How parenthood changes your perception

OK, think back to your PPL (aka pre-parenthood-life). Chances are that back then you went to a restaurant or maybe even a grocery or department store, right? Now think back at somebody walking in with one or more little children and what you thought at that moment? I am pretty sure that at least for a fleeting moment the words “noise”, “crying” or “mess” came to your mind, right? Be honest, I will not hold it against you, I was there once, too, I judged.

Nico - 19 months

You sit at a restaurant, waiting for your food to arrive and the host leads a family of four with a baby and a toddler into the room and seats them exactly across the aisle from you and you cringe. The baby is sleeping, so we are ok with that, but the toddler doesn’t want to sit in his high chair and he is starting a tantrum. Maybe because his mother doesn’t let him stab his sister with the knife, because she wouldn’t let him redecorate the dining room or use the salt and pepper shaker for target practice? Any which way, you get annoyed and hope that your food is getting here rather sooner or later, so you can wolf it down and get out of there before something serious happens. Yes, I judged them for not being able to keep their children under control and let them scream and protest and whatever else they did.

Or you are at the grocery store, pondering over which of the 25 different shades of coffee you would like to get, when a mom passes by dragging her three kids with her. She is trying her best to get the essentials while taking stuff out of her kids’ hands to put back on the shelf, sending them into a meltdown of epic proportions, yes, I used to judge that woman for not having her children under control as well.

As you probably know yourself by now, these are the situations that many dread as parents, because they expect pretty much these kind of judgements with the accompanying looks of condescension and not-understanding and now you shake your head at those people, who seem so narrow-minded, but hey, they do not know any better! Only once you have experienced it yourself as a parent, you know what is happening in the life of a toddler and that some of these situations are just plainly unavoidable. The reasons for something like that are as numerous as there are stars in the skies, be it not enough sleep, too much sleep, a bad day, too many new things to take in, because the sky is blue, the carrot is orange, why is there a foot attached to my leg, you name it, it can be it.

Nico - 19 months

Take Nico as an example. He is usually really good at restaurants, but he gets distracted easily, because there is a lot going on and there are so many things to take in that he doesn’t usually see, so he is constantly on his feet, looking around, trying to see and he sometimes forgets to eat over the whole thing. We could make a big deal about him sitting down to eat, but with everything happening around him, this is a battle that we chose not to pick, because even though he stands on the banquet and looks around, he still eats and is quiet and that’s one of the many compromises you will make once you are a parent.

Admittedly, it is not always only the child that is at fault, since some parents do not set firm boundaries as to which behaviour is expected or required and thus enabling their children, but even if you have everything perfectly in place, things happen that are beyond your control, toddlers and kids are probably some of the most non-logical creatures on earth, so anything can happen.

So if you are still experiencing PPL (or have decided to cut out this part out of your life forever), or are in denial, do not condemn the parent, do not damn the child, it might just be you, who is oblivious to things in life that are inevitable and not “them”… I am now one of “them” and wouldn’t want it to be any other way and if people have a problem with it – well, that’s their problem, not mine! I have completely different problems, but that’s not the point here… Share your experiences with us and leave us your comments, we’d love to read them!

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5 comments to How parenthood changes your perception

  • Great article! My question here is…what exactly do us suffering from PPL (though not by choice in my case) do in these situations? Smile apologetically at the parent, suggesting we feel sorry for them? Avert our eyes pretending we don’t care?
    In these situations I always feel for the parent because, yes, I do realize that many things and situations in the lives of a toddler or child are out of the parent’s control. I especially feel bad for them on planes. I freak out when I have to ride in a plane, I can’t imagine how some children or toddlers might react.
    I know how some people react to kids and I think it’s ridiculous. We were all there once, weren’t we? Screaming because we didn’t get our way or crying because our mom was leaving us at a babysitter.
    I don’t have kids myself, but I already dread the judging eyes when my kid throws a fit in public.

    • Alex

      Hi Mallory,

      thanks for your comment. I am not sure, if there is a real answer for this, because some people will feel relief that you understand, some feel that you can’t possible imagine and just pretend or think that they don’t know what they do… Or if you avert your eyes, they might feel the same…
      You seem to be an exception to many other PPL-sufferers, since most of them do not realize that things are different as a parent and that the children aren’t always behaving “by the book” (even in the negative sense), but can be completely on random.
      Many people, though, overall seem to forget that they once were kids, too, and that they did certain things themselves that they now frown upon, but that’s a completely different story (or material for a post).
      Thanks for reading, hope you will read more :)

      Alex

  • rachael

    About a month ago we went out to dinner, I had both of my kids with me. One year and at the time 4 months. The people that were to get seated across from us stopped the hostess and asked to be seated at a different table because there were kids at mine… I was pretty surprised, and kind of insulted… but I guess I can’t blame some people for not understanding, my kids are really good eating out and those people would have realized that disruption wasn’t an issue if they just sucked it up.

  • Hello,
    I loved reading your post and yes we used to be those people that would look at parents and think OMG! I used to work for a restaurant and it stressed me out as a waitress to have a screaming child because you would get looks from your other tables and you would also get snipped at because the parents are usually stressed out as well. I have a 2 and 4 year old so tantrums are an everyday occurrence. When my husband and I decided to have children, we made a rule when it came to public outings, restaurants especially. If our child is the one acting up and we cannot get them calmed down within a reasonable time (2 minutes) one parent takes them outside to let them blow off some steam, run around, or regroup themselves. I don’t want to be responsible for ruining someone else’s outing. We do let our children stand up and look around but as long as they are being respectful and “quiet” we usually don’t say anything.

  • Great post! Thanks for sharing. The world could definitely use some more compassion!

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