August 22, 2016

Why I stopped apologizing to strangers for my toddler

Photos taken and post originally written July 16, 2016

It may be hard to believe ;) but when this girl was two, it was rough, friends. Really rough. It's easy to look back and laugh at now, but at the time, it was not. funny. I mean, add a new, de-throning sibling to all the emotional turmoil of being a two-year-old and you've got a mess. I felt like I was constantly apologizing to other moms for my daughter hitting theirs, taking their toys, giving them mean looks, ignoring them, and whatever else she was doing.

The worst was when she started biting. There was one time that I was worried that Alexa's finger would never work right again after Chelsea had bit it. It was that bad.

What was worse - well, more like equally bad - was the time she bit her cousin. They were playing and there was some kind of disagreement over toys and Chelsea bit her sweet little cousin hard enough to draw blood. I was horrified, embarrassed, lost, devastated, even ashamed of myself as a parent. I thought I had ruined my child somehow and that she would grow up to be a bully and never have any friends.

And my sister-in-law would have been totally justified in having a few words for me, or at least an increase in distance between us. But you know what? She didn't do any of that. You know what she did instead? She comforted me. And it wasn't even the type of comfort that was like "Oh, Susan. I'm so sorry that happened! It's rough having a two-year-old!" It was the type of comfort that made it clear that she had forgiven me and my daughter even before the event happened. She said to me something I will never forget. She said, "It's a hazard of being a toddler!"

I. Was. Shocked.

I shouldn't have been because Brooke is a total saint, but I thought for sure her Mama Bear was gonna come out. Well, it must have been hibernating in the cave because it never came. And mind you! This wasn't her fourth or fifth child that Chelsea bit, this was her very first.

It finally became clear to me at that moment that my daughter was just a two-year-old trying to make sense of her crazy life. She wasn't a monster or a bad kid. She was just a toddler, and situations like these are a hazard of being a toddler.

Now I'm not saying that we should just let our kids run rampant, biting whoever they see on the street (and you probably should apologize to the other parent if your kid has hurt theirs), but I don't think we need to go apologizing to the strangers in the store or on the street for every inconvenience and every nicety our toddlers forget. Our responsibility as parents isn't to be ashamed of them, to have a look of disapproval plastered to our faces as a default, interrupted on occasion by a sigh of exasperation for yet another inconvenience. Our responsibility is to teach them what is right and what is wrong. They don't come hard-wired with that intelligence. They do come with amazing potential and room to learn and grow, if those closest to them show them the way.

Being a parent is super hard. SUPER hard. A lot of people who aren't parents don't get that and some people who were parents but haven't been for YEARS forget that. They might look at  you disapprovingly, they might judge you, they might turn their noses up at you, they might even say something to you, but you know what I say?

Nothing. Because what I would like to say to them would be totally inappropriate.

So I'm done apologizing to you when my kid yells in the grocery store. I'm done apologizing to you when my kid turns from yelling to having a total meltdown on the floor. I'm done apologizing to you for behavior that comes from being a toddler. If an apology needs to be made, it will be made to the person that has been the direct victim of the "crime" and it will be delivered by the perpetrator. I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking that her mother is ashamed of her and talks behind her back. I do want her to grow up knowing that she is accountable for her actions and that it's important to make up for the things she does wrong.

My daughter, though, at times can be difficult, trying, extremely energetic (like, all the time), particular, and passionate is also beautiful, thoughtful, giving, kind, and still learning. And if you have a problem with it, I apologize that it's been so long since you've had an amazing little girl like her in your life.

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4 comments :

  1. I think it's the worst when "those looks" come from other moms. Having been on the receiving end of those looks, many a time, I try so hard not to give them. I try to give that sympathetic smile, because some days, that little bit of sympathy from a stranger REALLY means a lot. It broke my heart that people were judging my son, not knowing what a wonderfully sweet, bright and affectionate little boy he was (and still is!).
    Kudos to you for taking a stand, and saying "no more". My son is almost 10 now, but those looks and little comments can really stick with you.

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    Replies
    1. It's a hazard of being a toddler! Sometimes it's really easy for me to forget this principle when they have the meltdowns or "naughty child" moments in public because I'm embarrassed or something, but the cool thing is that those experiences and those "looks" actually help me realize even more how amazing my children are and put me more on their team and remind me that I'm their coach, but also their cheerleader and biggest fan! Thanks for commenting!

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