Now that I’m a parent, I’m much more willing to cut other moms and dads slack when their children misbehave or become upset in public. As an impatient 20-something, I used to get annoyed when a crying baby drowned out the conversation my husband and I were trying to have over dinner in a restaurant. In grocery stores, I’d roll my eyes in disbelief as a harried mom tried to coax her tantrum-throwing toddler back to a relatively calm state. In malls, I was quick to judge dads who attempted to placate exhausted, teary little ones with a cookie or a scoop of ice cream.
My kids won’t do that, I’d think. If they can’t be quiet in restaurants, we’ll leave or we just won’t go out to eat to begin with. They’ll know better than to embarrass me by screaming in the middle of Walmart. And I certainly won’t use junk food or treats as a reward for good behavior. My husband was in agreement with me. Neither of our parents tolerated much funny business from their children, and we wouldn’t either. End of discussion.
Fast-forward a few years. I now eye the same struggling parents with sympathy as opposed to disdain. Instead of judging them, I silently give thanks that I’m not in their shoes yet, but I know I will be soon. And when that happens, I hope I’m not surrounded by know-it-all 20-somethings who might not understand how quickly children can go from angels to full-blown terrors with little to no warning. I’ve come to realize that even the most well-organized, put-together parent cannot predict and have a plan ready for every potentially disastrous scenario.
Now don’t get me wrong — my newfound tolerance definitely is not limitless. I still cringe when I see a child launching food off a table while the oblivious parent refuses to peel his or her eyes away from a smart phone. I’ve cast an evil glare at a mom whose lack of attention allowed a toddler to ram a shopping cart into my ankles. And — I’ll admit it — I did judge the couple at a festival who gave each of their tiny twin girls a huge bag of cotton candy when the tots couldn’t stop arguing over who got to hold the single bag of spun sugar. I’m not saying I won’t resort to similar measures some day, but I’d like to think I’ll keep my child’s sugar intake at a semi-reasonable level — most of the time.