Children in Public | Giftie Etcetera: Children in Public

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Children in Public

With the recent nurse-ins around the country and, well, with my child approaching the terrible twos with gusto :(, I've been thinking alot about how Ander is expected to behave in public, and how we (Alan and I) as parents behave in public.

My first rule is totally, 100% stolen from E. She once told me that she cannot control how her child acts; she can only control how she acts and her reaction to her child. I thought it was an excellent philosophy, and over time, it's become an important part of my parenting philosophy.

But beyond that, I've always had very specific ideas about the "public" side of parenting. I've always thought that a huge part of a parent's responsibility in public was to ensure that childcare and the child himself did not interfere with others comfort. The child does not know how to act in public, with respect and consideration of others, and it is the parent's responsibility to teach the child.

Even when I was pregnant, I knew that I would take great pains to not make others uncomfortable just because I had a child. When I was planning to nurse, for example, and if and when I do nurse future children (as my problems are not expected to reoccur, and if they do, the doctors feels better about their ability to treat them), I knew that I would take great pains to cover-up when nursing, even if it meant purchasing a special cover-up that didn't actually touch the child (as sometimes a simple blanket in South Louisiana really is too hot). I was, and am, should the opportunity arise, prepared to be the most discrete nurser ever.

I didn't think of this point of view as a general idea about how one should parent (I thought it was specific to how I planned to breastfeed), but I am realizing, especially now that Ander is approaching an, um, challenging age, that in general, I think parent have an obligation to minimize their child's impact on others.

For example, I expect Ander to give up his seat to any adult in the room. I remind him, and I won't hesitate to take him off the seat if an adult walks in.

I expect him to sit quietly through dinner at a restaurant. We've been practicing since he was little, and he is getting very good at it. If he misbehaves, I'm perfectly willing to take him out of the area, because not disturbing other diners is a priority. But I won't take him outside for misbehavior (though I will to give him a little break during a long meal). For misbehavior, he goes in the corner in the bathroom. Pesto. Not disturbing others, facing an age-appropriate consequence, and we get to go back to dinner without rewarding him for acting up.

I don't let him roam around coffee shops or malls. He is holding my hands or in his stroller. This is a big one, because roaming would give him lots of opportunities to explore and is fairly safe, so I can see the value in it. Nonetheless, I find that it's just not something I can do as a parent. I am very focused on discipline and that overrides the "explore" aspect for me, and that's just how I am.

I understand just how high my expectations are for a child not yet two. I understand that keeping up this level of discipline will be a challenge. I think it's worth it; I truly do. But it will be/is hard as he goes through toddlerhood. I know there will be days when I just give up and give in. I think that's why I'm writing this. I'm thinking it out, you know? Trying to build my resolve to do what I think is right, even when I know it won't be easy.

(Aside to Dave - I know parenting philosophy blogs drive you crazy. I'll try to be more interesting next time. ;))



Anonymous said...

I love the fact that you can foresee the circumstances where you will give up and give in :)

And I tell you what, Ander was the most behaved child his age I've ever seen at a restaurant. And I love that fact that you and Alan don't rule "with an iron fist." I think that y'all are laying a very successful groundwork for years to come.

Mamaebeth said...

i just want you to know that i will mock you if you pull out a boob tent in public.

Giftie Etcetera said...


I never thought of it as a "boob tent" before, but that's exactly what it is, isn't it? LMAO!

I'll try to train my next one to stay under a cover anyway, but if it's born in the summer, that might be impossible.

Mamaebeth said...

they have these really cool hats made for nursing babies. they have really wide brims so they "hide" everything. i want one when i have another baby.