Monday 10 December 2012

Parenting Lessons: Learning Follow Through

Getting Mac's picture taken with Santa has been strangely important to my wife. The idea of keeping a busy toddler still in a long line in order to ultimately sit on a stranger's knee while an overly high-energy elf excitedly rings a bell in his face was less than appealing to me. But marriage is all about compromise so we headed to the crowded mall on Sunday. The line was long. And when we finally got to what we thought was the end we realized that it snaked around the corner and was actually much longer.

I ask the woman at the end if it was moving quickly and she winces while shaking her head. We get in line anyway. The woman in front of me has one child, around five years old, sitting on the floor playing with her shoe. Ahead of her is another woman with four children, two boys and two girls, in matching reindeer sweaters. The girls stand like statues by their mom's side. The boys sit on the ground banging their shoes against the linoleum trying to make as much noise as possible. I'm grateful that I brought our Onya Carrier instead of a stroller. Mac is content to people watch from the warm vantage point against my chest. I rock and bounce like I did endlessly when he was a newborn. What once seemed slightly tedious is now bathed in nostalgia and melts my heart.

He is loving the hip carry lately

We have barely moved up six inches when the mother with the four children two spots ahead of us in line starts yelling. She's a well-practiced yeller. She yells when talking at a normal range would suffice.

Aiden don't put your fingers on the floor. It's dirty! 
James don't sit on that banister!
Aiden keep your sweater on or you will mess up your hair! 
Amelia help your brother with his laces!
James get off that banister RIGHT NOW!
That's it we're not stopping at Tim Horton's for donuts! 

As the line inches forward this collection of orders barked at the children continues. On repeat. The woman directly ahead of me and I exchange a few looks. We're judging her parenting and I feel a bit guilty about it. What do I know about having four children? And even if I did know what it was like to have four children I know absolutely nothing about what her day has been like, what her life has been like. I don't know what it feels like to bring four children to the mall all by myself. I don't know any of it. So I try soften my feelings of irritation. She doesn't make it easy though as her voice raises with each reprimand.

Aiden don't touch the bottom of your boot. Why would you touch the bottom of your boot? Don't you have any common sense?
James I'm not going to ask you again. Get off that banister. 
Amelia fix your skirt. You have to learn to sit like a lady. 
James get off that banister. 
That's it we're not stopping at Tim Horton's for donuts! 

In the hour and a half we waited in line these children lost their post-Santa donut snack no less than twenty seven times. At some point her children called her bluff.

The line finally came to an end and she got her picture with four matching reindeer sweatered children surrounding Santa. And then the children skipped off knowing that donuts were next on the schedule.

I smiled as she left and gave her a silent thank-you in my head. Not for yelling non-stop and giving me a headache. Not for creating a pretty serious craving for donuts in my belly. But for teaching me a lesson about parenting. The importance of follow through. For the rest of the day I thought very carefully before uttering the word NO to Mac. Was this something I was going to change my mind about? Was it a serious no? Or an I don't really feel like it right now but if you beg enough or ask later when I'm feeling less tired I'll say yes kinda no? If it was the latter I said yes.

Parenting is hard. And amazing and rewarding beyond belief. And sometimes we meet our teachers in the most unlikely of spots.

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