Here's your context for today's post: Before kids, I was the person rolling her eyes and raising her eyebrows and sighing disapproving sighs around parents who could not control their children. On occasion, I am ashamed to say, I still do this. But Saturday, upon leaving a baby shower hours early in disgrace, I wanted to dive into the nearest confessional to atone for my years of judgment and haughtiness, because I HAVE BECOME THAT PARENT.
It's my fault. I shouldn't have brought the kids, even though I'd been assured numerous times that it was okay. But they woke up too early (is this a problem in anyone else's house? With Jack, especially, if he wakes up too early there is HELL TO PAY for the rest of the day) and the shower didn't start till 11 and I didn't give them lunch beforehand and I didn't bring the right toys or lunch foods and I only brought one sippy cup and I hadn't thought about parking far away and walking on a big street and I neglected to bring the appropriate tranquilizers and OKAY OKAY, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.
For a while it was fine. I mean, there was a whole room full of toys and all the guests seemed as enamored as they should be of my baby girl and properly crushing on my boy. It wasn't pleasant -- who can enjoy herself while one child is trying to throw his ball into the tray of party favors when you're not looking, and the other child shrieks if you try to let someone else hold her? -- but it was survivable. And I really wanted to be there for my friend, the expecting mom.
Eventually, though, I heard "MAMAMAMAMA!" and it wasn't Jack. It was a six-year-old girl whose mother made a beeline from the party to the playroom in pursuit of her daughter's attacker. I'm not one of those moms who wants to referee every situation. Most of the time I prefer if the kids can work it out on their own so I can concentrate on my bon bons and US magazine. But I didn't want to look like I didn't care, and since Jack was most likely to blame for whatever happened, I made my way back to the playroom and said, "Did Jack do something?"
And the other mother said, "He was SPITTING on her." Flat voice. One eyebrow raised. Pursed lips.
Internet, I wanted to die. DIIIIIIE. I knew for a fact that Jack wasn't spitting on her, because he doesn't know HOW, but he WAS probably blowing raspberries or something equally obnoxious. Either way, it wasn't okay, and I dragged that child out of the room by his sleeve, growling at him under my breath the entire way. The other mom's words burned. I mean, she might as well have just pointed out that my son was calmly injecting swine flu into her poor helpless daughter.
Unfortunately it was a tiny house, and Jack is not the type to sit quietly and make origami birds with his cocktail napkin while mommy chats, so ten minutes later I let him go back to the playroom. AND THE SAME THING HAPPENED. And then I died.
No, I leaped into action. I hauled my kid out of that room before the other mother could say a single word. I then passed my little parasite Molly to a friend so I could deal with the resulting tantrum as far away from the other guests as possible. It was awful. SO awful. The kicking and shrieking and nowhere to deal with him in private, having to put their coats and shoes on, the huge lunch mess I still had to clean up, finding my bag, saying goodbye. (UGH! I'm having post-traumatic stress flashbacks just thinking about it.)
The only thing in my head was: WHAT MUST THESE OTHER MOTHERS THINK OF ME? And I knew the answer: that the brat I was hauling out of the house was a direct result of my terrible failure at motherhood. And THEN I died.
I swore I'd never be the kind of mom whose kid behaved like that in public. EVER! But I have to admit that there are times when I don't know how to stop that kind of behavior, and even more times when I have to pick my battles lest I spend my entire day sending a certain someone to the corner. Is the fact that he even HAS tantrums a testament to my poor parenting skills? I would have thought so before I had kids, and I suppose it's possible, but I have a little more grace for myself these days. Most of the time I'm doing my best, I really am, and the next time I catch some bratty kid mistreating MY precious baby, I will do my utmost very best to give the mother the benefit of the doubt. I won't blame her -- not in my voice, not in my body language, not in my head.