Wednesday, July 4

other people's parents

You down with OPP?

I am a basically permissive parent of a basically well-behaved son. Over the last months we have been getting our groove back and finding ways to work together within our natural tendencies (mine=do what you want, just don't spill anything, okay? his=pay attention to me, hey, really, I mean it - fine, I'm going to spill juice on the carpet then). I've been working on being not only more attentive but more authoritative (not authoritarian), the upside it is really is working well. Sebastian and I are having a ball, he engages happily in self-directed play with bursts of complete attention from mom. Those bursts keep him happy so that when I do need to tell him to piss off because I am cooking (blogging), he does so without much fuss (unless I have forgotten again to feed him or have neglected to note the poop bursting out of his pants). For much of the day we have a perfect symbiotic relationship, I barely yell (scream, stomp, kick, etc.) and he has cut his tantrums down to no more than three a day.

As I mentioned in my last post I am also keeping things clean, cooking, planning activities, attempting to craft (my eight week challenge has not started off so well, but thankfully I have an easy project sitting on the sidelines for just such an emergency), have just volunteered to help run a toddler group, am growing a baby (25 weeks!), and am keeping cool despite the (welcome) heat.

I am also a little less self-absorbed and have returned to noticing how other people parent with a mix of admiration and freak-show curiosity. Today we arrived at the park to find a mother/aunt there with two boys (her son and nephew), kids who bookended Sebastian quite well (about six months on either side of him), Boo was pleased as punch to have some kids to play with, as was I because it meant I could find a shady spot and drink my coffee - close enough to intervene if needed, but not needed to entertain. We had brought a few toys to share (two trucks, three shovels, a pail, a soccer ball and snacks of course) - I am of the mind that if you are going to being toys to the park you had better bring enough to share. We sat down, Sebastian headed for the slide and I unpacked the trucks and shovels - as I walked over to see if Sebastian wanted to keep his sunglasses on or not, the older of the two other boys made a bee-line for Sebastian's toy pile. His mom started calling to him from the other part of the park* and rushing to intervene. Meanwhile I am assuring both her and the young boy of almost three that we are perfectly willing to share - that that was why we brought them. It wasn't just her reaction, though (maybe her kid has a history of taking other kid's toys) but the way that throughout our stay there she was attempting to micromanage play.

This made my "coffee break" less than relaxing or enjoyable and as I interacted with this woman and her brood I couldn't help but feel guilt for each time I have been that mom. Her being on edge kept me on edge because, frankly, I started to feel like I was being "too lax" in her eyes and while on one hand I do care what other mothers think of me, more importantly, I didn't want her to feel like she needed to pick up the slack. Obviously, she did not need any more stress. What I wanted to do was politely say to her "don't worry, they'll be just fine - we're close enough to stop anything serious from happening. Sit back and relax." But I don't do things like that, so I stayed silent and watched every one's stress levels rise until it became apparent Sebastian and I had to leave before he flipped (I have discovered he is very sensitive, go figure).

I am actually finishing and posting this days later (July 6) because I have been playing it in my mind, trying to sort out exactly how it made me feel... I still can't, it made me feel awkward and like I really didn't want to run into this woman again... which makes me feel awful because I like to think I am not that snooty and I am guessing there are about a dozen parents who feel the same way about me. So then, I should learn something from this. What? Not to be that mom? To be more understanding of that mom? To reach out? To back away? I don't know, but I assure you I will be thinking about it.

*my friend Corey has referred to this behaviour as the "hockey mom" - I know because she called me on it not too long ago)

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