I had planned on publishing a different post today, but after last night’s experience, I felt the need to vent.
My sister, my (almost) 16 month old son, and I went out for a very early dinner to our local diner. It’s not as easy as it once was to take him out to eat. My son has always had a desire to be on the move – he crawled and walked extremely early and would much rather be on his feet, free to explore and wander than strapped in to a chair.
So asking – or expecting – him to sit patiently in a highchair for upwards of an hour while there are so many fun new things to see and touch and people to walk over to, smile at, and babble to is a long shot. The one thing that will usually occupy him and keep him entertained is food. He loves eating and meal time is now another part of his independence – he has perfected the use of a fork (which he is very proud of) and is happy to spend large amounts of time feeding himself.
However, tonight was one of those nights where he had no interest in eating, and therefore sitting. Maybe it was because he was up twice during the night or that his third molar just cut. Maybe he was just cranky and having an off day. Maybe he was being a normal 16 month old boy. Whatever the reason, he had no desire to sit in the highchair or behave the way I’m used to when we are in public.
My sister and I tried everything. Literally everything. We took turns getting up with him and letting him walk around the diner (it was 5pm so it was still fairly empty) until our food arrived. At that point, when I put him back in the highchair, he was a ticking time bomb – and I knew it. I tried to distract him with everything I could – the three books I brought with me, my wallet, straws, packets of sugar. Within a few minutes, he had had enough and let me know – he started throwing things – his food, his fork, his water cup (which managed to knock over a glass of water on the table)…At this point, I realized it wasn’t worth the temper tantrum that was starting to unfold or the struggle, so I asked that the food be wrapped up and for the check so we could leave.
Throughout the 45 minutes or so we were there, I heard bits and pieces of the conversation an older couple sitting behind us was having. At first, I thought they were discussing a grandson or neighbor, but by the end of dinner, it became apparent that they were talking about MY SON. Some of the phrases that I heard Did you see what he just did? Can you imagine what a handful he is going to be in a year or two? I would NEVER let my child behave that way in public.
My son is not perfect and I will never claim that he is. I am not going to be a mom who makes excuses for her child every time he misbehaves. But, he is a good kid. He understands “no” and listens to me (most of the time!). He is happy, cheerful, and a fun little guy to be around.
He is at the stage where he is testing his limits with my husband and I. He has started having tantrums when we take something away from him or tell him “no”. My mom tells me it’s a good thing that he is not a pushover – he knows what he wants and he is not okay with someone taking it away from him. I see her point and it’s easy to agree with her in the privacy of our home. But when we are in public and he’s having a tantrum, I wish he wasn’t so strong-willed.
I left the diner feeling embarrassed with how my son behaved and questioning my abilities as a mother.
The thoughts started running through my head. It was the first time since AJ was born where I felt like I was being judged and looked down upon. The tantrums are just starting – how am I going to deal with this as he gets older? How will I function with two children in just a few months? Am I giving in to him too easily at home? Am I doing something wrong?
After I allowed myself to calm down, I realized that I have nothing to be embarrassed about. While I’m not condoning his behavior, it is expected and typical of his age.
I am not a bad mother nor is he a bad child. I didn’t just sit there and let him make a mess of his food and water. But I also didn’t allow him to have a total meltdown and ruin the other diners evenings. In my opinion, it was a lose-lose, so I chose to leave dinner and take him home.
Before my son was born, I would have likely reacted the same way that couple did. But now that I have a child of my own, I have more of an understanding for parents whose child is having a tantrum in public.
I no longer judge. So please don’t judge me.