Saturday, November 28, 2009

Accept PDTs and move on

Only twice in the past have I found myself in public places with a child who is on the verge of meltdown. Three children later, I have come to know what it takes to avert most PDTs (Public Displays of Tantrum). So I confess it's hard for me to watch other parents struggle without rushing up to them and giving them a sympathetic hug (I'm not into PDAs either).

But some parents seem to deserve it. Having had to up to the proverbial with Sanctimummies, it was bad karmic pleasure to witness a well-known Sanctimummy offspring collapse into a violent, toy-flinging heap at - of all places - The Warehouse this morning (the jury is still out as to why the Sanctimummy was at The Warehouse).

Back around the turn of the Millennium, a young, beautiful woman lived in the banana groves with her husband and her three unassisted-birthed, unschooled, natural-fiber clothed babes. She claimed to have healed herself of pancreatic cancer, and, when her family weren't roaming the plantation, eating fresh bananas straight off the palms, her family ate their raw, organic vegan meals at a low, Japanese-style table.

She generally enjoys her role as a mother. And her children are not bad children, but the label "laid back" doesn't apply to them either. They are boisterous, loud, and very curious; in short, they are normal. One day, one of the kids, used to getting his way all the time, didn't know how to respond to rejection and started screaming. Not wanting to miss the fun, the other kids joined in the group scream. As she frantically tried to quiet the tumult, she noticed the searing glares of the other shoppers, oblivious to the irony that it was a judgemental look that she had many times inflicted on others. One man nearby muttered loud enough for all to hear: "If I had five minutes with those kids they would behave themselves."

She was humiliated. She felt like the worst parent ever. How could this happen when she stays away from artificial fibres, only conceives according to a basal moon chart, doesn't vaccinate, reads all relevant books, sends her children to the Steiner school, and only eats organic vegan foods?  With horror, she wondered if her children were, in fact, autistic, having consumed processed food at a birthday party last month.

I cornered her at her car after she ran out in deep shame, and, after providing appropriate soothing noises about children testing us and the science behind autism, I tried to explain to her the following basics of child behaviour:

1. It is Not Your Fault

2. It is just A New Developmental Phase

3. How You React Matters:

  • ignore the show;
  • avoid Public Humiliation;
  • if you can’t avoid, distract; and
  • coat yourself in Teflon

She wasn't buying any of it.  There is clearly a belief that there exist some parents whose children don't throw temper tantrums. Their children are always polite and kind to animals and happily eat all their raw vegetables on their plate. They always sleep through the night and their cloth nappies never stink. In fact, they don't wear nappies, and instinctively knew how to use the toilet from birth. These are the people that make the rest of us insecure. Even thought they may think it is their great parenting that caused this child to be so angelic, I can assure you that it has very little to do with them. It's the luck of the draw.

I sometimes wonder if these are the people who write books on parenting.  These people are the weirdo parents, not the parents whose kids melt down in public. Their kids (assuming they exist) are aberrations, not yours. Just forget that they exist. They probably don't.

1 comment:

Oswald Bastable said...

You don't WONDER if your kids are Autistic.

If they are you KNOW it!

Trust me on that score ;-)