I blogged last night about parenting for the big stuff – emotional regulation, sleeping, eating. A lot of parenting is also the small stuff. Trying to get them to not throw food out of the high chair. Trying to get clothes on them that suit the weather. I aim to pick my battles with the small stuff. My rule of thumb is, do adults do this thing? If the answer is no, then it’s probable that it will self-correct. If the answer is yes, then it’s something that requires sustained parenting focus over the next several years.
Adults often behave with appalling rudeness. Adults are often petty. Adults who have good jobs and are pillars of the community and see themselves as generally functional people are often really not good at listening to other people’s perspectives. Adults are often loathe to acknowledge that they’re wrong.
So when choosing whether and how to address a behaviour that I don’t want him to display, I try to first think – wait, what are the stakes here? Sure, if I laugh the first time he blows a raspberry with a face full of milk he will do it again – but how many adults do this at every meal? Is there any risk that he’ll grow up not knowing that it’s rude to spit out a drink? Not really. So I’ll confiscate the cup and explain that milk is for drinking not spitting, but I don’t need to actually worry about the behaviour.
Which is well and good at home, but the difficulty is all those times we’re not at home and he is a toddler being a toddler, and I want to not be super critical towards him and at the same time I don’t want random strangers to be super critical towards me. When I’m in a public space with the little dude and not with another adult, I often feel like I’m performing the role of Calm and Competent Mother in Public. Do other mothers feel like this sometimes? And while I know that I can never perform this role to the satisfaction of everyone in the audience, I still really don’t want to be heckled.
Sometimes I try to imagine instead that there is someone in the audience who is just my kind of parent, but her kids aren’t there right then (maybe they’re all grown up) and she’s looking at me with total sympathy and understanding but my back is turned and I can’t see her, and if anyone heckles me she’s gonna take them to task.