I feel lame that so many of my stories start with “Today, at Barnes and Noble”. What an exciting life I lead. Other than the park, it’s the only free place to hang out with my kid who constantly reminds me that he wants to go somewhere by walking to the door and demanding, “bye bye!” There are always interactions there. A grown up to talk to is my favorite part, but I also like observing everyone’s parenting styles.
A few days ago, Jack and I had to leave early because he wouldn’t stop trying to take another little boy’s juice. It got to the point where I had no choice, but to leave. The woman said politely, “He must be thirsty,” which I self-consciously took as “Do you not give your baby beverages?” I swore to the woman that my child had plenty of fluids that day, and went into obnoxious details about how her son’s cup looked like Jack’s old cup and yada yada yada please-don’t-think-I-severely-dehydrate-my-kid jargon. The annoying part of all of this is that she was just trying to keep things light-hearted while my little beast was violently trying to rob her. Still, I couldn’t help but take her comment way too personally. Of course this woman doesn’t think my child is dying of thirst. Of course he’s just in a “I want that cup or I will cut you” kind of mood. All two year olds go through that horrendous phase where they don’t understand that every object on earth is not their personal property. Why then, do I feel the need to explain myself or the behavior of my toddler? All anyone has to do is look at him and know that he’s doing what he’s doing because he’s a tiny human-and tiny humans are selfish.
Flash forward to today. Jack was playing with about five kids. One kid takes Jack’s train. Even though there are about fourteen identical trains in front of him, Jack is super ticked. That kid’s mom freaks out on him like he’s just pulled out a switchblade. “RYDERYOUGIVETHATTRAINBACKRIGHTNOWORWEAREGOINGHOME!” Meanwhile, I’m over here going, “Jack. Why don’t you pick up one of the other 500 Thomas trains located directly in front of you?” Jack’s crying. Other kid is crying. Other mom snatches train and gives back to Jack. The other kid begins to release steam from his ears. He is blood red. Jack just stares at steam-eared kid curiously. Then, steam-eared kid takes back train from Jack. Jack picks up identical train and throws it at Steamy. Before I have time to react, Steamy pushes Jack down and both are crying. I make eye contact with Mrs. Steamy. What’s next? Whose kid is worse? It only takes a moment. Our children are both crying hysterically and running towards their respective mothers. Both of us just burst out laughing. “You know what?” I said. “Maybe this needed to play out on its own. Toddlers suck.”
After our children were consoled for a solid twenty five seconds and each of us mumbled something about not hitting or pushing or stealing, things settled down and we had a very good conversation about solidarity. We both frequent B and N and have both noticed the obsession with correcting every single thing our children do. Obviously, it is our job to teach them how to behave, but sometimes, we treat them like they’re not learning. We act like their behavior is just atrocious and are embarrassed by the tiniest things. We spend most of our time apologizing to other parents for our toddlers being toddlers. We are so mortified that our little angels would hit someone or steal their toy, as if they are vicious. In reality, they just don’t get it. They don’t understand the emotions that rush over them when someone takes their toy. They can’t put it into words yet what jealousy is. All they can do is cry and retaliate. They also don’t understand why that other little boy has the toy they want and why it is rude to take it from him. And y’all, they sure as hell don’t understand that Mama won’t buy them a $16 Hooked-on-Phonics book about airplanes because they don’t even know the alphabet yet.
We all know this. All parents know this, and yet we still spend way too much time convincing other parents that our kid is worse, and their kid is fine while simultaneously explaining why our kid isn’t actually the worst. I’ve even found myself doing this with one of my best friends. Both of us do it. We both blame our own children no matter whose fault it is because we are supposed to pretend to expect our kids to always be on their best behavior. Cannon will take Jack’s toy. Maggie (Cannon’s mom) will discipline Cannon and I will come up with some excuse for Cannon’s behavior. The same thing happens if Jack hits Cannon. Maggie will say something like, “I’m sure Cannon did something first.” It’s really ridiculous. They’re kids. We both have them. We both know they can just be jerks sometimes, and at their age, that’s okay.
So, to all you Barnes and Noble mamas, I know your toddler isn’t the devil. I know they’re learning and mine is too. I won’t judge you for at least another few years-Don’t get me started on kindergartners. (I kid. I kid.)