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Out to Lunch

Is that what we did today or my perpetual state of mind?  You be the judge.

I took the kids to lunch today with some friends.  First of all, I should make a note that I do enjoy taking them out to restaurants.  My kids are very well-behaved, by anyone’s standards.  When my husband and I take them out, we all have a lot of fun.  I suppose this is because of one of the best pieces of advice I ever read.  In one of those child-rearing books that are so popular these days, the author was commenting on restaurant behavior.  He said that the children whose parents were really enjoying their company were behaving far better than the kids whose parents were mostly paying attention to each other.  When we take the kids out, alone or together, we give them plenty of our attention.  This pays off for everyone, including the other (grateful, I’m sure) patrons.

Today was another story.  I took them out with three other moms and their kids.  I try not to do this, since I know what will happen, even without the aid of a crystal ball or the Psychic Friends Network.  What prompted this temporary lapse in good judgment was this morning’s play date.  The other moms said they were going out to lunch, would we like to join them.  I wasn’t in the mood for the meltdown that would have occurred, in stereo, if I said no.  So I agreed to go along.

As predicted, my son kept annoying the boy seated next to him, while my daughter tried to sit on her brother’s head.  One of the other moms kept telling my kids to settle down.  To be fair, the other boy was definitely baiting my son, but that is no excuse.  They somehow managed to eat their lunch, after which my daughter asked for ice cream.  Now, I had no intention of buying ice cream, but she did ask nicely.  Besides, they had both had a pretty good lunch.  So I agreed, of course.

It turned out that was the best decision I made all day.  Because the other moms didn’t want to buy ice cream too, they all left.  I was alone with my kids at last.  It could not have been more fun.  We laughed and talked, sharing the ice cream.  It was amazing what a difference I saw in their behavior.

Never discount the time spent with these little ones.  Even if it’s just cheap ice cream in a semi-fast food restaurant, they’ll thank you for the moments you took to nurture them.

Is There Something Wrong with This?

I took my kids to a field trip this morning.  Afterward, they wanted to stay and play on the playground with the other kids.  So I hung out with the other parents, sneaking periodic peaks at my kids to make sure they were okay.

At some point, a couple of women somewhat older than our group showed up with their grandkids.  Everything seemed fine, until one of the women came storming over saying that one of the “big boys” had thrown a plastic chair and it nearly hit her grandson.  It wouldn’t have been hard to deal with it, except that she came over and accused the entire group of not properly supervising our children.  She claimed that she had “repeatedly” spoken to the kids and asked them to play in a less “rough” way, but that it was finally “out of control” and we needed to do something.

I asked the woman why she ahdn’t come to tell us that there was a problem sooner, and she said that it didn’t matter, we should have been watching the kids.  From where we were (about 10 feet away from the kids), we didn’t see anything inappropriate going on.  It seemed to come from nowhere that we were put on the defensive.

My question is this:  Why do perfect strangers feel that they have any business telling my kids (or anyone else’s but their own) what constitutes appropriate behavior (aside from outright aggression)?  I certainly approve of someone telling my kids to stop if they’re hitting/kicking/biting or otherwise displaying intentionally mean behavior.  Otherwise, I prefer that people let ME know that my kids are doing something they don’t like.

I guess the reason this gets my dander up is that I think people have very strange views these days about what is or is not age-appropriate behavior, and they feel free to tell people they don’t know how to parent their children.  Sorry, but I don’t need that kind of help.  When I want advice from a complete stranger, I’ll ask for it.

As a result of today’s experience, I have now instructed my kids to let me know if an adult they don’t know has told them what to do or not do.  It’s a completely different story if they know the other adult–my kids are instructed to listen to their friend’s parents or other trusted adults.  I have no problem with other adults giving behavioral correction to my kids; I just expect strangers to alert me, not directly speak to my children.