I’m a pretty patient person most of the time. I’m not one to lash out or get angry in public. I’m generally not big on confrontation.
But this weekend we were travelling home with our kids. It was a big travel day, a 5 hour flight that left at 7pm….an hour after my son’s typical bedtime these days. We were getting settled on the plane and the other passengers were loading. My son started crying for whatever reason. My husband was holding him as I got ready to nurse him, and passengers were walking by.
Then a lady stopped and looked at him.
“Oh, I thought you were a good one. Aren’t you a good one?”
I looked at her. My husband said something to the effect of
“Um, he is!”
“well, he sure was on the flight down.”
I couldn’t help it:
“Of course he’s a good one. You do know that babies DO actually cry sometimes, don’t you?”
She continued on to find her seat. I went back to taking care of my son. He proceeded to sleep for 4 of the 5 hours of the flight. But even if he had cried for those 4 hours, he would still be a good one.
The preoccupation with GOOD babies drives me a little bonkers, because as we all well know for most people:
Good = Not An Inconvenience.
We’ve all seen the memes about all babies being good babies. We all know this is true. Don’t we?
We all know babies cry. That they are an inconvenience at times. That our toddlers have meltdowns in public. That kids scream, yell, run around and act otherwise crazy on a fairly regular basis.
We also know adults cry. That they are an inconvenience at times. That they have meltdowns in public. That they scream, yell and act otherwise crazy.
The expectations we place on our kids are often so much higher than other adults. We give adults a pass because of their stressful lives. We are adults too, we know life is hard. We know people lose it from time to time. We know we lose it from time to time, so it must happen to everyone.
What about giving our kids a pass. They are small. They are learning. The emotional regulation centres of their brains are not fully developed yet.
Why are expectations so often out of whack with the reality of raising kids?
Because we worry too much about what other people think. So much awful (yes I said it, AWFUL) parenting I see stems from people worrying too much about what others think. People are so often embarrassed by their kids behaviour so they just focus on wanting it to stop by whatever means necessary so THEY don’t look bad.
We lose all connection with our kids in these times, in the moments they need us to focus on them the most. To hear them, to be there while they scream and writhe on the floor. I’m not saying don’t move them to a more private space if you want to. I’m just saying stop caring what the woman with the blue hat giving you the stink eye thinks.
She doesn’t matter, your child does.
I’m also not saying it’s easy. It’s not. It’s uncomfortable. It’s HARD. But we as parents need to stop. Stop caring so much about the opinions of strangers. You can’t know what they are actually thinking. It doesn’t matter what they are thinking.
We have had decades more practice at life than they have and we still have hard days. Our kids are going to have lots of them. Sometimes it will be an inconvenience. Sometimes you will be trapped on a 5 hour flight with 100 strangers.
Don’t look over your shoulder to see who is watching. Focus on your kids, on what they need in the moment. Remember that no matter what they are good kids. It’s up to us to be good parents.