My morning started out happy, as captured in this photo (this was taken just before we went for our mom-bub date this morning), so little did I anticipate that my afternoon would be the complete opposite.
You’ve heard parenting buzzwords: “mom guilt”, “breast bullying”, “pacifier suckers”.Well, today I was on the receiving end of “parenting shaming”.
Those with kids will know that young kids throw tantrums as often as they scream “no” to a request, and today, my 2 year old was no different. He was cranky, overtired, upset for reasons he couldn’t articulate which was made worse when his older brother had to leave for a music class and decided to run out of the restaurant heading towards the direction of the lift as his way of rebelling and hoping that I’d follow suit.
I had just ordered lunch when he ran out, and aware that the restaurant was just next to the lifts, I chased after him, leaving my pram and belongings at the restaurant. He was standing near, crying and screaming at one the lifts as I coaxed, and forcefully carried him back into the restaurant, hoping to calm him down. But my 2-year-old was adamant. He struggled, broke free from my grip and planted himself on the floor starting with a kneel, next to a table of diners, throwing a tantrum which included the full works: lying on the floor with his face against it, kicking and screaming that he wanted to go into the lift.
I don’t interfere when I see other people disciplining their kids in public because I acknowledge different strokes for different folks, and I respect that there must also be some reason for whatever’s happening that I might not be aware of, unless the situation calls for help. Hence I stupidly expect and assume others to accord the same.
After staring sternly and knowing that my “death glare” wasn’t working because my 2-year-old was gunning for the “embarrass mommy in public until she gives in” stunt, I decided that I was going to walk back to my table which was a a very short distance from where he was, to show that I was going to stand firm on my decision on staying at the restaurant since both of us needed lunch as we didn’t have breakfast. To provide more context, Ollie was in a very joyful mood when we just arrived at the restaurant to meet the husband & Liam who were having lunch there. It was only when Liam had to leave to go class that he wanted to run along last minute and when he couldn’t find them, he insisted on going into the lift to find them. My food had just arrived, and I was not going to leave because my son who thinks he can get-away-with-anything-by-crying felt like it (he didn’t even have an idea of what he wanted next, so I anticipated this could play out with us walking in circles while waiting for Liam to be done with music class which was a good 40 minutes later).
That was when I heard someone shout “manage your kids lah… what kind of mom are you?” from behind. It was a comment made by a voice of a male teen/young adult. The comment was obviously directed at me and so I turned around to see who it was. No one in the crowd identified himself, but with my hysterical crying toddler, I felt embarrass that I was disturbing other diners. I didn’t know if this episode was going to play out longer than expected and so I decided to go into camera mode on the phone and take a photo in that general direction. Back of my head, I was disgusted by the inconsideration of the public as much as I was clearly trying to hold everything together as best as I could. Yet over an unkind comment, I partially gave in which resulted in my toddler crying his way into wanting everything else his way thereafter.
I forcefully carried and pulled Ollie away back to our table for the 2nd time back to our table but he managed to wrangle out of my grip and went back to lie on the floor insisting that he wanted to take the lift down, now. Short of yelling to firmly discipline him, I stared at him, thinking of my next move lest I get judged again (I’ve no idea why I care so much about what other people think ever since the mom caning girl video episode) when I heard the same comment from that same familiar voice. It riled me up just thinking that someone wanted me to hear his callous remarks again in case I didn’t catch it the first time round. I desperately wanted to get out of that restaurant but with a toddler who refused to have me walk to our table which was right at the end of the restaurant I decided to leave my belongings there and walk with him in hopes to calm him down.
It didn’t work. Ollie’s cries grew louder along with his actions of kicking with every step I took, and I was receiving stares from most people as I walked around trying to shush him. I decided that maybe I would just brave his crying, walk back into the restaurant, quickly packed up and leave. Before I could pack anything, Ollie went berserk the moment we stepped in and forcefully threw himself out of my embrace, again.
The diners who were still there from the start of the episode must have felt annoyed. I decided to take the lift after all in my final effort to shush Ollie since he kept wanting that (at this point he was also clearly exhausted and his cries were that of not knowing what he wanted). As I waited for the lift, I decided to take another photo of the shop’s entrance (also the area where I heard the comment from), I didn’t know why. Maybe like how one of my friend teasingly suggested it could have been me subconsciously wanting to show how quickly a situation can get out of control while trying to seek some control, or more likely it was a split second reaction. Maybe it was an instinctively reaction after having been in too many sticky situations where things escalated and ended badly and I was told I had a lack of “evidence” to prove anything even happened by authorities. Or maybe I wanted to protect myself prematurely. I watched too many videos on Facebook showing little kids get either physically or verbally abused by other disgruntled diners so that was a possible fear. I didn’t even know who was the person who cast the first stone on me when I took such a generic, random photo of a few tables.
