Letting my toddler run free

1 Jun
Should I have used the wooden spoon?

This week I did something I’ve never done before – I pretended my toddler didn’t belong to me. Normally I’m very proud to declare her my daughter. Not this time. We were in a shopping centre at one of those cafes you find in the middle of a thoroughfare within a shopping mall. There were no four walls and a door to keep us in. I was meeting up with several friends – three without kids in tow and two of us with a toddler each. I knew what I was getting myself in for. I knew my little girl would not sit in a chair for an hour while I nattered with my girlfriends – expecting a two and a half year old to sit still for more than five minutes is like expecting my little girl to stop asking ‘whyyyyy??’ It ain’t going to happen any time soon.
What I wasn’t prepared for was just how wild she would be. My girl and her partner in crime (the other toddler) raced in and out of shops, several times upsetting window displays; I saw a boot topple off its perch. They stole a purple balloon off another little girl whose grandmother gently stole it back and pointed us in the direction of free balloons. I got each of the wild ones a free balloon which they then proceeded to bash each other over the head with. After that fun game, they removed the sticks to which the balloons were attached and put the sticks up their nostrils like the world’s longest nose picker. There was a lady in a mobility scooter sitting next to us which provided endless fascination for the terrible two, particularly the boy, who was playing with the wheels and popping things in the basket attached to the scooter. My fear at this point was that he would press a button which would eject the poor lady out of her scooter. To top it all off, they ran. And ran. And ran. Everywhere. In and out of the legs of older people with trolleys (one of the kids copped a knock to the head from a trolley – I wasn’t overly sympathetic), women with prams, and shoppers overloaded with bags. No-one looked happy, except the toddlers, who were having an absolute ball. I could see the judgemental questions written on the shoppers’ faces – ‘Who do these children belong to, and why the hell aren’t they disciplining them?’ It’s a good question. In my defence, I do not accept behaviour by my child that adversely affects other people. I did intervene on  many occasions – the balloon theft, the playing with the scooter and the running in and out of shops and pretending to be part of the window displays – all unacceptable. As for the general running around part of it? I kind of looked the other way (as long as there was no threat of injury to others) and pretended she wasn’t mine. I was embarassed that she was not sitting up at the table like a perfect child. I was embarassed by the judgemental looks that she received from other shoppers. But (in my daughter’s words) why? Should I have felt embarassed by a child doing what children do? So often we hear people say – we need to let children be children. That means accepting child-like behaviour, like running and jumping and being high spirited. And if we have to occasionally side-step around them, then that’s surely not too high a price to pay?

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