This morning I brought Smallest to the swimming pool for her weekly swimming lesson. It runs alongside a women’s only swimming session, populated mainly by women of a certain age. This leads to an interesting mix in the changing room, and this morning we just couldn’t seem to get out of the way of an older woman who came repeatedly in and out of her cubicle to fetch each item of her clothing one by one, walking through the space where we were trying to get Smallest changed, and round the carseat with Tigerboy on the floor. Not once did she catch my eye though I tried to smile and apologise, but there you go.
Another of the children coming to the lesson was not in the best of moods. In fact, by the decibel level issuing from him, you’d have thought he was being flayed in front of us. His mother was being calm and unflustered and continuing to encourage independence as she got him changed, and I admired her self restraint as she dealt with her tantrumming offspring.
Once the children had been delivered to the teachers, I retired to the cafe, with Big was rocking Tigerboy in his carseat. The older ladies arrived to sit at the next table, and ignoring us sitting next to them, proceeded to loudly criticise my friend’s parenting skills.
“What’s wrong with a little tap on the leg?” one of them asked the other.
“Yes, when they’re making that noise, say do you want something to cry about, and then a little tap on the leg.”
Or words to that effect. They went on for a while, before moving on to another topic.
I wish I’d had the courage to interrupt them and ask if, when they are upset, they prefer to be listened to, or told that if they keep it up, they’ll be given something to cry about. Because there’s pretty much always someone whose had worse than what you’re going through, so surely there’s no reason for you to get so worked up. But you’re an adult, a person, and you don’t think anyone would ever be as disrespectful as to do that to you, and certainly no one would hit you for crying.
So why on earth would you think it’s right to do it to a child? A young child at that, struggling to make sense of a world that they have little power or control over. A child that trusts you to make it right, to look after them, to soothe hurts and take away pain. Why would you add to it?
Oh, I daresay if you kept it up as a parenting method it would work. Your child would learn that crying to you is pointless, that you don’t help, you increase pain. They’d learn that expressing your emotions is an empty strategy, and they’d shut down, withholding communication from the ppl they should open up to most. Life would probably be a lot quieter, and a lot colder too, without the trust that should exist between a parent and child.
I really do wish I’d had the gumption to challenge them and their sad, small minded, aggressive attitudes. But instead I contented myself with whipping out a breast and defiantly breastfeeding on demand in public. Because somehow I doubt they’d have approved of that either. Perhaps I should have let my 7 week old baby cry. Or given him something to cry about instead