in the pedicure chair, the woman told her it wasn’t a nice color. (Don’t you love old people and their honesty?) I agreed and so she went with the hot pink she had originally picked out. The woman told me how well-behaved they are. I smiled. They took turns entertaining the baby. They listened. They got along. And after my daughter’s manicure, she sat still for an entire four and a half minutes while her nails dried. There was a basket of Hershey Kisses on the drying table and they asked if they could have one and then another and when I agreed but told them no more they didn’t ask again. They covered their mouths when they sneezed. When I told my sneezing son to go wash his hands in the bathroom he said, “OK, mom” and did it. They said please and thank you. The few times the baby got antsy, my son made silly faces at her.
The woman kept telling me what wonderful children they are. But rather than perpetuate a lie, I had to come clean and explain that they happened to be on exceptionally good behavior. I went on to say that many days lately I am overwhelmed by their lack of decorum, respect, and listening skills. I don’t know why but I couldn’t just take the compliment. The woman continued saying I must be modeling good behavior at home. Ha! Check this out. It would have felt disingenuous for me to just thank her and take all the credit she was giving me. It was kind of like being at confession or something. I decided I had to be honest because I felt she could relate. And she could. She said all kids have their bad days. And it’s true. Of course I think my kids are great and I know they have it in them to be wonderfully behaved, and yes, sometimes they are. It’s just rare that they all happen to behave wonderfully at the same time and at a time when I really need it.
I realized something about myself: When my kids act poorly I feel the need to tell people they’re not always that bad and when they’re good I feel the need to tell people they’re not always that good. Is that bad? Anyone else do this? Do you downplay compliments when you receive them or just bask in the glow of your kids’ good behavior when you get it? I know I sound like a crazy over-thinker here, and yes, I care what strangers think of me more than I should, but I just found the experience noteworthy. Maybe it stems from my self-deprecating parenting nature. Mostly, though, it was a parenting win — one I really needed — and I enjoyed it immensely. I left feeling very proud of my kids, if a little concerned that they had been possessed. And then literally the second we got in the car, they started beating the crap out of each other over who strapped in first and demanding I turn up the radio. Ah, there are the children I know and love. I missed you. Sort of.