I had an experience a few months ago, and then again last night, that gave me pause, and I'd really like to know: Do kids crying in public really annoy you? I mean, does that really bother people?
I will admit, before my propagatory ship came in, I was the first person to belch out, "Ugh! Kids!" at any appropriate juncture. The mere mention of children and the possibility that I may have to share real estate with them automatically activated the Eye Roll/Melodramatic Sigh Reflex. I realized, however, that children were people, too, and I couldn't discriminate based on inability to control one's impulses, form a sentence, or wipe one's own tush, as much as my insides quaked to do so. I accepted children, much as I do reality TV stars, as a functional part of our society, and moved on.
Before Christmas, I had been afforded a quiet afternoon at the mall with my son. We strolled around Macy's, browsing clothing racks and Christmas decorations. A few ornaments caught my eye, and I decided to pick them up. Excited to include my son in our newly formed Christmas traditions, I allowed him to inspect and guard our ornaments until we were ready to leave the store.
When we arrived at the customer service kiosk, I knew I'd have to wrestle them from his hands, causing a potential tear-and-glitter storm. I eyed a big wheel truck sitting nearby, and offered a trade. He'd unhand the ornaments, and I'd let him borrow the truck for a few moments. This plan went swimmingly until it was time to leave -- without the truck.
I use the Band Aid Approach often, and it works, so I leaned down, asked him for the truck, and told him it was time to go. A wandering employee had taken notice and attempted to give me a hand. She bent down into the stroller and asked him if she could see the truck. He handed her the truck without realizing he wouldn't get it back, and then started kicking, as large tears fell from his eyes. I attempted to roll away quickly, which would have both a) changed his mind, and b) gotten us the freak out of there, but the employee, so affected by the tragedy before her, gave me the exaggerated sad face and whined, "Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww. He's crying! Can I give him back the truck?" Seriously? Seriously, lady? Can you give him back the truck? Are you kidding me?! No, dammit, you can't give him back the truck! Walk away! Walk away NOW!
"Oh, no. Thanks," I managed. "We have plenty of trucks at home. I'm, uh, we're -- just going to get going now. Thank you," I smiled, lowered my eyes, and rolled my son away. He sniffed for a few seconds, and -- Poof! -- all better!
Not thirty seconds later, another employee, walking in the opposite direction, eyed my son, leaned in, told him how handsome he was, and then noticed the fresh tears on his cheeks.
"Ooooooohhhhh. He's got tears on his face. Was he crying?" No. I just freshened him up. He needs a bit of a spritz from time to time.
"Oh," I responded, "It's nothing. He wanted a toy and, well, we have to go."
"Aw, he can't have the toy?" she asked, cocking her head in my son's direction.
At that point, I was ready to lose it. I told her that no, indeed, he couldn't, and that we needed to go, and continued towards the exit. And I seriously considered taking a long, hard look at a Macy's policy manual.
So I ask you, is it that painful to see a kid cry? Don't kids, like, cry a lot? Isn't that a hallmark of being a baby? Par for the course of parenthood? Call me cold and objective, but crying children don't really stab at my heart, unless there's a reason, a real reason for their tears. For the most part, they cry, they stop, they cry again, they move on, and we move on. That's it. I realized the sound of children bothered me all those years, but certainly not the individual sounds they were making.
Now, last night, after a very successful afternoon out, we decided to attempt dinner at a restaurant. This had only been done three times since the addition of the twins to our family, and only once successfully. I was optimistic, but by no means confident.
Maggie was a bit itchy on the way in. She was squirming and cranky. We managed to subdue her with a breadstick for a limited period, but shortly after, she became inconsolable. Instead of subjecting myself to pitiful looks, questions, and advice from concerned onlookers and staff, I decided to remove both myself and Maggie from the situation, and bring her to the car.
She finished her bottle, writhed, and screamed, until she fell asleep on my chest in the second row of the van. I took to dozing myself. My father tagged out of dinner to tell me he was through eating, and asked me if I wanted to go inside and have my dinner while he sat with the baby. I declined. It just wasn't worth it.
All I imagined were large, distorted, Black-Hole-Sun faces, swirling down at me pejoratively, the sound of Tsk, Tsk, Tsk in my brain growing louder and clammier. And I didn't want to deal with it.
So, I let my daughter sleep on me, and I ate my dinner when I got home, as I have for months now, from a styrofoam box at my dining room table. So no one would have to see or hear her cry.
Photo Credit: joeshlabotnik.
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