Bill Engvall has this bit about the state fair. (If you ever start feeling bad about yourself, go to the state fair, and just look around.) The same has been said about Walmart, too. (There are even web sites devoted to that one.) The point, of course, that no matter how bad you think your life is going, you can always look around and see people that are still at least little trashier than you are.
And while I am in no way advocating passing judgment on others, or belittling other people to make yourself feel superior... sometimes it does help to put things in perspective. Because sometimes, things really aren't as bad as they seem.
I had to do some shopping today, which meant that I had to take my kids shopping today. And if you've ever been shopping with children then you know that no matter how patient you are, or how well-behaved your kids are, you will have been driven insane before the day is over. It's just one of those inescapable facts of life.
Shopping takes patience, and kids are kids. They get bored, they get tired, they get frustrated, you get frustrated, and eventually everyone is wishing they were anywhere else but there. So today, after several hours and several stores, we ended up at the mall to pick up the last few things. And when it was all finally done, the kids asked if they could go to the playground.
I was exhausted and ready to collapse, but I figured that going to the playground would at least give me a chance to sit down, and it would give them a chance to run around and make some noise without being scolded for it, so to the mall playground we went.
And as I sat watching them play, and observing the other kids that were there too, I was reminded just how good my kids actually are. They're kids, and they get rowdy sometimes, and they can't always be as quiet as I would like. But they don't run around hitting other kids, or push other kids off of the equipment, or jump off of the equipment and tackle other kids that are walking by, or any of the other over-the-top behavior that I saw from some of the other kids.
It reminded me of when I was a teenager, and someone asked my mom why she let me wear blue nail polish (because back then, wearing a "weird" color like that was considered "like, totally rebellious.") The gist of her response was that she figured there were worse (or "weirder") teenage things I could want to do, so maybe a little bit of wild nail polish wasn't so bad.
Like I said, it helps to put things in perspective. So while I have no plans to let my kids run wild, or to stop disciplining them, it does help to remember that they really are good kids, and maybe I don't always need to be quite so hard on them. Who knows? I might actually loosen up just a little.