Today My Kid Pulled the Fire Alarm at Burger King

yep.

that moment.

it happened.

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.”IMG_1696

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An Analysis of “Facing Gender Stereotypes With My Son”

If you haven’t read this article called “Facing Gender Stereotypes With My Son”, you must. At least for the sake of reading through my analysis of it.

Here’s the basic part:

A dad describes how his son expressed his liking of the color pink. Dad, thinking he doesn’t want to repeat the type of history he had with his own dad, tells the son that he likes pink, too.

It is perfect.

It is perfect to me because, well, why not? Does pink mean anything about a person or a child? Not really. I mean, a baby dressed in pink is only a symbol in our culture that it’s a girl. I have only come to realize how engrained this is in our society because sometimes I put my daughter in blue, and people seem to be very shaken at the idea of not knowing whether to use “he” or “she” when doting over her. Honestly, I don’t care what they call her, and I am not afraid to just say “it’s a girl” in an upbeat, informational tone. I really only do that to ease their minds and they can carry on with terms like “sweetheart” and “adorable” (the real reasons why I had children.)

But what I REALLY love about this interchange between father and son, is the reaction. He contemplates telling his son to be open to his classmates about it. But rather than turn it into a philosophical “we can all be whatever we want to be” moment, he simply validates his son by saying, “I like pink, too.”

See what he did there? He didn’t reinforce the affinity for pink (the affinity existed before he was even given a chance to react), but he didn’t reject his son’s statement, either. Rejection would more likely make the son feel invalidated and prompt him to seek out acceptance from other people, people who likely wont be very sustainable relationships in his life. The validation of “I like pink, too” told his son “that’s okay, I am on your side.” We are supposed to be our kid’s best allies, right? This statement was a perfect example of how to react to that.

I believe that he told his dad about it because he looks up to and admires his dad. If he then believes that his dad is on his side, that stable relationship is reinforced. Now the son will have someone strong, capable, and kind to learn from. Someone whose objective is to protect his son and teach him to how to accept himself. IMG_1297.JPG

These are the moments of clarity that we need to provide our children. They don’t need lessons on “changing the world”- they need allies, friends, and good leaders to look up to. They want to feel confident in themselves and the most stable way to get that is from their own parents, not from internet “likes” and “shares” when they say something dramatic or against the status quo. They need parents who are happy with whatever their children are, and who will provide a safe haven when the outside world is unkind and rejectful. We all face or faced rejection in our lives, the ones who come out better are the ones who had someone there to help them through it. As a parent, I will do my best to be that person in my children’s lives.

BIGOT

Bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices;especially :  one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

I need to write this. Maybe not for you, or anyone else, maybe just for me. But I don’t care, I am going to write it. It has been cluttering my mind for days, weeks, maybe even years. I think if I write it, I will feel some of my stress alleviate.

I hate this word.

I hate how it sounds.

I hate how it is written.

I hate how it is shouted.

I hate how it is misunderstood.

I have yet to hear it from someone who is not exhibiting some form of bigotry themselves.

Since we have been married, Adrian and I have lived in Utah, South Carolina, Florida, Washington (state), Nevada, and Massachusetts.

We have interacted with and worked (often closely) with gay, lesbian, straight, black, white, hispanic, european, asian, jewish, republican, democrat, libertarian, socialist, atheist, muslim, mormon, and every single thing in between. We have even discussed politics with supporters of Trump, Clinton, Cruz, and Sanders.

In my opinion- bigotry has zero boundaries. In fact, bigotry is stabbing you in the back. It tells you to hate (or even be intolerant of) someone because they follow the status quo or because they are too extreme; but then will just turn around and be friends with very people you are spitting at. It goes around and around and just tells anyone who will listen to foster anger, disgust, and intolerance for someone, anyone. It tells you how much more important your cause is…it tells you that your vote will make history or that you are just protecting your family. It tells you that if you don’t play along, that you will be hurting someone close to you. Bigotry is the voice that is telling you that compromise is not possible or favorable in any way, and that if the other side won’t stop, then you must force them with laws, executive orders, revolutions, or simply just forced shame. I am sorry to be the one to tell you this, but, bigotry wants to make you its puppet.

I have heard a person in a homosexual relationship describe how polygamy makes his stomach churn, and someone who has mostly female family members affirm that all women should be tested before they can vote.

Like I said, no bounds.

So what do I suggest?

A first good step: listen. Talk to someone, ask them questions with the idea in mind that you really just want to know what it’s like before you make an opinion. Get to know someone’s experiences. Try to have a little faith that compromise can and will work. Validate their fears and then describe your fears and experiences, too. Find common ground.

You could also: do what we did and live in other places, get an idea of how policies, cultures, and experiences shape a person’s or a group of people’s ethics. Assume the good in people, even when they don’t assume the good in you.

Lastly: the golden rule. In a tense situation, be the first one to calm down and show them the same respect that you think you deserve. Whenever someone has done this with me, I always let me guard down and have a better and enlightened conversation in the end.

I know that a more peaceful society is possible. Why?

Because…

I have watched Trump supporters befriend Mexicans. I have experienced atheists try to truly, and kindly, understand my deep love for my religion. I have become extremely close friends with people who have polar opposite opinions that I do.

If you are sitting there, reading this, and thinking about how someone else you know should be doing these things- you’re probably the one who needs to do it. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Look inward and fix yourself, first. Then look outward and make a point of bettering the conversation.

 

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