I’ve noticed recently that many of the mothers I know are constantly apologizing for their children, even when their kids are not doing anything disruptive or misbehaving in any way. So I’m writing this post to give us all a swift kick in the butt and remind us that we do NOT have to apologize for our children behaving like normal children!
As the mother of a toddler, I understand the anxiety and pressure that comes from being in public with a little person who may throw a tantrum, make a mess, or stink up the joint. I’m not at all suggesting that parents should let their tykes run wild without supervision and without regard for other people. But when mom’s are apologizing for an inquisitive toddler asking a question in an otherwise crowded and loud public setting, or for their toddler running around and playing like a toddler in their own home when company is over, there’s a problem.
Have we, as a society, grown so intolerant of children that we expect them to sit quietly at all times and only speak when spoken to? I’m sorry, but I’m just not OK with that! I want my child to ask questions. I want my child to notice the world around him. And yes, I want my child to run and play with all of the exuberance that he can muster.
My husband, son, and I went out to dinner with family on Christmas Eve. I found myself handing my 2 year old son an iPad to keep him quietly sitting at the table, even though there was hardly anyone else in the restaurant at the time. More and more I see children as young as my son being handed electronic equipment just to shut them up in public. I recognize that sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes you really do need your child to sit quietly when in public or when engaging with other adults, but when did this become the go-to solution for what seems like the majority of children?
I have, on more than one occasion, heard myself say that I will leave my son at home so that I can actually pay attention to what’s being said around me. If engaging with other adults is your primary purpose when out, then consider leaving the kid at home. Personally, I know that when I’m with my son, I tend to develop tunnel vision, and I completely miss the adult conversation going on around me. So if I know that I am going someplace where I can’t give him my full (or at least most of my) attention, I don’t bring him. But for those weekly trips to the grocery store, or a family evening out, I am going to bring him. And I will not apologize for my child behaving like a normal child. He’s allowed to talk and ask questions and to laugh. He is free to look around and explore his environment and yes, even to cry sometimes (although it happens rarely).
To the other moms out there who are feeling the anxiety about their kid being too loud or too messy or too whatever in public, remind yourself that he or she is just a kid. If the people around you are annoyed with what amounts to totally appropriate and normal behavior from your child, I’d consider it their problem, not yours! And perhaps more on point, maybe we’re putting this pressure on ourselves sometimes. When mothers I know apologize to me for their child’s behavior, I always make a point of letting them know that it’s totally OK…that their child is acting just fine. I suspect we may be so conditioned to people being annoyed with kids in public, that often we assume annoyance, even when there is none. So stop apologizing! Instead, try smiling and enjoying watching your kid be a kid. It only lasts for a little while, and I for one refuse to let it pass me by while I look over my shoulder and apologize to people I don’t even know when they probably don’t care anyway.