The other day, while shopping, JSL declared that he was thirsty. We hadn’t brought any water and the store was remodeling where their water fountains usually are, so I asked him to be patient while we shopped and we would buy him a drink at the end. He was good as we walked through the store and bought our various items. As we neared the checkout line, however, he began to melt down.
Knowing that he had been thirsty for awhile, that he had walked quite a bit, and that he was probably hungry to boot (it was approaching lunchtime), I took the boys to the store’s little built-in snack shop while B paid for our items. There was a convenient display of bottled waters, so I picked one up and got in line. The plan was simple: Pay the 67 cents for the water and give the kids a drink. There were only 2 people in front of me, so it seemed completely doable.
I’m not sure what was going on at the register, but whatever it was was taking a long time. (Or, as JSL would say: “It’s taking FOR-EV-ER!”) I fiddled with the dollar I was going to use while the person behind the register just sat there not ringing up anyone. The boys began to get restless. I tried to give them something to look forward to by offering to let them pay for the water. Unfortunately, this backfired as they each claimed the dollar as theirs to give to the cashier. I finally had to take it back.
After a few more minutes of fighting and complaining, NHL declared that he was bored and I shouldn’t bore him. By this point, I was at the end of my rope and sternly/sarcastically told him “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that I was supposed to entertain you 24/7! Now stand still and be GOOD!” I could feel the eyes of everyone in line behind me resting on me, judging me for my kids’ actions and my reaction. Call it paranoia left over from high school, but I felt like everyone on that line was silently saying what an awful parent I was.
Luckily, by that point, B was done paying. We hadn’t moved at all and there was no sign we would move anytime soon. I put the water bottle away, pocketed the money and left with B and the boys. We drove to a nearby restaurant where we had a lovely lunch and, yes, plenty of water.
Before I had kids, I might have glared at a parent whose kids weren’t totally well behaved. I would have naively declared that MY kids would know how to behave and would ALWAYS behave properly. Presumably, because these perfectly-behaved kids would be entertained by the abundance of airborne swine. As usual, we plan the “perfect” scenarios and then life laughs at us and hands us something completely different.
Now, I’m not very judgmental. During another outing, I took the boys out for ice cream. As we sat waiting for our treat, a couple seated next to us was dealing with their crying baby (approximately 18 months old). Had I been that “perfectly well behaved kids” pre-parent, I would have rolled my eyes at their failure to “control” her. Instead, when NHL and JSL pointed out how noisy she was being, I told them that they made plenty of noise when they were that age. Babies make noise. It’s a fact of life.
Some institutions have taken to banning children. In some cases, I can see the rationale. No parent should take their young child to a scary movie at 9pm at night. Still, while parents can take some measures to mitigate incidents, sometimes public meltdowns aren’t avoidable. A single mother with no-one to babysit will need to take her child to the store. A family going on vacation via airplane can plan for the trip, but kids might not react well to the circumstances. In these instances, parents shouldn’t be confronted with glaring glances and whispered criticisms. They have their hands full enough as it is.
Have you ever encountered critical reactions while you were out with your children? Has your perspective changed from your pre-parent days?