Before I begin, I’d like to apologize because I guess I’m going to offend the sensibilities of some people, especially young parents. Trust me, I get you. That’s perfectly alright. I understand it’s a touchy topic.
Recently, I went to a movie with my friend. We were able to catch up and sneak in the time for ourselves after weeks of planning and adjusting our busy work schedules. The movie was good but the whole experience wasn’t. We missed out on dialogues and continuity.
The young couple next to us had a one-year-old with them, who was constantly screaming, crying, and getting restless in the dark theatre. And being a parent myself I completely get that. There was nothing in there for him! The parents were having a tough time. But not that I have neither sympathy nor empathy for them. Rather I was distraught and angry at them for having spoiled a good three hours for us, and many others too!
***Add to it the fact that they kept feeding the kid nachos and soda to mellow him down and keep him occupied is another story altogether! That’s exactly how unhealthy eating patterns are built and reinforced. Well, that’s for another time.***
I was torn with deep self-doubt that was I being insensitive? Well, I guess the answer is NO. I had every right to have a good peaceful time, I deserved it and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it!
Why do we, as parents, sometimes feel entitled? Why don’t we know where to and where not to take our kids, especially toddlers and young kids, along? Why do we just assume that everyone else will be happy and open to adjusting?
Raising a child is a learning process and so is parenting. Being a parent does not and must not stop us from being responsible towards others’ sensitivities and needs.
I am not an expert at parenting, and I’ve made (and still making!) my share of parenting faux pas, but with time I’ve learned a thing or two, which I believe sharing with other parents might help them in some ways.
When my twins were younger, we took them along only under specific conditions and to specific places, and at specific times.
The simple thumb rule was to avoid closed spaces that could make the child claustrophobic, crowded places that could make the child anxious, and places where people value their time and privacy. There are many places I didn’t go to, like the spa, movie theatre, fine dining restaurants, and places of worship, for a long time because putting the kid’ and others through a harrowing time wasn’t exactly my idea of fun. Also, we’d never plan anything around their sleep time. If leaving them wasn’t an option, the next best was not to go at all. And all the while we were mindful of the fact that it’s a small parenting sacrifice and it’s a temporary one. As parents, ‘we’ were supposed to sacrifice for our children without expecting the rest of the world to comply.
However, we were more than happy to take them along to playdates at my friends’ places, amusement parks, lunches, and dinners hosted by very close friends and extended family, and sometimes to my workplace. Hospital lobbies, trains, and airports are of course sometimes not avoidable.
As young parents of infants and toddlers, you need to understand that ‘sometimes’ sacrificing some ‘fun-stuff’ too is a part of parenting. It’s just a matter of time before the kids are grown up enough to be left behind by themselves, or with a caretaker or extended family, and you can once again have all the fun you missed out on.
And yes, not everyone will love having to put up with a howling toddler in a movie theatre! And if they say they do, know that they are lying! It may sound brutal and insensitive, and you may hate me for telling this, but honey, it’s true.