Oh the criticism you expose yourself to when you have a child!
It happens all the time. I’m in a store, my son gets restless and he starts to whine, or sing very loudly because he’s board, or cry because he can’t have the Spongebob snack cakes. Suddenly everyone is staring daggers at me. The ones who don’t have children are thinking, “I’ll never let my child act like that.” The ones whose children are grown are thinking, “My child never got away with acting like that.” The only ones not staring are the other mothers of young children who feel sorry for me, are just glad it’s not their child, and are hoping my son’s screaming won’t start a chain reaction of crying toddlers up and down the store aisles.
I have had people I barely know tell me I’m doing it wrong. Once when my son was about a year old I took him with me to the eye doctor to pick up my new glasses. It was cold outside, but hot in the car with the heat running. If I packed my son into his car seat in a heavy winter coat he would be soaked in sweat by the time we got to our destination. So in a warm car I would just put a fleece zip-up on him. We had to dash just feet from the car into the eye doctor’s office. Inside my new glasses were fitted, and as I was leaving the doctor stopped me. “It’s cold outside today. Is your son warm enough? That’s just a sweat shirt isn’t it?” I explained to him how hot my son got in the car with his coat on. He looked at me and said, “Yeah, I think you should put a coat on him.” Suddenly my eye doctor was a pediatrician? I know he thought I was a derelict mother, but I was just trying not to bake my son the back seat.
Speaking of doctors, we have a very good pediatrician now, but that wasn’t always the case. The first doctor I took my son to always talked to my husband and I like we were morons. It seemed that she operated on the assumption that all parents are idiots, and somehow, in spite of their ignorance, their children manage to survive, just barely. I remember my son’s six week appointment when she spent an unbelievably long time explaining to us how to properly feed, bath, and change him. Wasn’t it a little late for that? We’d already been through roughly 40 baths, 336 feedings and as many or more diaper changes. Was she serious? If we hadn’t been doing it right all this time how was it that my son was healthy, happy and gaining weight? The kicker was when at the end of the conversation she asked us if we had the proper child safety seat for him in the car. I should have told her, “No we just throw him in the trunk with the groceries, WITH OUT A COAT ON!”
Most recently I was asked by someone if I have a special key word or phrase that I say to my son to get him to calm down and pay attention to me when he gets out of hand. “It would be very helpful,” she said. Are you kidding me? A key word or phrase? How about phrases. “Get down! Stop throwing your toys! Don’t yell in the house! Do you want to sit in time out? Don’t chase the dog! Don’t feed your carrots to the dog! Stop pulling the cats tail! I’ll go get the paddle! Eat your dinner! If you don’t eat that you won’t get anything else to eat tonight! Go to Sleep! Get back in bed!” The list of “key” phrases goes on and on. While she was talking about this to me I thought of a few “key” phrases for her, but restrained myself.
The point is no one knows my kid like I know him. Know one else spends 24/7 caring for him. I know what’s best for him, and I do my best with him. You people who stare at me in the grocery store, just look away and keep walking. If you have kids someday, they will act like that. If you’ve already raised your children, you should be empathetic, not critical. I don’t believe for a minute that your kid never had a public meltdown. As for dispensing advice, hold your tounge unless asked, especially if you don’t even know the parent. If you must say something, find a way to say it with out implying the parent is stupid.
I’m going to end with a story I read recently in a parenting magazine. A father was left alone for a week with his toddler son. Since mom was gone, the boys had a free-for-all in the house. He let his son fall asleep on the couch instead of putting him down in his bed at night. It was late, he thought his son was asleep, so he changed the channel on the TV to a show that had rough language in it. After watching for almost an hour he realized his son had been awake the whole time, listening intently. The next morning the son uttered that king of all expletives, the F world. His dad told him never to say it again. They went out shopping, and while in Barnes and Noble the son got board. So he started to sing as loudly as he could that much-loved child’s tune, The Muffin Man. The problem was that he took poetic license with the song, and instead of The Muffin Man he sang about the F***in’ man. An older women nearby whipped her head around and glared at the father. Without missing a beat he told her, “His mother has a filthy mouth.”