This morning around 8 am, a friend and I went to the park to let the young gents run a little wild. This is my second Friday going to the park at an earlier time– a solution of sorts to too much energy in the summer swelter, only that today it wasn’t nearly as hot as most of the other days have been.
It always strikes me how much activity there is at times where I would not think there would be as much to do. A couple of nannies and another handful of mothers were dispersed at certain points around the quadrangle of the park –some within the confines of the tot lot, and some sitting on benches around the periphery. Some mothers have the look of ennui and resignation that comes with being the mother of too much: a preschooler, a toddler, a baby, a doggy and possibly a couple of rodents and a husband at home. Some other mothers –apart from being bigger than other tots’ mothers, perhaps– are also battling many battles from early on.
At one of the tot lots, a mother was wrangling her toddler who was arching his back and shouting wordlessly at the empty morning. He looked tired, and his mother confirmed it –this being the reason she was leaving in the first place. I was glad that for my part, my tot’s naptime was still a few hours away, and although he keeps me guessing there is always at least a tiny bit of method to his madness.
But I feel like in a day and age when parents are barraged with mixed messages as to how to behave and discipline in public and in a world that seems hell-bent on making mothering and motherhood appear like ego-deleting and IQ-lowering endeavors that shave years off your life, seeing a mother not just reading her toddler correctly (i.e. Linda Blair stand-in=cranky child in need of nap) but making no apologies about his rage –which was not inappropriate or out of control either, and just doing what needs to be done. And what needed to be done was not to hang out with the moms coming in, but instead turning around and going home to sleep.
Yes, there were tears coming from this toddler. However, they were not tears of anything other but of frustration because the little guy cannot pick himself up and say, "Mother, I am spent! It would behoove me to commit myself to my nursery, anon!" Other than that, it is not a scene that would warrant further scrutiny or eyebrow-raising…
…except for when you compare it to scenes that might have been.
And with this sentence, I issue my disclaimer:
The fact that I am committing some sort of bad-light portraiture of mothers, motherhood or motherisms does not mean that I have witnessed, been a party to, or otherwise cajoled, condoned or been privy to the examples included herein.
Although if you’re sly, you can probably figure out which mother I am.
Whew! That’s out of the way. So, okay… holy crap! Some people love to go down in flames when pulling their kids out of places sometimes, turning what is an understandable child trait –the reluctance to do something asked of them, or the resistance to change– into an all-out balls-to-the-wall dog-and-pony show of emotion.
Now, of course, being the mom of a kid who hasn’t turned two yet, I am informed that I just do not know what’s in store for me in terms of temper tantrums and willful shows of independence. To that I say simply, "That’s okay: I’m familiar with teenagers." And really, what are teenagers but overgrown toddlers who are enamored with their own narrow world and self-concept, and who like to think that no one else has ever been as frustrated as they have ever been. Oh, those sad and wordly people…
Look: you don’t need to have gone through the hypothetical scenario of being seven months pregnant with child number two and having to deal with child number one, who is somewhere around 22 months old, hurling herself like a tin-seeking missile toward the display of canned soups and, once she’s told she may not take the cans, having to deal with a miserable and upset writhing body.
Things will happen where your mind will blank out and all the parenting books and the good advice will all go out the window, and all you will have left is your sense of self-preservation and the crazy amounts of adrenaline pumping through you as you watch that little pound of flesh which you love like no other but which currently is eagerly undressing you as the cranberry juice makes its perilous descent onto the white shirt that you thought would be a bold move but oh-what-the-heckity-heck-the-baby-is-so-good!
I guess this is the long-winded way of saying that sometimes you have to forgive yourself and forgive the way you used to be– thinking that yours would be the easy road and yours would be the unfailing little angel, and not the crazy toddler running through the award-winning English garden and doing the pasodoble over mound after deliciously aromatic mound of something that may never again look like lemon thyme.
Do you run like a madwoman, having slipped off your shoe and holding it aloft, and brandish your crude weapon in the direction of the toddler?
Do you act as if nothing is going on, and cheerfully
lie to remind the groundskeeper that some plants actually thrive when crushed?
Do you throw yourself protectively over the toddler and pacify him with bribes in the hopes that no one saw that display of horror?
Well, I don’t know sister. But I will remind you of this: YOU ARE THE ADULT.
Never forget that: it may be embarrassing and it may be tiring and it may be one of those situations that make you duck and hope that no one ever remembers your face again, but the key to disciplining the chubby little cherub who is running away from your grasp and right into oncoming traffic or grabbing your mother-in-law’s Limoges box and using it as a "BAH!" is to remember that you are the adult.
You decide how much freedom to give, and you dole out the according penalty if that freedom is taken for granted.
You try your best to make sure that the situation allows your child to have a good balance of freedom and restriction –without going overboard or smothering.
You will fall flat on your face once or twice — not realizing that allowing your child to self-feed on blackberries while wearing a yellow romper is asking for the romper to rescind its yellowhood stat, or realizing too late that if your child does not like to hold your hand at this particular stage of his or her development, then a walk through an award-winning English garden is not the most relaxing way to spend an afternoon and you should have opted for bringing an umbrella stroller or giving your child a piggyback ride.
You are the adult. Your child is your child– light of your life, fruit of your loins, junior to you and therefore…. NOT THE ADULT.
You are the adult. Be an adult, even when it’s not chic, stylish, or convenient to do so.