A few weeks ago…
…we had a beautiful, albeit rainy, Saturday with my in-laws. The day commenced with an intended trolley ride to a local town, but due to unknown reasons the trolley wasn’t running so we opted for the “city bus” as my son says. We wandered through the streets, stopped in a few stores, and even had an unexpected visit with Santa at a local bank.
We stopped in a small book/gift store, which appeared to be locally owned and picked a few books to purchase-yes, I knew Santa was coming but I have a really hard time passing up books for my kids. While standing at the register with my youngest in my arms, my oldest had picked up a card with a donut on it. While juggling payment and the two kids, he must have put the card in his mouth-maybe even licked it-I don’t really know, to which the woman behind the counter immediately said “oh no, you can’t eat that” while snatching the card from his hand and saying to the other cashier “we certainly can’t put that back out on the shelves.” The patron in line behind me, obviously a comedian (insert eye roll) chimed in with a snarky tone & chuckled “well, why not?” followed by her response “for obvious reasons.”
Now, mind you this whole encounter was witnessed by my very smart, soon to be 4 year old. He was internalizing this entire interaction. I essentially stood there, stunned by the fact that the interaction had occurred, and completed my transaction. I briefly glanced down at my son, and his big, now sad brown eyes, and he said to me “but mommy it was an accident.”
It felt like I was punched in the gut, which resulted in a new level of anger that was completely new to me. I wanted to go completely rouge, tearing their store to pieces with the biggest “F you” I could muster. But, I don’t think I’d fare well in jail, so I opted for the passive aggressive approach and simply walked out of the store without saying thank you… I know, I’m such a bad ass.
I was truly broken hearted for my kid, who was innocently just being a kid and was in turn made to feel crummy. I’m fairly certain, upon reflecting that the expectation was for me to offer to pay for the licked card, and had she not be so nasty to my kid I most definitely would have. But you get more with honey than vinegar, so they were stuck with the slobber-covered birthday card.
Another thought that played in my mind was that I’m sure they were expecting me to step in and “parent” by making him apologize &/or telling him that what he’d done was wrong-neither of those were options. For one, I don’t believe in making my kid apologize for something that he cannot fully understand. I especially don’t think he needs to be disciplined for his actions in this particular instance. He wasn’t being disrespectful, he wasn’t being crazy, he was just being a silly kid. While I did explain that her reaction was not very kind, I also explained the whole concept of “we don’t lick things in public,” so I’m not a total dead beat parent.
But, you see, there is a point to my whole rant, and the whole reason that this experience stuck with me & stung. The biggest takeaway from my interaction was that I should have stuck up for him. I was too busy thinking through the appropriate or the expected response to the interaction rather than listening to my gut. While going rouge wasn’t the answer, had I eliminated the expectation from my mind, I would have been able to assess the interaction, and, in a calm but assertive manner expressed my displeasure with the way she treated my kid. He needed to see that his mom had his back when he was being mistreated & he needed to see how adults handle these situations.
So, my message to you is this: Stop worrying about the appropriate or expected parent response. They are your babies to raise and not a single person should guide your values and principles except for you & your partner. Parenting is not a practice to be judged but a very individualized and personal experience. So screw the “popular opinion” when you’re parenting by letting your heart and soul be your guide. Love like hell and don’t for once second guide your values at the expense of pleasing another. Your kid doesn’t need a perfect parent; they just need you in all your realness, loving them to their core.