Large groups of toddlers make me very uncomfortable. Simply surviving the tornado that is my own (almost) two-year-old is a daily workout. When there is a group of these creatures underfoot, my blood pressure goes through the roof.
I’ve written about the struggles of keeping my son in check when visiting a friend’s home, but today’s post is not about my kid; it’s about everyone else’s.
My kid gives me enough stress. If it’s not my kid? It’s not my problem.
Mom and Buried and I took Detective Munch to the park the other day, to sit with other kids his age and listen to someone with a remarkable lack of self-consciousness play guitar and sing children’s songs. All the parents laid blankets out, along with some toys and maybe some snacks to better distract and occupy their children. It didn’t quite work.
These are toddlers we’re talking about; nothing works.
What you had was a bunch of parents sitting on blankets while unruly children swarmed around them. Most of the kids were well-behaved, and most of the parents kept an eye on their own offspring, reining them in if and when they started snatching someone else’s toys or wandering too far afield of the music zone. I was very much on edge during the whole experience; the last thing I want is my kid getting a reputation as a loose cannon or a bully, wandering around all over the place, grabbing everyone else’s food and toys.
Thankfully we ended up getting through it okay – he behaved and I didn’t have a heart attack – but there was one mother so enthralled by the 24-year-old’s songs about monkeys jumping on beds that she didn’t see the havoc her son was wreaking. Unfortunately for her, everyone else did.
This one kid was wandering from blanket to blanket, taking other kids’ toys, grabbing and eating their food, generally being aggressive and handsy and rude. All of the other parents were helpless. No one is comfortable attempting to discipline someone else’s children, so most of us did our best to protect our kids while staring daggers across the park at the brute’s mother, silently screaming for her to notice and take an interest.
The closest she came to doing anything was to raise herself up to her knees and peer around when she’d completely lost sight of her child, which happened several times. But she never once got up.
I’m not judging this woman’s parenting. Her kid is two years old – part of a class of people without proper social skills. They don’t understand personal space, or appropriate volume levels, or sharing, or basic English. But one got the impression that this mom brings her son to these large gatherings so that she’ll have help from other parents, most of whom, like myself, were clearly concerned to see her child wandering around while his mom was totally oblivious to his actions and whereabouts.
I honestly have no idea what kind of parenting technique she uses at home and besides, it’s not my place to pretend I know what works; I hardly know myself. But I do know that regardless of what kind of parenting you’re doing, you have to do something. And she wasn’t paying attention to her son at all.
Every mom and dad knows that sometimes your toddler is just gonna be a jerk. He’s gonna get unruly and grabby and he’s gonna wander off and show no regard for yours or anyone else’s requests that he share or be nice or stay closer or whatever. They’re not called the terrible twos for nothing.
I just watched “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” so I have sympathy for this woman, believe me. But it’s not fair to thrust the responsibility for your child onto other people.
It’s embarrassing to have to go pull your son away to stop him from stealing someone else’s toys or eating someone else’s food, or to stop him from pushing another kid or wandering too far off. But he’s your kid, he’s going to embarrass you and make you do embarrassing things. We all understand that. And no matter how mortifying it is to lay claim to the tiny terror ruining everyone’s good time, it’s part of the deal.
You have to pull him away. You have to stop him from abusing other kids. You have to go get him. You have to do these things yourself. You can’t rely on other parents to do it for you; it’s not their job. They are (hopefully) watching their kid and (hopefully) stopping him when he acts up. All they want is for you to do the same.
There’s obviously a need for children to learn independence, something I am still struggling with; my wife often scolds me for monitoring my son too closely. And she’s right. But the time to teach independence is not when he’s terrorizing a group of other kids in the middle of an outdoor concert.
I have a hard enough time parenting my own toddler. Please don’t make me responsible for yours.