just like an hour ago.
This post isn’t about judgmental stares or unkind words about keeping my kids in line. I don’t have any inclinations to justify what happened or call out others in an open letter for their assumed self-righteousness. (Honestly, I’m sure a lot of people would have handled it better than me- and this, arguably, wasn’t even the worst parenting decision I made today. I mean, Burger King, Hi-C, and sorry for the sunburned cheeks, Pazey.) In fact, I didn’t even notice that stuff. I chose not to notice it, really. I just wanted it to be a learning moment for me and for my child.
Here’s what happened:
We were getting ready to leave. I was fishing for my keys in my diaper bag. (I always said I would never have a large diaper bag, practically for this reason. But once Paisley was born, that was it, we were large-diaper-bag people and trying to convert other people.) My son was running back and forth between me and the door toward the parking lot. I kept yelling to him to “stay by me, Ollie!” I finally found my keys, grabbed Pazey, and just as I got within a few feet of the doors, my son reached right out (seriously, are they ALWAYS at a toddler’s hand level?) and grabbed it. I’m sure I screamed. Something like, “No, Ollie!” or whatever. But I didn’t need to. My son was panicked. I ran frantically toward the front shouting to everyone in the store that it was “just my son! Not a fire!” The management came around and I told them it was my son and I was so sorry. Not sure what to do, I stood at our table with two of my friends and their kids. Ollie was in rare form, shaking and crying, even a little dramatically (c’mon, he’s two) gagging. I set him on the edge of the table, reminding him, “that’s what happens when you pull those.” I’m sure he was thinking something like, “thanks Captain Obvious.” My 7-month old Pazey acted like it was any other day while my friend walked around with her.
After we were told we could leave, and my son had settled down, I buckled my kids in the car to head home for Pazey’s nap. Ollie looked at me and said, “I so sorry, Mom.” “It’s okay, Ollie.” I say, “Do we pull those?” “No.” “What do you do when mom tells you to stay by her? Run away?” “No.” As we shamefully pulled away, I tried explaining that it’s okay if he’s curious about something and that he can ask about it, just no touching. “Okay, Mom.” I don’t know if he got it, but I know he understood the experience, and I kind of doubt he will do something like that again.
The moment that really meant something for me, though, is what happened next. As we were driving home, my son reminded me that tomorrow we were going to be able to go and rent the Planes movie and he gets to buy a small, used toy from the consignment store. I’ve been teaching him to wait, so this is something we talk about all day. At this moment, I considered telling him, “No. You don’t get to have a new toy since you pulled the fire alarm. What you did was bad, and when you do bad things, you don’t get to have fun things.” But, I didn’t. Not because I don’t want my kid to know that some choices are bad choices. Instead, I told him, “Yes, we will go tomorrow.”
I feel like it was the right decision. I know that he was truly regretful about pulling the fire alarm. And I have faith that the next time around, maybe with a little reminder of this incident, that he will stay by me when I ask him. But really, I just didn’t want to make the situation more confusing than it already was. I wanted him to know that it was scary, and he shouldn’t do that; but I also wanted him to be aware that when he messes up, I will be there to provide comfort and direction on what to do better next time. Not every mistake we make in this life is something that will dramatically affect every other aspect of our lives. Some do, some are really serious mistakes. But not something like this.
It’s kind of funny how an hour before that happened, we were at a family connections event where the directors were singing songs with the kids. It was one of those moments when Ollie came out of his shell and really had fun watching the puppets and singing. I watched him with so much warmth in my heart, thinking about how awesome it is to be his mom.
I don’t want the fire alarm moment to ruin all of the other fun parts of the day or days afterward. I don’t know what you would have done, but I trust that you know what is best for your child, so I won’t judge you. But if you’re feeling a little down about your parenting choices today, I give you permission to think, “Well, at least I didn’t take my kid to Burger King and let him pull the fire alarm.”