LEESBURG, Fla. (Christian Examiner) -- We call Caleb the Court Jester. He's funny, full of silly antics, and loves to entertain. Often he walks a wire-thin line between trouble and hilarious.
Target is one big playground for my little guy. He skips through aisles. His voice can carry from the lady in accessories to the teenager in electronics. Everything on the shelves must be manhandled and examined by his curious nature. And before I know it, he's climbing onto stacks of water bottles.
"Mommy! Look at me!"
I've often felt the side-eyes of judgement when walking with him through the store. People who shake their heads at me and my boy. I come home weary.
My Ella, now 11 and a sweet Princess of a girl, has grown out of the tantrums of her early years. As someone with very real Sensory Integration issues, she made my trips to the store no less exhausting.
Her sensory meltdowns, complete with ear-piercing screams and alligator tears, would bring looks from all customers as I rushed to hide my embarrassment and console her, all while piling groceries in my cart.
We all know the feeling -- the one when eyes bore into our backs and all we want to do is hide in the lingerie section remembering when we used to shop there. Alone.
I've never met a perfect parent. I imagine you haven't either. And I doubt those staring me down in the corner of the supermarket had perfect kids.
It's the statement all puffed up with indignation that really leaves me undone–the one that begins with, "Well. My children would've never (fill in the blank ...) I think, what if they're right? What if my kids really are the only ones?
But deep down in my momma heart I know all children make mistakes. All children misbehave.
For too long, I've allowed strangers, who judge my parenting skills, to cause me to feel embarrassment over my kids' actions. Ultimately? How dare I? How dare I allow a stranger make me feel badly about my beautiful children? Or make me feel less of a parent because of their disobedience?
It hit me the other day, somewhere between my fun-loving Court Jester skipping down the aisles and me threatening to take away every electronic device in the house (and we all know who that punishes more), somewhere between there, I decided.
I will no longer allow my children's mistakes to embarrass me.
Because what you see in Target for five minutes is but a snap shot of who my children really are.
And they're spectacular.
The other day? The one when my Caleb climbed on a tower of water bottles and pulled every blessed food item from the shelves to tell me we needed to buy it? He also picked up items dropped by strangers, handing them back with a smile. He also jumped into my arms to say he loved me. And he also used all of his manners throughout the store.
Strangers don't often see the amazing that happens in between the chaos.
Yet we allow those same strangers to tell us we're horrible parents because they witness a sliver of a glimpse into our lives.
My children misbehave. They're disobedient. Prince Charming and I correct them for their mistakes. But sometimes my children need to be corrected a thousand times before it sticks. And sometimes, no matter what course of action we take and how much consistency we have, our kids will still choose the wrong. They just will.
But our children also choose right.
This is the reason I will no longer be embarrassed. Because I've got two amazing kids. They love with their whole hearts. When given the chance, they sacrifice for others. They give to others in need. And they passionately follow their beliefs.
I couldn't ask for a more incredible son and daughter. They are my joy, and I love them with an unworldly fierceness.
Oh, yes. They will fail. And sometimes their failings are my fault. But more often than not, my husband and I are doing a pretty darn good job.
So when they misbehave in public? I will no longer be embarrassed by the stares of those who don't know a single thing about my two beautiful miracles.
I may just turn around. Smile. And say, "They're pretty amazing, don't you think?"
P.S. I need to also remember my own words when I'm about to judge another momma on a sliver of a glimpse of the behavior of her kiddos ... yeah. That too.
Heather B. Iseminger, a high school English teacher and blogger at PetalsofJoy.org, lives with her husband of 16 years and two children in Central Florida, where they actively attend First Baptist Church in Eustis, Florida.