Cut Parents Some Slack

There is so much pressure on parents to control their kids so they don’t inconvenience others when out in public. A lot of times I don’t think this pressure is fair. Kids brains are developing and yes, there are times when kids can’t control their own behavior. The best parents can do is keep stressors to a minimum and take children home when it’s too much for them. Yet, there are times when others make it very difficult for parents to control some extraneous factors.

When Buddy was 10 days old I took him to get his portraits done. It was my first time leaving the house alone with him, and I was nervous about being out with my new baby and still in the hormonal fog women are in after giving birth. Still, I am a planner, and I made sure he was fed, changed, and rested before the photo shoot.

I got there on time and he was calm and happy. The only problem was that the appointment before me was running over because the mother was hogging the time debating whether or not to order portrait A versus portrait B. She spent twenty minutes agonizing over this while I started to seethe as I wondered how long Buddy would remain contented. And yes, she could clearly see that the next person was there and waiting with a young newborn.

Of course, by the time I finally got into the picture room with Buddy, he was hungry, wet and aggravated and it made taking pics difficult. 20 minutes makes a huge difference with a newborn! I missed my sweet spot because the person before me was inconsiderately going over her time. It wasn’t Buddy’s fault, and it wasn’t mine.

Sunday night we ran into another such instance. One of Andy’s cousins was getting married. Why they chose Sunday night when people have work and kids have school the next day defies explanation, but they did. Further, Andy’s relatives immigrated from the Philippines, and children are expected to be at weddings. Weddings are about family, children are family, so they usually have accommodations for children at weddings. In short, it would have been scandalous if we’d shown up without them because we’d hired a sitter. When we’d gotten the invite I was inclined to decline. It’s over an hour drive for one thing, and Buddy is very schedule dependent. But Andy feels duty bound so we went.

The wedding was supposed to start at 5, which is when we usually eat. We heard that the ceremony was going to be short, though, so they had a snack in the car. We got there a little before 5 and as I took Sissy to the bathroom to get her a fresh diaper I saw them bring pizzas in for the kids.

We took our seats. Buddy was happy playing Angry Birds, Sissy was about as calm as a two year old gets. And then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Sissy and I were sitting near the door and could see the caterers bringing in food into what I assumed was the reception area while we waited.

Forty-five minutes later, with the ceremony STILL not in progress, Sissy was hungry. I got out some crackers for her, but like most two year olds, she’s clumsy. The wedding started right as I gave her the snack, and as the bride came down the aisle, and she spilled them on the floor. Buddy noticed that Sissy had food and wanted some, so he made a grab for my bag.

I’m not sure if it was disruptive for other people or if anyone even noticed, but if the ceremony had started on time, it wouldn’t have been an issue. And then I spent the ceremony keeping tabs on a now very bored and hungry two-year-old while thanking my lucky stars that Angry Birds and some crackers was keeping Buddy happy.

Until the recession started, and Buddy and Sissy jumped into the aisles to dance to the music (though fortunately not the main aisle). Then my heart raced as I realized that Sissy’s diaper was full and needed to be changed as it was falling down her ankles (she fills a diaper fast). Once again, if the ceremony had started on time it wouldn’t have been an issue. Once again, not sure if anyone noticed my daughter was dancing in the aisles with her diaper around her ankles…

Thankful we had made it through the ceremony without anything too mortifying happening, my heart sank when they asked us to leave the ceremony room so they could transform it into the reception area. Apparently the reception are was just a food prep area. It would only take 15 minutes to change rooms, or so they said.

So I raced Sissy to the bathroom and changed her. Then we took our kids to the hallway with 160 other people milling about. We quickly determined staying in the hallway was not going to be feasible, not only because it’s hard to keep track of children in such a crowd, but because I hate being in crowds, so we went outside. And waited.

Eventually we saw they were passing chicken around and went to get some. It was stone cold and inedible. They passed around a few other hor d’ourves of varying degrees of edibleness, but let’s just say my kids were getting hungry. There was nowhere to sit, there wasn’t much for my kids to do other than chase each other in circles. My husband’s aunt, who had had a heart attack two weeks ago, had to leave after standing for thirty minutes with no end in sight.

7:30 approaches. 7:30 is Sissy’s bedtime. We’d been standing for over an hour. Andy finally starts talking about leaving, but the bride’s parents start begging people not to leave. “Fifteen minutes!”

We decide we’ll leave at 8 if we haven’t gotten into the reception room by then.

Long story short, we didn’t. According to people who stayed, they didn’t open the reception area until 9. And the food had been sitting out since 5.

Buddy’s bedtime is 8:30. But it was 8PM, and we’d not eaten, so we found the first thing we could, a Jack in the Box. The kids were grumpy and fussy, but it wasn’t their fault! They couldn’t control the fact that they’d not had dinner and it was past their bedtime, or that they’d been bored for three hours straight. And once again, kids brains are still maturing! They can’t handle those stressors as well as adults! I’m sure anyone who saw my kids at that Jack in the Box would have thought they were being brats , but we were all caught in a situation that had spiraled out of control.

We got home at about 10, way past their bedtimes. And I have felt the reverberations of this schedule disruption through today. Sissy has been grumpy and quick to anger. Buddy has had difficulty with transitions and had a meltdown last night at bedtime. In a lot of ways he handled this schedule disruption better and his behavior has not been as disruptive, so there is progress. Yet, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Andy and I assumed that people throwing a wedding Sunday evening would have been considerate of the fact that guests have work and that their children have school in the morning. We expected a quick ceremony, staying for an hour and thirty minutes at the reception tops, eating relatively on time, and getting the kids to bed only slightly late. But that’s not what happened by a long shot.

I noticed in videos of the reception that the few kids who stayed were screaming through the wedding toasts and dances. For those toddlers and parents, I don’t think they had a choice to leave as they’d flown in from the Philippines and could only leave when their rides were going. And watching that, I knew people would shake their heads at parents who can’t control their kids. However, kids need routines. Toddlers should be in bed by 8 at the latest and kids Buddy’s age by 9 at the latest. Parents can try to plan as best as they can knowing all this but still run into issues due to factors beyond their control. Yet somehow, parents are the ones who bear the blame when their kids do act out.

Let’s cut parents some slack. I don’t know any parent who doesn’t feel horrible when their child has a meltdown in public. It seems that we put an impossible responsibility on parents to make sure their children are always contented and not bothering adults while in public. The problem is that it requires a degree of control over the environment that parents simply don’t have.

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