All was revealed soon enough. I was waiting for the lift (my 2 year old was still crying badly) when I was confronted by who I assumed to be the person relating to the person who made the callous remarks. He said he saw me take a photo in his direction and that it wasn’t right of me to do so. Before I could respond, he said maybe his son said something to which I interrupted and clarified, it wasn’t a maybe, his son did say something that wasn’t nice to a mom who was in distressed while trying to manage her child who wasn’t in his right frame of mind. He ignored my comment, and went on harping that I took a photo, and that it wasn’t right. I clarified I took a photo of where the comment came from, not on anyone in particular, and he continued saying it wasn’t right. I was starting to get a little frustrated of how he just wanted to impose how he felt on me by making me feel uncomfortable and so I asked “was it right of your son to make unpleasant comments at me, twice?Because if you felt it wasn’t right, I’ll be getting an apology from you or your son now. You are also a parent, you should know how stressful it can get to manage a kid with tantrums in public, I was very stressed disciplining my child..” and his response “it was not right of you to take a photo of us”. I was on the brink of tears and started to hyperventilate, when he continued that he is trying to talk to me and if I need not sound so worked up. I replied if he feels I sound worked up, then better that we don’t continue this conversation and I decided to quit waiting for the lift and quickly walked towards the escalator. I just wanted to get out of there.
“But why did you take the photo of us? What are you going to do with it?” he asked as I kept my distance lest a similar episode of the Owndays incident at Tiong Bahru Plaza happens. I didn’t have an answer. But the first response which came to mind which in hindsight, I also bothered to say out loud probably to assure him in a weird way, was “for my personal reference and reminder on meeting people like you”.
I managed to find a “hiding spot” in the public space for 30 minutes while waiting for the husband’s call to relate what happened. I was concerned about not paying for the food, my things were still at the restaurant, and Ollie was between a state of frenzy and dozing off from the exhaustion. In between, I confided in a few people I trusted with one mindful reminder not to shame. Of course I didn’t, although I felt intimidated and was afraid that he’ll take my phone on the spot earlier. Now that nothing worse happened, I have no need for the photo to use it as “evidence” whatsoever.
Whatever transpired this afternoon was an absolutely traumatic experience for Ollie & myself. I’ve put this on my Facebook status and am now penning this unpleasant encounter down to remind everyone to be a little kinder, considerate, especially to parents with young kids. We don’t know their story, history, special needs as how they don’t know us. So why not live and let live? I have also deliberately conceal details of location, restaurant name.
In some ways, whether we want to admit or not, all of us have judgmental traits, and sometimes that is made worse with labels. To you it may be words, to others, it can crush their soul.
If noisy kids causing a din is too much to bear, and the parents are “trapped” within a situation, perhaps you can consider changing seats, consciously choose to dine at a place where young kids are not allowed, or get the staff to manage it even if their tactful way of telling us that our kids are being a nuisance in their restaurant is a “Sorry Ma’am, could you please have your children sit down because we carry hot food around and are afraid of injuring your kids”. Or maybe, even offer to ask if help is needed? Who knows, maybe you can make that difference in helping the parents? Making callous comments won’t change things positively for sure.
I’m not saying that I did no wrong today or that I did everything right today. Surely, there are lessons for me to learn in my personal growth journey, but the last thing I appreciate right now is a lecture. Everyone has their own way of handling things, and that’s not for us to comment. I reacted the way I did because of how I felt and I’m sure no one else will ever understand that entirely.
Not gonna lie, I’m an imperfect mom who also wanted to scream and scold my son big time because I got scared after being confronted by a stranger. But this is something I will strive to improve in my parenting journey when the inevitable disciplining happens again. I let it slide once when I witness a dad verbally abuse another child and the child’s mom at the playground for not allowing his kid to go first (the mom’s kid didn’t even know his kid nor that the seemingly quiet kid wanted to go on the slide) just 3 months back and till today, it still troubles me that I joined the rest of the parents back then to mind our own business.
I’m still shaken, and am contemplating not dining at any restaurants alone with my 2.5 year-old for a while, or possibly consider only family-friendly ones!
And if your parenting effort fails, just grab a glass of vino and throw virtual hi-fives with the folks at http://www.assholeparents.com/