Nathalie's Notes

Raising the Hardy Boys

Just this morning I was trying to decide what my next Baby on Board column should be about. Then, I had three negative interactions about either Sam or my parenting, or both, and decided to turn my fury into inspiration.

I wonder if I managed to miss out on the memo all the other mothers got regarding the etiquette of parenting in public. Because there seem to be rules or some kind of code I'm missing out on.

I had a vague sense of it when I started taking Sam to public parks this summer. Looks I thought I saw exchanged between more experienced–though much younger–mothers, and comments I don't recall now that made me think I was doing something wrong but not sure what, exactly. My basic goal at the park with Sam was fresh air for both of us and a chance for him to explore. My personal goal was not to hover, but make sure I had Neosporin in the diaper bag.

Now that we've officially set out on the story time circuit, this question of unspoken rules is back.

Maybe it was me, but I don't think so. I was feeling a little defensive when we got to story time at the library because when I picked Sam up at the gym daycare the door was locked. I knocked once. No answer. Maybe she didn't hear me. Knocked again. No answer. Hmmm. I hope nothing's wrong. Knock again. I'm knocking and waiting not pounding, mind you. Day Care Lady answers the door and responds to my smile by saying: "The door is locked because your son kept getting out," her eyes narrowed as she nodded toward the young delinquent who was playing with a truck and nodding his head to keep time with Old McDonald.

"Oh! I didn't realize he could do that," is all I said. And really, I didn't. Although he does seem determined to surprise me with one new trick a day. My son is not perfect, but, well, actually, yes he is. He's perfect in that he discovers new things and explores them.

So then my son decides to pick something off the floor during story time and eat it. I got it out of his mouth and felt his body stiffen in his signature "I'm about to throw a tantrum" move. I took him outside to let him have his fit. I figured I wasn't giving the foreign item back and he wasn't going to ruin story time for anyone else. So, we went outside so he could have his fit and he got distracted by looking at the kids through the window so we went back in. No worries. Except for the horrified look I kept getting from Ms. My-sweater-shrunk-in-the-dryer. She looked at me as if I was beating the kid. What's funny is that if I hadn't taken him outside, I just know I would've gotten the same "feedback" from someone else. Then she nodded in my direction and said something to her friend who turned to look. At which point I felt 12 again.

Then my son decided he'd like to take a closer look at her water bottle. He didn't even have his hand on it for a full second before I pulled him away and said, "That's not ours." To Ms. My-sweater-shrunk-in-the-dryer, because of course it HAD to be hers, I said, "Sorry, it looks like his at home."

She snatches her purse and water bottle away as if he was trying to take her damn wallet and said, "Well, this one isn't his, is it?" Or something to that effect, I'm not exactly sure about the wording because I was so surprised by her reaction. Wow. Okay.

I know none of it sounds so bad, but it feels awful to think someone is being critical of your parenting, or worse, your kid. I'm sure I'll get thicker skin, or not, but in the meantime it makes me wonder what I'm missing? Should I not let him walk around during story time? That would require a straitjacket – are those frowned upon?

If you've seen a copy of that missing memo, would you send it my way?

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