Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pride and Prejudice

Wow.  I haven't written in a long time.  For once, it's not because I've lost interest.  Or have nothing to say.  I just haven't had time!  Between planning and throwing Roo's 2nd birthday party, complete with a trip back home for all of us, potty training Roo, starting Cat on eating solids (which for some insane reason I still want to make myself), and converting to cloth diapering, I haven't had an awful lot of time on my hands lately.  So apologies all around...to everyone I've neglected and delayed and forgotten and had no time for recently.

Now.  That bit of business completed, let's get on to the topic of the day.  It's about kids and their behaviour in public. 

I had a simply mortifying experience recently.  I went shopping for Darling Husband's birthday gift and I knew I was risking it.  Both boys were due for naps, but I figured we'd be quick since I knew what I was buying.  Our trip to that store went so well that I decided we could walk two doors down and go to Indigo too, so that we could do a little something fun for Roo.  I haven't committed to a train system at home yet, so going and playing (for free) with the train tables at Indigo seemed like a good idea.  Seemed is the operative word.  "Good Idea," this was not.  Roo pranced up to the table and was happily playing away with Gordon and Percy and all the gang while Cat and I browsed around and I started making their Christmas wish list in my head (which is long since forgotten already, silly Mommy thinking I could keep a mental list with no brain cells).  After about half an hour, Cat had had enough and it was clearly past his naptime.  He hadn't yet learned to achieve his Jackie Evancho-like aria pitch yet, but he was crying loud enough that I figured it was time to skedaddle.  So I went to collect Roo and here's where the serious hellaciousness started.  I did not use my usual approach of warning him first that we were about to leave and I did not give him time to get ok with it.  Totally my fault.  But holy wow, the tantrum that ensued was nothing short of epic.  We're talking full-on throwing himself on the floor, kicking, thrashing, screaming...kind of the way I would be if I was told that Daddy was never coming home again.  He couldn't hear me, couldn't see me, couldn't do anything but howl.  And in my haste I had only put one of the seats on the stroller, which Cat was occupying, so I couldn't even wheel him out of there.  I tried to talk him down, I reasoned with him, comforted him, bargained with him, got cross with him.  Nada.  So I left him there on the floor sobbing, paid as quickly as humanly possible, apologized to the cashier, scooped up my boneless child from the floor and sped out of there with my tail between my legs.  But not before I caught several annoyed stinkeyes and overheard a few comments about me and "my brats" and how good the riddance of us would be.  Ouch. 

When I got home I posted something on facebook about what happened and how I was so mortified and instantly had lots of support from other mommies.  Lots of "who cares what they think" and "you tried your best, don't feel bad" and similar.  But I just still felt embarrassed, and then the more I thought about it the more pissed off I got. 

It makes me think about times I've had to get all Mama Bear on someone's ass.  Like when we were on the plane for our trip last Christmas - with only one child ex utero, mind you! - and the not so lovely older couple boarded and argued over which of them would have to sit next to us in the open aisle seat in our row.  They thought they were being quiet and subtle, but duh, on a plane, everyone hears everything.  I heard every word and they made my blood boil.  That, you two-faced old cow, is why I was so snotty with you when you tried making conversation with me later when it became obvious that my wonderful 18 month old Roo was in fact an outstanding flyer. 

I just think it's sad that this is normal in our society now.  People don't give a mom a chance to fix the problem before they're looking for another table or shooting you stinkeye or sniping with their friends.  And they sometimes don't even wait for a child to start crying.  It's like you're guilty before you're proven guilty.  No child is an angel all of the time.  Sometimes they cry.  Sometimes the parents are able to find the problem and fix it quickly, but sometimes not.  If it's not going on for an eternity or if the parent isn't spaced out, texting and ignoring the problem...maybe the hate could be delayed just a little? 

I know I was guilty of this before I had kids.  I didn't like listening to crying kids (I still don't!) and I would often roll my eyes and complain when it happened.  I feel like a giant ass though, now that I know how those poor moms felt...and how much worse they felt when they heard or saw me.

[I also find it interesting that this doesn't seem to happen with daddies.  Either the daddies are just much better at really not giving a darn what other people think, or else people must give daddies so many bonus points for just being out with the kids without mama that they are not expected to fix tantrums as quickly.  Or at all.  I think ABC should test that out on What Would You Do?]

Anyway, it seems to me that people expect kids to behave like short, well-mannered adults.  And that all mothers should have a magic wand that works instantly and everytime (I guess the hospital never gave me mine; I'm looking on eBay for a new one).  And if, God forbid, someone does decide to pitch a fit and Mommy can't stop it in a heartbeat, well, of course she must be a horrible mommy and her kids are total brats and maybe we should call Protective Services.

I call BS on this kid prejudice.  My kids are (mostly) very good kids.  Roo is 2 years old and he has better manners than most kids, better than most adults.  I'm exceptionally proud of how my kids behave in public overall.  They don't tantrum often, but when they do, it's usually because they're hungry or tired or teething or sick and they can't help it.  They do not do it to piss you off or ruin your dinner or interfere with your phone call.  I'm sorry if they're disturbing you, and I'm trying to stop them from disturbing you, but I'm doing the best I can and your intolerant attitude does.not.help.

Nobody in their right mind likes it when their kids freak out in public.  I cannot imagine a parent a) not noticing, and b) not trying to fix it.  I honestly bet that inside that poor distraught mother's head, she's thinking, "Holy crap, what do I do?  Yell at him? Ignore it?  Take him outside? Offer a bribe? Dig out a distraction?  If I do that, what will it teach him?  Will it make this happen again? WhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdo???"  And even if it doesn't look like it on the outside, her heart rate has probably skyrocketed, her blood pressure is through the roof, and she's probably sweating.  Either help her or cut her some slack.

So: to any moms or dads at whom I've rolled my eyes before...I am so incredibly, ridiculously sorry.


  1. Wow! That is a great post. You should write a book. You are a very good writer. I agree with you, that the public is too quick to judge when they see a child throw a tantrum. They either have not had any children of their own, or they have forgotten what it was like with their own. I must agree on another point, You have 2 wonderful children

  2. Very. Well. Said. I haven't had the experience yet, but I am sure I will. I have flown with my little guy and for the most part he's fine. BUT, once he did not like the pressure on his ears when landing and do you think anyone offered a sympathetic glance or word of encouragement? No, the looks I got were more along the lines of 'Why do they let those people on the plane anyways'. I would love in those moments for a child of their own to appear, distraught and frantic, just so they don't have a moment to cast judgment my direction and feel exactly what I'm feeling.