My buck-toothed and rather beefy 2-year-old thinks he’s Jamaican Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world. One minute, he delights in holding my hand at the store, pulling merchandise off the shelves, flirting with the cashier. Then without warning, he’ll squeeze his paw out of mine and well, bolt for the nearest exit.
This happened at a local bookstore recently and I couldn’t catch him. I even threw my purse on the floor to lighten my load. Only when an elderly woman with a cane blocked him from the entrance was I able to grab a piece of his t-shirt. He’s that quick.
In public places, my son tests every door. Alarmed emergency exit? Even better. Luckily, I follow him around like a lovesick puppy. Because he’s too big for a stroller or cart. And he’s getting dangerous.
So after much consideration – and the toning of my calves – I’ve decided to welcome possible humiliation in exchange for the safety of my kid.I am buying a harness.
I used to make fun of people who strapped their kid to a leash. Can’t they control their own child? There’s even a comedy sketch about a harnessed boy from “Saturday Night Live” from the nineties. I thought it was hilarious.
Now I don’t care what people think of a harness. They don’t know (and I didn’t all those years ago) what it’s like to have a child faster and sneakier than themselves. If my child rushed out into the middle of a busy street, I’d never forgive myself.
I can only imagine the pointing fingers and snarky comments about to come my way, but I’ve developed three tips to feel comfortable with this and other parenting situations that teeter between embarrassing and controversial:
1. Own It
The minute your little angel is delivered into the world, you are faced with bizarre situations and in a biological response to your baby’s cry, engage in behaviors you’d never imagine. Like pulling a boob out at the same time a priest comes to the hospital room to bless your child, “C’mon in, Father,” I said, as he slowly backed out the door. What can I say? When the baby is hungry, he’s hungry.
If your child has the tantrum of the century at the store because he’s convinced a Ring-Pop is in the fruit food group and therefore healthy (and you’ve already said “no”), straighten your posture, collect your bag, throw that bugger over your shoulder, and take the madness outside. People will look at you and maybe even shake their heads and mutter, Kids today! But you’re doing everyone a favor by diffusing the situation.
When you recognize that your role as a parent is more than a label, but rather a lifestyle full of humor and extreme randomness, be proud of it. You’ll be more relaxed at a party, even changing your child’s poopy diaper on a designer rug because your friends don’t own a changing table.
2. Teach It
A morbidly obese man delivered a pizza to our door one night. My older son, four at the time, opened the door with me and spying him, said out loud, “He’s a big one, Mommy. A big one.” I closed my eyes and whispered a horrified, “I’m sorry” and then “thank you” as I gave the poor man a whopper tip for his troubles.
I put the hot pizza on the counter and had a much needed conversation at that moment about how people come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors and we need to be nice to everyone. “After all, we want to be treated nicely, too.”
When your child embarrasses you, take a moment to absorb the sick feeling in your gut and then snap back into parent mode. This is a teachable moment and needs to be addressed on-the-spot, whether it is an apology to the wronged party or a discussion about feelings.
For those tots too young to know a metal grocery cart at the Children’s Museum hurts when slammed into another child’s leg, reprimand by saying, “No, we don’t hurt our friends!” and apologize to the poor little shopper and the parent.
There’s nothing more annoying than a mother checking Facebook on her phone while her toddler terrorizes everyone in the park sandbox. Trust me. Be aware and take responsibility for your kid’s actions when they know not what they do.
Children are born with zero filters or manners and it’s our job to teach them right from wrong and a winning perspective on life. Start from day one.
3. Preach It
Your friends living the good, er, single life might not understand your humiliation. That’s okay, don’t ditch them. Remember, you need to live vicariously through their world travels and morning-afters. And you love them.
But consider other parents with kids around the same age as yours and pick a family-friendly restaurant where hallowed screams and flying broccoli are the norm and kvetch. Every parent has a public barf story where, in vain to make it to the bathroom, someone yells, “Not my shoes!” and then a crowd gathers just to see what happens next.
Friends going through the same experiences give you validation, humor, and the holy grail of all parenthood: play dates where you can sit back and breathe. Don’t forget to reaffirm those same friends.
And your single buds? When or if they have babies, they will crown you the mortification recovery guru due to your time in the trenches.
I’ll keep drumming the stay-by-Mommy mantra into my youngest’s head and as he matures, I won’t need an iron grip or a harness anymore. One day I’ll remind him he got schooled by a granny at two years old. That’s the best part – at some magic adolescent age – we, the parents, in our ugly clothing, listening to oldies from 2002 and possessed with the knack to say the wrong thing all the time, will become humiliating to our children. I can’t wait!