Monday, August 23, 2010

A dirty little parenting secret

I feel like one of the sweetest, most secret pleasures of parenthood that no one ever talks about is being out in public with your child and realizing that he is much better behaved than the other children around you. I know comparing is wrong, we shouldn't judge other people - especially children, etc. etc. But any parent who tells you that they don't mentally stack their kids' behavior up against other kids is just plain lying.

Now I know I'm really asking for it here, since L is still relatively easy to contain in his stroller. But in general, he's just a really good-natured kid. It's a pleasure taking him places with me, because I know that he'll not only behave, he'll smile and laugh and flirt at everyone we pass.

Yesterday, L and I drove out to an outlet mall about 45 minutes from our house to meet a college friend of mine for lunch. After he wooed and won her, I decided to push the envelope a bit and try to squeeze in a quick dash over to the Motherhood outlet (and possibly Old Navy, if he'd let me). I could see that he was getting pretty tired, but I figured he still had another half an hour in him, so off we went.

He was content to sit in his stroller as I entered the store, and amused himself by touching all the clothes within reach of his pudgy little arms. When he started to get bored with that, I gave him his squeaky giraffe toy to chew on (her official brand name is Sophie, so that's how we refer to her).

Suddenly, the doors to the store exploded open and these three women came in behind one extremely rambunctious boy (I'd guess about 6 years old or so) and a comparatively quiet girl (around age 4). I tried to ignore the boy as he immediately started to run around the racks of clothes screaming, "I HATE YOU, YOU UGLY GIRLS! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU WITH MY SWORD AND STAB YOUR EYES OUT!"

When he ran by where L and I were browsing, he looked at L and kicked his stroller. I was about to say something, but I saw his mother coming up to him and I thought she was going to discipline him or give him a sedative or something, so I said nothing. Which apparently was the parenting method of choice that day, because the mom also said nothing. Nice.

Then the boy and his sister ran into the fitting rooms and snatched the belly pillows that show you how you'll look in 3 months if you swallow a waffle iron whole and it takes up residence squarely in abdomen (needless to say, I've never found that pillow to be accurate). They started throwing the pillows around and hitting their adult companions with them. Again, the women said nothing.

One of the women came around the rack where L and I were, and she looked down at him and said, "Oh hi! Aren't you adorable! You're so quiet, I didn't even notice you there!"

L looked up at her like, "Lady, thanks for the compliment but get a wrangle on those banshees, will ya?" And then he smiled his BabyGap smile at her as a little incentive. No dice.

So after L and I had had enough of the circus, we took our selections (two sweater jackets for $15 each! Total steal!) to the cash register. The poor sales girl was giving the stink eye to the kids and the women with them, and I could totally relate because I was in her shoes once. I used to work retail and these parents would bring their kids in and let them run completely amok. And if the kid ever hurt himself doing something he shouldn't have been doing in the first place, we were the ones getting the brunt of it. Like our store jumped out and bit the kid.

While I was trying to complete my transaction, the little girl came up to L's stroller. I'm used to little girls approaching us in public because little girls love babies. That's just the laws of nature. So I smiled at her (because really, it was her brother who was being evil) and she said, "Baby". (So maybe she was younger than 4 because most 4 year olds I know can talk a mile a minute and would have said more than just "baby".)

L looked at her as he gnawed on his Sophie and I looked away to pay for my purchase. Next thing I know, I hear Sophie let out a loud squeak and I look over to see that the girl had taken Sophie from L. L got this totally confused look on his face like, "What the heck?" I was about to say something (again), when one of the women stepped over and said, "No, no. That's the baby's toy. Give it back to him."

Thank you!!! I thought, feeling as though this woman finally decided to step in and discipline one of these children.

But when the girl said absolutely nothing and still held on to Sophie, the mom said, "Yes, see how fun that toy is? That's why the baby likes it so much." Great idea. Let's get the kid to understand how fun the toy is. Then she'll FOR SURE want to give it back.

Then, the girl goes to put Sophie in her mouth and I reached down and snatched it from her and said in the nicest voice possible, "I'm glad you enjoyed his toy, he's such a good sharer."

Then I had to look back at the cashier because she kept asking all these questions so Motherhood can stalk me and send me all kinds of junk mail, and when I looked back down, this little girl was violently rubbing L's head, so much so that he was involuntarily moving back and forth in his stroller. And the mom just stood there. And L just sat there going, "WTH is going on right now?"

Thankfully, we were finished after that, so I grabbed my bag and sped out of there before the little girl could start biting my child. And as I opened the door to leave, I felt simultaneously sad for the sales girl and proud of my son for being so chill that even when some random kid was assaulting him, he didn't make a single peep.

I know he's still young yet, and I know we're not even at the stage where he would freak out about someone stealing his toy, but I still can't help but feel like my kid is awesome. And I love knowing that the sales girl would have much rather had us stay and the banshee children leave. Having other people want your kid around is like a little mental gold star.

I know it might be short-lived, which is why I'm going to savor the look of delight most people take on when they see L coming. All too soon, it might be replaced by a cringe of "Ugh it's a little boy!" But I promise by that point, I'll be doing everything in my power to make it so that the cringe is inevitably followed with a look of sheepishness at how wrong they were about my child because he's so well behaved.

That's the plan, anyway.


Gracie Lou Freebush said...

I am amazed at the lack of discipline parents have nowadays. I would be totally embarrassed if my child acted like that anywhere.

Kids don't have to be monsters! You can prevent it! :)

Nicole Everitt said...

I wonder where the real parents are nowadays... I don't understand how anyone would let their kids behave like that in public, no less, who lets their kids touch someones baby? Were it me, I probably would've beaten the 4 year old up. Just kidding... Kinda.

L and Grace should get married. They sound like a match made in heaven.