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What, your baby doesn’t cry?

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Why do people turn to stare at crying children? And instead of giving the child (or the attending parent) a sympathetic smile and then going about their business, why do people KEEP staring?

Unless you have telekinetic powers that will stop my child from crying, please – I’m saying this as nicely as I know how – mind your own business.

My younger daughter is noisy. She’s always been noisy. If she’s not happy, she lets the whole world know, and she can go from zero to sixty so fast that it still makes my head spin.

When she’s calm and happy, she’s darling to behold (if I may say so myself). But she can turn on a dime.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re at home or in public, whether she has an audience of one or a thousand. Last week, she howled like a banshee for twenty solid minutes at the local recreation center because she couldn’t get into the pool. On Saturday morning, she did the same at home because her father went out without her. It’s not attention that she wants – it’s just her way or the highway.

And as much as I hate to cause a scene in public or listen to her scream in the privacy of my own home, I can’t let her run the show. Sometimes a little noise is the price we all pay for kids learning that they aren’t in charge.

“Sure,” you scoff. “But if you were a better parent, she wouldn’t behave this way.”

Sorry, I don’t buy that. And neither will most parents who have more than one child.

Children, even siblings, behave differently even when they are parented in the same way. They’re individuals, not clones. My older daughter was a model toddler. We could take her anywhere, ask her to do anything, and she was agreeable and full of smiles. Her little sister has been another story entirely.

(As a side note, I worked full-time outside the home from the time my older daughter was eight weeks old, and I stayed at home for the first year with my younger one. Runs contrary to what you’d expect, doesn’t it?)

I believe that a large part of the difference between my two girls is their grasp of language. My older one spoke very early and was always intelligible. My younger one has been in speech therapy for six weeks and probably should have started six months ago instead. Even over the short period during which she’s been in therapy, we’ve noticed a difference in her demeanor as she learns to make herself understood in ways other than crying.

But she has always cried a lot, even long before we could have possibly expected her to verbalize. It’s been difficult to tolerate, believe me. As parents, our patience wears thin too.

I know she’s loud. I know she’s a distraction. I’m doing my best to calm her down, and to keep myself calm too.

And you can help by leaving us alone.


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  • comment avatar Angela Klocke September 19, 2007

    I remember a few years ago sitting at the school for an award ceremony…and a baby shrieked suddenly. Almost every head in the place turned to look. I did not.

    However, I DID say a little thank you that it was no longer me in that position! Tee hee! For years, I was the one with the babies or toddlers that spoke out and then I got stared at. Don’t miss it much…

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson September 19, 2007

    Ahhh, I could write novels on this. One of my best friends has a delightful yet whiny child who constantly throws fits in public. Her mistake is she gives into it every time and so he knows he can get away with it every time.

    Me? I’m in your camp. My kids are really good in public the majority of the time because they know I hold my ground. They may startt fussing but shut up quickly when I don’t give them a reaction. And I simply grin and shrug whenever any disapproving folks look my way!

  • comment avatar Scott September 19, 2007

    One thing I’ve learned as a dad is, don’t criticize what you haven’t experienced.

    That said, it sounds like you are pretty sensitive to this. People look (and some stare) because your child is loud and probably disturbing them. It is why people look and stare at a car alarm that has gone off. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

    Our kids haven’t had many screaming episodes in public, but when they have, the last thing I ever noticed was whether anyone was looking at me. My focus was on addressing the screaming in a way that could make the next time better (or reduce the possibility of a next time). I’djust relax and let other people do what they feel they need to. Those people don’t matter.

  • comment avatar Mary September 19, 2007

    I was at Costco the other day and my daughter was having a hard time staying nearby so I kept having to retrieve her and ended up trying to get her into the cart, which escalated into a tantrum on her part, and time out. The entire time this was going on, from start to finish, which involved walking up and down 2 aisles, there was a woman walking right along staring at us. Seriously, just staring and watching and it was creeping me out and making me so grumpy. And then I thought, well, maybe she is a middle-aged woman who never had kids and is just observing. But a few minutes later, when we finally shook her off, we came around the corner and I saw her with her 5 or 6 year old and husband.

    What’s with the staring!?

  • comment avatar Lizzy September 19, 2007

    I often wish I were brave enough to look at those staring people, hold up my screaming baby and say, “Excuse me, is this yours? No? Oh, sorry, I just figured that with all your staring I must have accidentally taken your baby… My mistake.” Instead I just walk away mumbling to myself which adds to the whole crazy-bad-mom image, I’m sure.

  • comment avatar Julie September 19, 2007

    Scott, I think you have the advantage of being a dad. My husband never notices whether other people are noticing us, and I’ve always thought I could take a lesson from him in that regard.

    We moms can behave pretty unreasonably toward each other, which is pretty sad. Sometimes we ought to behave more like dads!

  • comment avatar Aimee September 19, 2007

    Yeah, we all feel the spotlight in public, don’t we? It’s pretty tough to bear sometimes!

  • comment avatar Mitch McDad September 19, 2007

    Just d what I do when Lilly freaks out in public; I freak out, too. It’s a wonderful solution for everyone.

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 20, 2007

    Wow. You would seriously expect a sympathetic smile to be cast your way after you’ve let your child “howl like a banshee” for twenty solid minutes in a public place? I’m sorry, but allowing a display like that to go on for that long without your intervention is well into public nuisance territory. Not only is it your responsibility to let them know that they can’t always have their way, it’s also your responsibility to teach them that it’s not okay to act that way in public (and you can decide if it’s okay to act that way at home or not, and teach them that, too).

    You’re right. Children aren’t all alike, and do respond differently to the exact same parenting methods. That’s why you’re not supposed to *use* the exact same parenting methods – you adjust them however you need to so that you can accomplish the same goal with each of them.

