Yesterday I was that mother at our local Walgreens. You know, the one with the screaming, wriggling child. Going out with Claire now requires a kind of judgment I’m not accustomed to using. I needed two things, and it was the end of the day; we were antsy, bored, and a little tired of each other. I didn’t use the cart or stroller, and I had her hold my hand. Until yesterday, she was a model citizen when it came to holding a parent’s hand in the store. However, in the “Valentine clearance aisle” she was thrilled by all the plush toys, and I allowed her free range to pet doggies! and bears! and other nondescript fuzzy things. This was well and good until I wanted to check out. She did not want to leave and refused to take my hand.
So I thought I’d give her a minute to wander a little with me next to her, but of course a child moves quickly. She managed to step in the path of a customer who had to pirouette to miss her. I’m sure he was vexed as I have been with other kids and their parents. So my first point of judgment is: When do you allow your child a little freedom in a store? How much of a right does she have to move about, and when does this freedom impinge on other shoppers?
Alas, my tactic didn’t really work. She wasn’t interested in taking my hand at all, so I picked her up. This resulted in loud protests of Down! Down! Down! as we waited in line. I tried gently shushing her, singing to her, pointing out things. There was a customer in front of me and several behind me. The customer’s transaction was taking time, but I was next in line. They opened another register over in cosmetics, and rather than wait I did as the cashier bid and left the line with my screaming child — only to arrive at the other register to see two other customers there. So our transaction took much longer than it would have had I just stayed put.
While I was being rung up with Claire howling in my arms, a customer entered the store, exclaimed “Wow!” and shot a dirty look at me. I joshed with the cashier about treating him to a concert and apologized, and he said no need to apologize. When we were done I put Claire down and took her hand to leave. She calmed down immediately. I’m sure there will come a day when a stern word about public behavior will be required, but she is at an age where she gets lost in her emotion, and she doesn’t understand the rationale for polite behavior yet anyway.
I’m going to need to get a thicker skin and hone my sense of humor for daily life in public.
But Claire is not all about tantrums, and she does understand politeness to a degree. If you say thank you to her, she’ll often say “Welcome!” She says thanks a lot of times. And when she comes up and demands, “Read!” she will nicely say “Please” if asked to. The other day I asked her her she wanted a snack and she said, “Yes, please.”
Claire also observes Mommy being busy; and most of the time when I leave her for a moment (e.g., in her high chair while I go into the kitchen to bet more food) I say, “I’ll be right back.” The other day she spent the morning running back and forth from the living room to the kitchen; each time she left the living room she’d say, “Busy, ri’ back!”
She also does other cute things, such as pick up a plush toy (like her bear) and hug it, saying, “So sweet! So sweet!” as she walks around. When she says something that sounds like “All done-o, all done-o,” she is requesting we sing the “Old MacDonald” song. And lately she has started to say, “Twinkle twinkle” and “in the sky” as her participation in singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.