Yesterday we met up with some friends at the regional children’s museum. It’s recently been completely redone and expanded and it’s really nice. Our friends that we met are people we first met when we lived down south – C and their J were in preschool together. They also have a son C who is two months older than M.
I think it may well have been our last visit to this children’s museum. My C and J are just too old for it, and M and their C are at the outer limits for much of it. S loved it, though.
On the top floor, in the construction area, the boys really degenerated. My C started by stealing M’s shoes. Then the other boys got into it, and soon they – well, mostly my boys - were starting to throw things, completely disregarding all the small children around them. I kept trying to get them to settle (which was hard because using a strong voice requires a deep breath and deep breaths are still very painful), but finally had to physically pull them out of the space. I was angry and embarrassed (and in pain). Other parents (not our friends) were looking at me like I was a crappy parent first for having kids that did that at all and then for disciplining them strongly.
They know better than to behave like this. They do. They had to sit quietly for a few minutes then, and they have had some consequences at home.
It’s not that I don’t want them to have fun. Clearly it would have been better to just let them run and wrestle in an open space, but it was only in the 30s outside, and as our friends live 90 minutes north of us, we were tying to find a place to meet that was a distance compromise. The children’s museum was just too young for them and they were bored - that was our well-intentioned mistake.
I have no interest in going back there just for S if C and M can’t get some enjoyment and behave, but it’s kind of sad to think that that part of my parenting life is over – likely no more children’s museums.
The episode and the eyes of the other parents also reminded me of a small event five years ago, also in November.
My husband’s work requires that he take several two week rotations a year of a very bad schedule. He’s going to work early, he’s getting home late, he’s working weekends, and he’s making calls when he is home. For the last several years, he’s volunteered to take the two weeks leading up to and including Thanksgiving so that he can be sure he is on a normal schedule for Christmas. He’s on this schedule right now.
Every year in our town the local art association has a very nice juried art and craft show. It’s a wonderful place to get a few holiday gifts and support a local organization. This show is always the weekend before Thanksgiving – so it’s always during a time that my husband is working. If I want to go, I have to take the kids.
Five years I go, I tried to go on the early side while the boys were in a good mood. It was already busy. I tried to limit my looking, and even with that, it was trying. Quickly enough, I narrowed down what I wanted to achieve, and I was trying to purchase a lovely pillow for my mom. The boys were having none of this. It was so frustrating. Finally, using a low strong voice I placed the boys on their bums on the floor just out of the way of traffic and next to the booth I needed to be in.
A minute or two later, as I was writing my check and almost done, an older lady comes by and says, “Oh! Are these two boys for sale, too?” I thought she was joking, of course, and said, “Yes, and really cheap, too!”
The lady looked at me and became aghast. “Oh! I would never, even on my worst days, want to sell my kids!” Then she walked away.
What. The. Fuck.I was floored. My mouth was open. After 10 or 15 seconds, I pulled myself together, finished paying for the pillow and we left. I was angry. If I could have remembered what the woman looked like, I would have sought her out - so it's probably better that I didn't.
Back at the car, I started crying. I was stressed, I was tired, and I had been trying so hard. Yet I had failed, or so I thought. I took the boys home, fed them lunch, then settled them into afternoon quiet time and cried some more.
Every parent has bad days. I have yet to meet a perfect parent. Some days I think that I won't really know how I did as a parent until I see how much therapy the kids need later - and some days I think there's going to be LOTS of therapy. Other days are pretty good. Most days are a mix.
But on the other days, a little compassion - and a little humor - would go a long way.