Saturday, June 1, 2013

Shouts of joy

I think I may have mentioned this a few times recently, but just in case you haven't heard, Emily and Erin have entered this stage where they love to shriek. It's a happy thing - they usually have big grins on their faces as they're doing it, most likely because everyone's looking. Sometimes the mood strikes in the middle of the grocery store; sometimes we're at church. Most of the time it's just fine and I move on with what we're doing, smiling and shushing and hoping they get the idea. Obviously, during Mass we make a hasty retreat to the back corner or even outside.

It's made me more conscious of where children are welcomed, though. Certain places are not intended for children - some for moral/legal reasons, others for safety. I take Emily and Erin along with me on the majority of my errands. Most of them are fairly child-friendly, like Target, the grocery store, and the hardware store. But any time we go elsewhere, I find myself incredibly conscious of any noise or behavior. I know it's all normal at this age, and they'll learn soon that there are places for noise and places for quiet. Most of the time, people are very patient and more than willing to accommodate our folding stroller and the occasional joyous shriek. There's a special place in Heaven for these folks, I'm sure of it! When things don't go well, which is fairly often, I inevitably learn something from the experience. Case in point: the day I attempted to take both girls to Mass alone.

It makes me wonder: should everyone have a babysitter when they go out shopping or to pay bills? Are we moms supposed to be hiding at home and doing all our bill paying and shopping online? If that's the case (and believe me, I have been tempted insofar as possible!) when will we teach our kids how to behave in public? As a kid, I remember tagging around town with my mom and my little brother as we went shopping, kept appointments, and paid bills. I remember one incident of chair pulling where my poor mother must have been just mortified (for the record, I was the one sitting down, not pulling the chair). Believe me, we never tried anything like that again. It wasn't an overnight transformation, but gradually we learned what was acceptable and what was not.

While it's rare that we encounter a place we need to go where children are completely unwelcome, there are certainly many places where it's difficult to take them by myself. I wish all stores had doors wide enough for a double stroller! I might feel differently about this in the future (say, around a year from now when Emily and Erin turn two) but for the moment, I think it's very important to bring them with me to do as many different things as possible. I haven't taken them to the library in a long time - I think they were only two months old the last time we were all there - but it's one we need to try again soon. Don't worry, we read, we just have lots of books!

Speaking of books, in the book Bringing up Bébé, the author talks about how it's assumed that French kids will understand the need for them to behave appropriately as it's explained to them. It seems like a sign of respect to see this potential, even if it means standing red-faced at the meat counter while my daughters shriek at each other. I rarely feel like a great mom at the end of any of our expeditions, but I know my girls will be better off for it. Besides, someone's got to show all those stores they need wider doors!


  1. Thank you for this post! My son is 23 months old. When he was about 20 months old, he went through this phase where he would SHRIEK, too! It was a happy shriek, or he'd shriek his words he'd just learned. I think he was experimenting with his voice and the fact his vocabulary had a huge increase seemingly overnight! My husband works crazy hours and so my son, Ethan, is my errand buddy: pharmacy, grocery store, etc. We had stopped in for lunch one day with a friend to this restaurant that is super kids friendly -- as in, they ALWAYS have kids eat free days each week, balloon artists, clowns, face painting, etc. This particular day was Take Your Child To Work Day, so many of the waiters and waitresses had children tagging along with them. It was raining so we opted to eat indoors instead of outside where Ethan usually likes to sit to watch the water fountain. He was shrieking while he was eating "MMM BEANS! EAT BEANS!" and I was trying to explain to him as best as one can rationalize with a 20 month old that we do not shriek, we use our inside voices, etc. Our friend we were eating with had a 3 year old who thought this was hilarious, and her cracking up just made the whole thing worse. A waitress laughed and said "I remember that age!" and I felt mortified but THEN -- THEN! -- some woman walks up to our table, points at Ethan and my friend's child and says "these children are animals. Did no one teach you how to be parents? I have kids, and grandkids, and they would never behave this way because my kids know how to be parents. These kids are disgusting! Look at what animals they are!" I sat there and felt tears welling in my eyes but my friend started arguing back that the woman was being ungodly levels of rude, but she wouldn't stop! "They disgust me, these kids! Animals! Filthy animals!" Ugh, I don't think I wanted to leave my house for a month after that.

  2. Bringing up Bébé is a terrible book full of terrible advice. Children sometimes shriek. If we, as parents, always ignore the shrieking, we are sending the wrong message. When my daughter shrieks, I explain to her why she cannot shriek in public. If she continues to do so, we leave.