When Reuben was a toddler, I was the mum with the kid that pushed, hit and ran into other kids. I was the mum who felt inept and like I just couldn’t control my beast of a child who was running around like a feral animal, much to the distaste of the other mums around me. Toby was used to standing his ground but never snatched or fought for toys, rather just letting it go in his oh-so mellow way and Edith can wilt even the strongest flower with her “Give me the fucking toy or I will beat you when no one is looking” look, so I haven’t had to put up with these momentous delights since Roo grew out of his phase.
And that’s what it is ladies and gentlemen, a phase. Nothing more, nothing less.
You see, I have friends who now have that over-enthusiastic child, and I watch from the sidelines as other mothers are “irritated” by their over enthusiasm, or are just plain rude because, well, Trixie couldn’t possibly cope with a little push or snatch, she’s just too delicate and not used to that level or barbarous behaviour, and I know you told your child off and explained for the fifty-bajillionth time today that this kind of behaviour wasn’t going to cut it, but hey, let’s make you feel *just* a little bit worse shall we?
I firmly believe that children’s behaviour says a lot more about us as adults, especially judging by our reactions and the reactions we have to our fellow parents. Believe me, as the mama to a toddler who was “so over the top”, your sly glances at each other don’t go unnoticed. In fact, they are noticed. They hurt.So do the whispers and the clucking of your tongues, because when you are reprimanding your toddler, trying to help them understand that their behaviour isn’t acceptable and STILL it’s not enough; that is pretty distressing and demoralising.
Don’t get me wrong, the mum who sits on the sidelines and laughs it off pisses me off too. The mum who watches as her precious angel terrorises all in his or her path while she sips her (still hot – bitch) mocha as you run around trying to stop your child’s head rebounding off the floor from each little shove? She grinds my gears alright, but these ladies are not the same as the mum with the rambunctious toddler who she can’t control. Who is a ball of energy and enthusiasm, taking her every last sliver of strength.
I’ve been that mum. I’ve been the mother who has listened to advice from every pretentious cow with her happily-crafting poppet and every “helpful” just-give-him-a-smack aunt. I’ve sobbed to my mum that no one will want to play with him, invite US – when I really needed those play dates – because I can see them rolling their eyes as I bellow “Reuben!! Noooooo” across the room while he shoves at the child half his size. I have seen and felt the disapproval.
I see it now with the more exuberant kids in my play groups, the whispers and eye rolls – no matter what those mamas do, it’s not enough. Their “bad egg” is a problem and the judgement will roll in, while the other mums bunch together with their coffees and watch the terror ensue with judgemental glances a-plenty. A few jump forward to say “I’ve been there” but that’s the thing about motherhood, it shouldn’t be just a few. It should be everyone. We should be there for each other, acting as the metaphorical village to our offspring. I realise your precious sweetheart might be crying because they had a shove, but believe me when I tell you that life is going to shove them far harder than the toddler at playgroup, and there won’t be anything you can do. Take a “naughty” toddler as a chance to reach out to the mum who is doing everything she can to curb it and remember that your reaction is the biggest example to your child.
And to the mamas doing all they can? Just remember: your child might be being an asshole now, but the examples shown to the other children will set the foundation for them in adulthood and I know what I’d prefer.