Parenting Problems/Tips

Parenting in Public

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It is 7:46 P.M. on Monday night and I am already in bed. It’s not my usual bed, though. Lilly and I came up to see some friends in my hometown today and we are spending the night at my parents’ house. Typically I hate sleeping away from home (don’t know why, that’s just always been my nature), but I have other plans up this way tomorrow so we had to stay over. 

So now I’m here in the guest bedroom, channel surfing and playing on my computer, while a knot grows in my stomach. Lilly is sleeping peacefully down the hall. So what is it that has me so worried?? Every time I have to spend the night elsewhere with her, I have tremendous anxiety about the nighttime. That she won’t fall asleep as easily as she usually does. That she’ll wake up at 10:00, right as I’m falling asleep. That she’ll wake up at 12:00, after I’m asleep. That she’ll want to play in the middle of the night and nothing I do will get her back to sleep. And the list goes on.

I don’t know why I get so anxious about the nighttime. Maybe because it’s dark and I’m not in my own house? That’s part of it, I guess. It’s also that I hate when I have to deal with a crying baby in front of others. So I worry that if Lilly wakes up in the middle of the night and is fussing, that she will wake up my mom and stepdad. Then everyone is awake and it turns into a big circus (in my mind). At home, if Lilly wakes up and doesn’t need anything like some milk or a diaper change, we would usually let her cry herself back to sleep (within reason). At someone else’s house (even my family’s), I just don’t feel comfortable doing that.

It’s a phenomenon I have encountered a few times recently- this fear of others perceiving your baby to be “bad,” and consequently, you to be a “bad” parent. My sister and I ran out for a quick bite to eat tonight at a cozy, neighborhood sushi restaurant. While we were there, an extended family came in, complete with grandparents, parents, and two small girls, maybe 2 and 4. Within five minutes of being seated, the 4-year-old started crying and throwing a tantrum. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it wasn’t pleasant to listen to. Still, there was only us, them, and two other couples in the restaurant. I didn’t feel it was a big deal, and my heart was breaking for the little girl having the fit. I just wanted to go hug her (pregnancy hormones, I guess).

Then the 2-year-old got in on the act and that was it. The parents decided to take the kids and leave, before any of their food even got there. They apologized to the grandparents and quickly left. I felt terrible. I wanted to walk after them and tell them that we didn’t mind the crying kids and that they should come back and enjoy their dinner. (Obviously I didn’t do that.) Afterwards, I was recounting this story via text to my friend Elizabeth (mom of an infant), and she replied That sucks. Worst nightmare. And I’d have to agree.

I have also heard several new moms confess that they worry people will think they are a bad mom if their baby cries a lot/doesn’t sleep well/doesn’t eat well. If anything, I feel oodles of sympathy towards a mom with a crying baby! I want to just go over and pick that baby up and give the mom a break for a minute (provided I don’t have my own tantruming child with me!).

Everyone knows that kids have tantrums and that babies cry. So why do we expect them to behave like perfect little angels just because we are in the company of others? Or maybe most people don’t expect that of their child, and don’t get upset when their child causes a scene. I wish I was one of those people, who could just roll with the punches and laugh it off as my child had a tantrum in a restaurant.

Sadly, I am not. I would be just like that couple who ushered their kids out of Daimatsu, so as not to bother the other patrons. Which is why I will lay in bed tonight, praying to make it to tomorrow morning without a middle-of-the-night waking from a crying child…

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  • Noelle (@singerinkitchen)
    February 13, 2013 at 6:36 AM

    We started out that way, but my hubby and I have been very diligent to train our child at home first so that she will not do that in public. It has not been perfect but so far so good. If she does throw a tantrum, off she goes to the bathroom with daddy for a spanking and a talking. I can’t help being paranoid anyway, despite people still telling us that our child is a perfect angel. Ha! Like I feel like that. Oh well. Every time is different and I know it will change over time.

    • Ann
      February 13, 2013 at 5:20 PM

      Spanking is inappropriate. She’ll learn to fear her daddy. I did, and can still remember “the belt,” though I’m now 74.

  • carrie
    February 13, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    I feel like we rarely go out to eat because of this. But it still occasionally happens in stores. And I think we’ve proven that it doesn’t ever get them what they want so it is rare!

  • Marissa
    February 13, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    I’m less concerned about bringing Mason to a public place and more concerned about going to a friend or family member’s house and him misbehaving. Maybe it’s because we really don’t take him places where it would be that big of a deal if he has a mini-melt down or something. But in a friend or family member’s home, I hover and I hate that! Making sure, he doesn’t break something, that he plays nicely with the other kids, that he doesn’t make too much of a mess. It gives me such anxiety!

  • Elizabeth
    February 13, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    We are bringing Sonja on an airplane (for a family wedding, so we have no choice) in May when she’ll be seven months. I already have daily anxiety about it. I’m the kind of flier who never puts her seat back, doesn’t go to the bathroom if I’m not in the aisle, etc. So the thought that she’ll cry during the flight and we won’t be able to parachute out of there has me quite nervous.

    • The Naughty Mommy
      February 13, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      I’m starting to get nervous about the how Lilly will behave around other kids deal…if she’ll grab toys or hit. Crying I don’t mind anymore, but as a baby I did. Airplanes are rough…we took L when she was 4 months and she slept the whole way. I think by 7 months you should be able to have reliable toys that will entertain her!

  • Ann
    February 13, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    I always try to stave off a parent getting “too” angry with a little one, so if I’m nearby I say something positive. I try to smile encouragingly, and somehow convey that parenting is hard, and they are doing their best. Kids lean to get along with others by being with others. Once at the supermarket last year, a mom with 3 or 4 kids, all girls, was having trouble coralling one. I saw an older sister be mean to the little one, and push her down – mom didn’t see it. So I smailed at the crying kid, and said she was sweet. I was behind them in checkout, and happened to have an unopened bag of cinnamon Goldfish. Asked the mom if I could give the kids some. She said yes, and the picked-on little girl got the first handful. I went a bit overboard, but parents – do not worry. All parents have “been there.”

    • The Naughty Mommy
      February 13, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      That’s a nice thing to do, Ann. I have thought about doing similar things, but nowadays people can be weird about strangers talking to their kids (some people). But your story reminds me of how my grandmother used to go up to parents in the supermarket and say “God has blessed you,” while she would pat the little kid’s head. It mortified me at the time, but now I think it’s sweet 🙂

  • MCL
    February 13, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Little M hasn’t ever slept anywhere outside his crib or stroller, except during Sandy when we had to abandon ship. I have serious fears of him sleeping anywhere outside his bed b/c, like you, I worry he won’t sleep through the night. On the crying in public though I’m less concerned. Since Little M had colic he screamed all the time the first four months and I got lots of mean stares from people but kind of got over it since it was the steady state of my little one. My favorite was when people would say “oh he must be hungry” or “does he have a wet diaper?” and I would just smile back with the empty bottle in one hand and clean pamper on M.

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