Yesterday I was at a store to make a return. My cashier had dingy blonde hair that looked as though the bottom half had been dipped in bright green kool aid. She adorned her weary countenance with a hoop ring through her nose and another hoop had a hold of her eyebrow. As she proceeded to undo my previous transaction, a baby punctuated its wailing with a screech. The angry baby was clear in the back of the store; far from the cash registers but my algae haired cashier scrunched her face in disapproval and said, “Good grief! That baby sounds like it’s dying!”
“Well, it’s a little after 1:00,” I observed. “Baby is probably in need of a nap.”
“I could use a nap too. Does that mean I get to scream?”
“No, because you’re an adult. A baby doesn’t have words to communicate her needs which is why they cry if they are hungry, tired, dirty or sick.”
I smiled at the cashier and wished her a nice day as I left the store.
Similarly, a friend of mine recently shared a story where she had to run into the grocery store to pick up two needed items. It was not the most convenient time for such a stop and her infant son was letting her know it. He cried and screamed as his mother tried to make her selections quickly. As she tossed a box of baby wipes into her cart another woman approached her.
“I’ve had three children and I have NEVER allowed them to cry like this,” she scolded.
I’m going to have to call BS on that. Everyone who has had a baby has had a CRYING baby. Perhaps this woman stuffed a bottle or a cookie in her baby’s mouth every time they made an unpleasant sound or maybe she whisked them away so that her baby didn’t disturb The Public. I would suggest that The Public mind their own business and maybe have a little more sympathy for a parent of an upset child.
Consider these scenarios (all of which I’ve experienced as a mother):
- Baby is hungry or tired. Mom has no other time to make this stop and so Baby is being pushed passed his limits a little. It’s not ideal but it’s not bad for baby to cry for a bit and to have a little lesson in flexibility. He doesn’t quite get it but Mom’s know that Life does not always stick to a schedule.
- Baby is sick. Often I have had to follow a doctor’s appointment with a trip to the grocery store to pick up a prescription for my ailing little Nuggets. It sucks because you have to hang out at the store for 15-20 minutes while the pharmacist prepares the meds. In the mean time, Baby is fussing, crying, or screaming. It would help if Mom could just hold her baby but realizing that she won’t be able to leave the house for the next 3-4 days due to a sick baby, she is taking advantage of this wait to fill her grocery cart with provisions.
- Baby is sick but Mom doesn’t know. Sometimes a child gets an ear infection or a stomach ache and the baby can’t say, “Mom, my ears hurt.” So they are dragged through a day with a silent illness that is increasingly bothersome until the gasket blows with curdling scream.
- Mom is teaching her toddler a lesson. Sometimes there is an unhappy child and it is not an infant. This kid can talk and she is using her words loud and clear. She wants that box of cookies or the cereal with the colorful marshmallows and Mom has said…(brace yourself…) “No.” It would make everyone around, including the Mom, quite happy if she would just give in to the crying fit and give the little turd what she wants. That is a short term solution. It is better for Mom to endure her child’s ugly episode and The Public’s disapproval to obtain the long term effect of her child learning that yelling does not get you what you want. You know those people who chew out the fast food restaurant cashier for not getting their order right? Their Mom gave them whatever they wanted when they cried. I’d bet money on it. So this painful lesson does not just benefit Mom. A well disciplined child becomes a great adult and is a blessing to society as a whole.
There are other scenarios, I’m sure, but that is a brief list of things that I’ve personally experienced. Instead of giving the Mom dirty looks or crappy advice here are some things YOU can do:
- Mind your own business. That’s the best thing you can do. Hurry up with your shopping and move on but for the sake of all that is Holy, keep your pie hole shut.
- Commend or encourage the war tired Mom as you pass. “Good job, Mom!” “I remember these days. You’re doing great!”
- And….this is not for the shy and may be rather bold of me but sometimes I’ll talk or coo to the baby or toddler. NEVER give correction but sometimes to say with a smile on your face and in your voice, “Hey Buddy!” or “Goodness! We are not happy right now!” will cause the Baby/Toddler to stop, if maybe just for a moment. It gives Mom and everyone around a little peace for a bit. The Baby may bury his face in a blanket or in Mom’s chest. Sometimes, their little eyes will be filled with curiosity. Then I smile bigger, maybe wink, and encourage them to be nice to Mommy and then I walk away.
I learned that little trick when I was hostessing at Red Lobster. A family was in the packed lobby on a Friday night and their child was tired of waiting and letting us all know. The father approached my podium and asked, “Would you mind terribly speaking to my daughter. Just nicely tell her that whining is not allowed in your restaurant. When we say anything it doesn’t effect her but if a stranger does she’ll shape up.” And he was right. It worked like magic. Maybe she was embarrassed. Maybe she thought I could get her in a kind of trouble that her parents can’t. After she ended her fuss and quietly sat down, I rewarded her with a box of crayons, a kids menu to color on and some crackers. It works with infants and toddlers too. I think the infants quiet down because they are taking in a new face and voice. Toddlers quiet down because they are suddenly realizing that their behavior is effecting more than just mom. They get embarrassed. And SOMETIMES you get a little turd who doesn’t give a flip and gives you the equivalent of a Baby F-You and screams right back at your face. That’s fine too. Just move on…
Restaurants are another place where people just don’t want to be disturbed by children. I laugh remembering another patron at Red Lobster. He approached my podium to give his name and seating preference.
“Randall, for two, non-smoking and in the ‘non-kids’ section.”
I smiled and said, “I’m sorry sir, but this is a family restaurant. We’ll seat you in the section where you will receive the best service!”
The Public has implied that families should not dine out or fly on air planes. This is beyond ridiculous! The best way for children to learn how to properly behave in public is to have them out in public! Man used to constantly fret about how our children were effecting other diners. To a point, we certainly should be so courteous but he would even grow alarmed if our children were making happy noises.
“He’s not even two years old, Dear. You can’t expect him to sit in his high chair with a napkin in his lap as he peruses the tapas menu.”
We did have a couple of tricks though:
- Eat out during Baby’s nap time or bed time. We’d set their little car seat up next to the table and had a quiet dining experience as they snoozed.
- Bring provisions. Do they still make those little cereal type things…oh what were they called? They look like Lucky Charms but with out the marshmallows and they dissolved in the baby’s mouth if they didn’t gum ’em down. They are just right for Baby to pick up on his own. He’d have something to do with his hands as well as his mouth. Entertainment and nourishment in one! Voila!
- Bring a toy. One of the boys’ favorite dining toys was an empty parmesan cheese container and popsicle sticks. The sticks were stored in the container. We would dump them out and open the flip cap. There is the wide opening and three holes that are just the right size for a popsicle stick to fit in. Baby Buddy would take a stick and put it back in the container through the small hole. Each stick went back into the container one at a time. This is great for practicing fine motor skills! We used the multi colored sticks that you get at craft stores so as he got older we could then work on colors. “Put away the green sticks,” we’d say. And just like that the game was kicked up a level. I suppose nowadays parents hand their kids an iPad but touching a screen is not a fine motor skill. I think the parmesan container and sticks is cool because of the added developmental lesson.
Media suggests that the world belongs to that certain demographic that they are selling to; those sexy singles who are forging careers and traveling the world! You know, people like my kool aid dyed cashier yesterday. So this rant is basically to say to non-parents or parents who are no longer living in reality to mind your own business when a parent is struggling with an upset child. Maybe be sympathetic instead of accusatory. This isn’t just your world. Children are people too and they are learning. So are their parents. Unfortunately, our job is a learn as you go kind of gig. Give us all a freaking break. We have to take the screaming child home with us.