I could tell by the way he was ripping around the church, he had learned to walk maybe three weeks ago and then just that week, he picked up speed. A little boy, not much past his first birthday, who wanted nothing to do with sitting still for Easter mass, was outpacing his father, who was tracking him up and down the aisles with a nervous look on his face.
Been there, done that — two times over.
When the abundance of incense smoked me and my burgeoning bronchitis out of the church, I went outside to catch my breath and wait for my family. That’s when the little blond blur burst out of the church, Daddy in tow. Soon, Mom and big sis appeared, and they all followed the little guy to the parking lot. Five minutes later, I wandered there, too, to wait for my family by my car, the keys for which were in the church with my husband.
As I neared the parking lot, I heard loud protests. The young father was trying to get his swift son into his car son, but the toddler was having none of it. So they let him out, put him on the ground and –DASH! He was off again with his father at his heels.
Once more, they tried to put him in his car seat, but the tot screamed, so they let him out again. This time, the father told the mother, “Give me your cell phone and come back for me in an hour.”
He was going to chase his son around the parking lot for sixty more minutes. On Easter.
The mother didn’t comply. Instead, she waited.
“It gets easier,” I offered. “I didn’t sit down from 1997 until 2003.”
“We don’t like to force him into the seat or he’ll scream the whole way home,” he explained.
I wanted to say: “You are teaching him that whenever he screams, he gets his way. At this rate, you will be chasing him around parking lots until he’s 18.” Instead, I bit my tongue.
Been there, done that.
The whole scene reminds me of what is wrong with this generation of parents — my generation of parents: We second-guess ourselves. We give too much power to our kids and try to be their friends instead of behaving like their parents. We worry that if they cry or fuss or scream the whole way home from church, we will cause permanent damage to them. We are wimps.
Now, I’m not saying we should swing the parenting pendulum so far back the other way to the kids-should-be-seen-and-not-heard style of “I’ll give you something to cry about” parenting. But a little backbone and some take charge attitude would do us, and our kids, a lot of good. And I say this as someone who took 16 months to get her son to sleep through the night.
Like I said, been there.
When I told my mother-in-law, a German-Hungarian immigrant who raised three kids that were at one time all under age three, about the boy in the church parking lot, she scoffed. Then she softened.
“I remember when Peter was a baby, and he cried in his crib. So I patted his back,” she said about my husband, who was, apparently a cute but potentially manipulative baby. “As soon as I stopped patting his back, he started crying, so I patted him some more. I got tired, so I asked Opa to pat his back.”
She recalled how they continued this charade every night for three nights until finally, they had enough.
“I knew that he was okay all day, so he would be okay if I didn’t pat his back,” she remembered. So, she stopped patting his back. Her baby cried and cried and then, he fell asleep. And that was it.
“How come you figured it out six weeks into motherhood, but it takes my generation so much longer — if at all?” I asked.
She shrugged and then offered, “Our pediatrician said, ‘No baby has ever died from crying.'”
Eventually, the young parents got their toddler into the car and left the church parking lot. I could hear him protest as they drove by, offering embarrassed waves to me.
“Happy Easter,” I said, but I’m not sure they could hear me. But at least they were sitting down for a change.
This is exactly why my books are called “Stop Second-Guessing Yourself.” If you’d like some common sense advice with a few good laughs, pick one up today:
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