Today we met up with friends at the Park. They suggested we have lunch first and then go for a walk. I rarely take my kids to a sitdown restaurant because DS is not quite ready for that sort of environment yet. But it sounded like a nice idea and I was hungry. There was hardly anybody in the cafe and soon after DS had eaten his fill he got down and wandered around the cafe. DD then joined him, and I didn’t think anything of it until my friends insisted that their kids stay at the table. Suddenly, I felt very insecure and the effect was disastrous.
First I started scolding DD to try and get her to come back to the table. The things coming out of my mouth were pathetic. I actually heard myself say “you better be in that chair by the time I count to three”. Un-freakin-believable. DS managed to get around the back of the service counter and I got to him just before he grabbed a display of muffins. I kept bringing him back to the table but in a fit he smacked his hand down and broke a plate, sending food flying. I was mortified, frustrated, and even more insecure.
Finally I gave up on DS and he was standing over by the window and their poor little guy wanted to be with him. I know it was hard for them to explain why he couldn’t, and I dreaded hearing: “people do things differently, but in our family we sit at the table because restaurants aren’t playgrounds”. I felt like my kids were out of control. I felt like a totally permissive, wimp of a parent. I said stupid, ineffectual, ridiculous things to my kids. I felt flustered and angry.
I shouldn’t have felt that way.
I should not have agreed to eating at the restaurant. For starters, my kids were up past midnight last night and DS was *tired*. I rarely take the two of them to a sitdown place because DS is just really not ready for that yet. But I wanted to be with our friends and I was hungry. It was my mistake and I took it out on the kids. Second, even though H. and DS are only 2 days apart, they are worlds apart in development. H. is way more verbally advanced than DS. This makes reasoning and discussing and talking about expectations possible. There is no such thing with DS, as he simply doesn’t have the comprehension for that sort of thing. H is also alot more “mature”. He doesn’t take off. He’s been without a stroller for months. And….and this is a BIG and…he weighs about 20 pounds soaking wet. I could restrain him with one hand tied behind my back. DS on the other hand is a solid, whopping 38 lbs and there is simply no way in hell I can physically control him. Trying to get him to sit still was asking for a temper tantrum of violent physical proportions, thus the plate getting smashed, etc. And yet despite the fact that I was conscious of this even while it was all going down, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling “on display” and so terribly insecure about my children’s behaviour.
Fast forward to later in the day. I was soooo tired. I told my friends about my hellish night (DS napped at 4, so they were both up past midnight). Their kids go to sleep at 8:30-9:00 every night. Either one of them can put them to bed. When K comes home from knitting group her children are asleep and her house is quiet. When I come home they are always both up, even if DS hasn’t napped that day. For whatever reason, DH cannot get them to sleep.
K is telling me how she would just never let that happen (them being up until midnight) and I ask “what do you do? how do you force kids to sleep?”. She says she brings them both to bed and stays with them as long as it takes and if they get up she brings them back to bed. If I tried this, I would be sitting there getting angrier and more resentful as the hours ticked by. I mean, DD is just simply nowhere near tired, and DS can’t sleep when DD is bouncing around the bed. K. says that she yells at them, that she cannot handle them being up late, she gets mad at them. I said I basically turn into a screaming meany at around 10 pm but it just makes everything worse. The more I yell and get mad, the more DD acts up and gets mad and yells back. Finally K admitted that her son is quite sensitive and doesn’t like it when she is upset at him, so she feels that is ultimately what works. DD doesn’t like me being upset either, but she doesn’t try to appease me in any way when I am, she fights back.
K has never said “you’re too soft”. She has never criticized me. I’m sure sometimes that she’s thinking it, but she’s too sweet to say anything if she is. The insecurity is coming from me. Bringing my kids into that situation was setting them up to fail. Next time I need to listen to that inner voice.
But I think I also need to ask myself why I am so insecure about this. Why am I constantly revisiting the idea of limits and putting my foot down and basically getting my way? 99% of the time I don’t feel there is a problem here, which tells me I don’t need to change anything. The other 1% of the time I worry and second-guess myself. Is it societal programming? Is it my mother’s voice nagging at me? Or is it my own voice speaking? I honestly don’t know.