A few weeks ago, I took my 17-month-old daughter to a bookstore to do some Christmas shopping. There, we were greeted with free Styrofoam cups full of spiced apple cider. I took a cup, and clearly my girl wanted a taste of what I was drinking. After allowing it to cool for a minute and watching me blow over the surface of the steaming drink, she couldn’t wait anymore and started to fuss. So, I gave her a tiny sip, to which she promptly sputtered and choked. After regaining her breath, she said, “Hot.” However, she of course wanted more of this mysterious hot apple juice every 45 seconds while I was scanning the shelves for a meaningful book. The small cup soon emptied, and so I let her continue playing with the cup contentedly while I scanned the book titles and flipped through the pages of a few I pulled out. I finally picked out what I wanted, and my focus went back to my daughter. She triumphantly showed me the ripped up cup pieces in her lap and on the floor around her. I collected all of the pieces I saw, and we continued to walk around the store. A few minutes later, she started jamming her whole fist into her mouth, gagging herself. She started doing this awful gagging bit about a month ago, and we have just tried to ignore it, so she hopefully will cease without any reinforcement, positive or negative. After the third time she gagged herself, I just couldn’t take it. I yanked her hand from her mouth and sternly told her to stop. Not a minute later, she did it again, and proceeded to throw up all over the front of her shirt and stroller straps. Of course, an older lady who was also shopping, saw the episode as she was walking towards us, since we were between her and the cash register. Right as she walked by, my friendly girl waved her puke-slimed hand at the lady and gave her a winning smile. The woman didn’t know how to react, so she gave a weak smile in response and then gave me a disapproving, “Oh my,” as she walked past me, and I withered. My face got hot and my eyes threatened to water. I was embarrassed my kid was so gross. I mean, I was walking around a Christian bookstore while my daughter is making herself gag, and I certainly didn’t want anyone to wrongly assume she’d learned this behavior by observation. I was going to lecture her again about not gagging herself, until I realized she had spit out a small fragment of Styrofoam cup. The poor kid was just trying to get the piece of cup out of her throat and I was to blame it was there in the first place.
As a parent, I can totally allow myself to worry about what other people think, instead of just caring about my child and her well being. One day I took her to the grocery store and she started chomping on a whole block of white cheddar cheese. I was initially embarrassed at what others, particularly store employees, would think or say to me. I of course paid for the block of cheese at the register, and had ZERO people gave me strange looks. Most people laughed, including the cashier, and other moms in the store told me that, “whatever it takes,” is what you have to do to get your kids through the grocery store. It was after one of those moms assured me, that I actually started finding humor in the situation.
I’m learning that as a mother and a wife, the only people in this world I should care what they think of me are my husband and my daughter. My little girl is going to do some gross, annoying, loud, messy, and not so cute things as she learns and grows up. I wish I could tell my single, “never having kids” self that all of those kids I grumbled about were just being kids. To have some grace for them, and an even larger share of grace for their parents. Kids are going to be on airplanes and in grocery stores and in restaurants. They are not going to be perfect. Parents certainly are not perfect either, as much as we hope and try to be. Basically, we’re learning on the fly, even if we had amazing parents ourselves. The time we have with our babies is so short, that we have to embrace these often cringe-worthy times, and laugh through them, even if we want to cry or hide. We all used to be kids, after all.