I was raised by people who were raised by people that believed children should be seen and not heard. When I was a kid, if it was summer, kids were outside. If it was winter, kids were in another room. At family functions, kids ate at the kids' table. At the public pool, the lifeguard blew the whistle and the kids got out so the adults could swim. Kids watched what TV shows their parents watched (for me: bowling, baseball, and WWF wrestling). Kids didn't go out to dinner or brunch. If they did go out to eat, parents didn't let the server stand for 15 minutes while the kids debated between mac 'n' cheese and chicken fingers. When kids talked, the adults didn't stop mid-sentence to listen, with bated breath, to whatever the kids had to say. (Like, at my house, when I am interrupted by "Knock, knock, who's there? Stinky underwear!") Parents didn't plan non-work day agendas to be filled with fun kids' activities like going to the park, the indoor playground, or conjuring up a hand-made scavenger hunt. And if kids acted up, they were swiftly taken away for a slap in the bum or soap in the mouth or time in their room sans dinner.
Did I like this style of child rearing? Not necessarily. I get that kids don't have to be the center of the Universe, and the reason why some kids today have challenges with independence and work ethic are largely due to my generation's decision to hear our children more than we hear ourselves, and see them everywhere- from movie theaters and concerts to restaurants. Our kids are out and about, we think they are super cute, and we are quite proud of them.
I still agree with my elders to some degree. I think it is ok that some restaurants have chosen to be kid free. I like the adult swim. (Nothing better than getting in the pool and NOT being splashed in the back with ice cold water.)Andy and I ask Caroline and Charlotte to take turns talking to us, and do their best not to interrupt when we are already engaged in conversation because, while we are very delighted that the cat is wearing a diaper they placed on him, that story can wait until Daddy and I discuss the lack of funds presently in our bank account. I will not take my kids to certain performances, plays, or activities that are primarily directed at adults, and I have learned the art of swiftly removing my kids from a situation to prevent anxious looks and under breath dirty comments.
I do my best to find a balance between letting my kids be free to be free range and enforcing rules that will help them be rule abiding, polite people that others want to be around and not strangle. I find places where they can be loud and rowdy and giggle and scream. It's not the opera. It's not the grocery store. It's not a wedding. But it is outside, in our neighborhood, on a sunny Sunday morning at 9 am.
This past sunny Sunday morning, my neighbor and I decided to take the kids and dogs out for a little walk on one of the less traveled streets in our neighborhood. As I packed the kids up to meet our friend, one neighbor was mowing his lawn, another was playing rock music, and another was pounding nails into the roof of a new barn. We'd been up, IM'ing since 5:30, so 9:00 seemed like a good time to meet up. It would be like a mid-day jaunt for us. We'd get the kids tuckered out in time for lunch (at 10:45) and a little Noon-time siesta. We walked along, and the kids scootered and biked ahead of us. We stopped every few feet to tie shoes and answer questions ("What time is lunch?") and occasionally called their names to beckon them closer to us as we neared a bend in the road or a cross street.
"This is as good as it gets!" I thought to myself. "What's better than allowing my kids to do their thing, get some energy out of their systems, while I got my cardio for the day and some mommy friend time, too?" It was all just a perfect scene: two moms, two dogs, three kids, bustling down the road on a sunny Sunday morning. Until my bubble was burst. We passed a woman on her porch. Her porch on her house that is nearly sitting on the edge of the road. She gave us the eye and said, "You know, ladies, you look like nice people but are you aware that Sunday is the only day of the week people can sleep in?"
Oh, man. Man, oh, man. Oh man. Lady, lady, lady. Don't mess with two moms on a sunny Sunday morning. Two moms just trying to get some energy out of their kids. Two moms who have been up for hours. Two moms who get up at 5:30 every day and never sleep in. We may look like nice people, lady, but we are not. We are moms of little kids. Don't mess with moms of little kids, lady. Don't. Do. It.
No, we didn't start a fight. We're moms, not thugs. My friend did give the lady a Talk to the Hand motion and we reminded her that it was indeed after 9 am. (We also went home and confirmed that the noise ordinance is 7 am.)As we shuffled, pedaled, and scootered by, she called out that she couldn't believe how rude we were.
Listen up, lady. I have no doubt in my mind that you, too, are actually a nice person, but what you said was not nice. And, not fair. I know my kids can be terrible. You're not the first to tell me and my kids to stop ruining your day. Usually, I'll go away and take my brats with me-but not this time. This is my neighborhood and there is no law saying that kids can't ride their bikes, and moms can't tell at them to slow down, at least not after 7 am every single day, even Sunday. I'll meet the old school parenting method half-way. I will agree that, sometimes, children can be seen and not heard. That sometimes does not include riding bikes in our neighborhood on a Sunday morning.