There I was, the blissfully ignorant mom of one adorable, fuzzy-haired eighteen-month-old. He had always been a challenging baby—he had preferences about everything and never slept well. But he was an angel when we were out in public at kid-friendly places (I was sure it was because of my excellent mothering. Ha!). He was just shy and reticent enough that he was never the one taking toys or harming other kids. I was so frustrated by the moms of kids who would grab toys from my sweet little toddler. Those moms surely couldn’t control their kids.
At the same time, it was always humbling to go out into non-child-friendly places. Our son would not sit still for church or eating out. One of us always took him out of places before things got bad. We thought we were the only parents whose child couldn’t sit still for lunch out.
Though he was angelic up to about eighteen months, all bets were off as he neared two years old. I used to skip almost all events because I knew my son would misbehave. I dreaded having people in town or trying anything new.
The other day I was at storytime at our library. One little girl would not sit still and kept running up to the librarian. I could tell that her mom was a little frustrated, possibly thinking her child was the only one without self-control. That’s what I used to think when my kid was the one who refused to behave the way I wanted him to.
Since the storytime was a relatively new event for my son, he sat still and focused. What this mom couldn’t know is that this was a shock to me. I figured he would be the one getting up—running over to play with the cars and trucks and causing general chaos. But he was totally sucked into the story and loved watching. (Who knows how next time will go!).
But what I didn’t realize is that going out—if you do it enough—actually shows you that no parents really know what they are doing. All kids have their own challenges—all act out at some point, all can be incredibly loud. It's refreshing to see that you aren't the only mom with a run-away toddler or fussy baby.
I remember when we went to our nieces’ baby dedication, and my toddler was one of the few kids who sat through the whole service. People commented on it and seemed to think we had an easy kid or we were doing something right. What they didn’t know is that we were totally surprised that our son would sit through church—and even fall asleep before the service was over. This had never happened before, and we had been planning to spend a lot of the service outside with him.
I remember a time recently when our second son was maybe a month old. We went to Panera. He had screamed most of the way there and had to nurse as soon as we got there. I looked over at a table with two moms. They were chatting and having a great time while two little babies slept or sat quietly in their carseats. My husband and I joked that we never had those kind of kids.
However, since then, my now four-month-old baby has joined those babies in often sitting contentedly or even sleeping when we take him out in his carseat.
So it may not be my kid this time. My child might be an angel. My baby might sleep through our lunch while yours has to be bounced and fed. My son might play nicely and watch your child in innocent shock as your child throws the sand.
But I know. I know that though it’s your kid this time—and though it may boost my ego for a split second to realize that my child isn’t the one screaming—ultimately I’m right there with you. I’m not the naive mom I was a year ago. We can’t predict these tiny humans, and they almost always surprise us. So though this time it’s your kid—screaming or running or throwing or drawing attention when you just really want to fade in—know that I have no idea what I’m doing either. And it will probably be my kid next time. Until then, we'll keep going out and trying new things, and we hope that you'll be patient with us and patient with yourself, too.