  • comment avatar Julie September 20, 2007

    BadAti2d, you sound like such fun – maybe we can start a playgroup!

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 21, 2007

    Call me after you watch a few episodes of Supernanny.

  • comment avatar Julie September 21, 2007

    Nah, I’m just glad to have given you an opportunity to feel superior.

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 21, 2007

    And I’m glad to have provided you a chance to be snippy.

  • comment avatar Dana September 21, 2007

    Julie, this post is great. I’m thankful that you wrote this. I only have one child, but he’s very vocal when he’s upset. I used to think he was just prone to tantrums more than other kids, but I realize he’s trying to tell me how he feels. I’ve learned to get down on his level and talk to him but sometimes that doesn’t work.

    At the grocery story last week, he wanted bubble gum. I said no and had a little struggle putting the gum back and he’d grab it again. Finally I picked him up (after I paid my bill of course), kicking and screaming, while the bagger brought my groceries out to the car for me. I tried to stay calm but this one woman was staring at me and said, “Someone shouldn’t bring naught children to the store during nap time.”

    I didn’t know what to do! I should have said, “Mind your own business…” but I focused on staying calm instead!

  • comment avatar Angela Klocke September 21, 2007

    If I win Beauty Queen today, I will immediately implement World Peace Among All Mothers… 😀

  • comment avatar Mom101 September 21, 2007

    I can’t wait until Bad Ati2d has children so that we can have a few more perfect ones in the world.

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 21, 2007

    Why would you assume that a critical reply of differing opinion would come from someone without children?

    I have 14 year old fraternal twins – one boy, one girl. My son was born with a genetic disorder that, despite all the tests doctors have run, has never actually been given a name. His issues resemble a super-mild form of ataxic cerebral palsy, including problems with his speech, difficulties with learning, and epilepsy. His sister – much to her chagrin – is genetically average.

    My opinion isn’t without basis or experience. I’ve had my own long-term study underway for quite awhile now.

  • comment avatar Mom101 September 21, 2007

    Bad Ati2d: A reasonable critical reply of differing opinion (sounds so adult! So, so…unemotional!) would be something like “I’d like to disagree here. I tend to reserve my sympathies for parents trying and yet failing to calm their children. And it sounds like you didn’t try at all if I’m not mistaken.”

    Even better ,you could offer some advice: “having dealt with a similar situation myself, I know how hard it is and how embarrassed you must be when she gets so emotional. What I learned to do was…”

    Instead your comment was really just a snotty-ass little bit of finger pointing: “That’s why you’re not supposed to *use* the exact same parenting methods, asswipe.”

    Okay, you didn’t say asswipe. But it was implied.

    I’d call this an outstanding impression, however unintentional, of a sanctimonious know-it-all with no children. See also: Scott’s comment.

    I’m actually more sorry to learn that I got it wrong.

  • comment avatar Horoscopically Blonde September 21, 2007

    I don’t have a problem with kids crying so long as it’s not my child.

    If it’s yours, enjoy!

    I’m the one smiling knowingly and going on my merry way because the only tears I get are from my teen because I won’t give him fiddy bucks.

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 21, 2007

    Don’t be too sorry. I’m certain that – being the arbiter of reasonable replies that you are, and expecting that positive reinforcement and saccharin-covered fluff are the only types of comments that a parent could possibly have in response to stories of parenting children – you’re wrong quite frequently.

  • comment avatar Mom101 September 21, 2007

    And all too happy to admit it.

    Take a lesson.

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 21, 2007

    Just as soon as there’s one worth taking.

  • comment avatar Catherine September 22, 2007

    BadAti2d – good for you for standing your ground.

    Already I fear that this space will go the way of others and be moderated beyond belief, and have comments locked because someone offered a differing position and folks got themselves in a fit.

    If you don’t have a thick skin, then public writing may not be your thing. It’s not just trolls that have differing opinions. It’s also people with real, reasonable, thoughtful things to say – they just happen to disagree.

    And why do I stare? Because I’m interested to see what you’re going to do. Maybe you have a technique for quelling the storm that I haven’t yet tried.

  • comment avatar Julie September 22, 2007

    Oh please.

    None of BadAti2d’s comments have been deleted. I stopped engaging with her because she was hell-bent on having the last word – as you can see from her exchange from Mom101 as well.

    As for public writing, I’ve been doing it for over two years. Conflict doesn’t bother me. I happen to prefer productive discussion, and it was obvious from BadAti2d’s first comment that she wasn’t interested in that.

    Dissenters welcomed, but be prepared to defend your standpoint beyond smart remarks, just as Mom101 and I have defended ours.

  • comment avatar Horoscopically Blonde September 22, 2007

    Don’t make me pull this blog over.

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 22, 2007

    “BadAti2d, you sound like such fun – maybe we can start a playgroup!”

    In what alternate universe is that a defense of your standpoint? You should revisit your thoughts on why your daughter has the tendency to go from “zero to sixty” when things don’t go her way, and don’t dismiss heredity as a contributing factor. Her mom has it, too.

    You criticize the general public for not being more tolerant of you allowing your child to throw a twenty minute tantrum, and then pronounce that it’s their responsibility to be more tolerant of it; “Sometimes a little noise is the price we all pay for kids learning that they aren’t in charge.” Could you be any more pompous in your expectation that your individual right to practice a (in my opinion) flawed parenting method in public outweighs the rights of that public to not have to endure the nuisance?

    Contrary to Mom101’s belief that your post deserved a more-reasoned response, or even an offering of advice – which she failed to notice was never sought by you – I think I gave your post what was deserved. An in-kind reply.

    And, not that it matters… I’m my kids’ dad.

  • comment avatar Mom101 September 23, 2007

    Dude, (may I call you dude, now that I know you’re a dude, even though that was my suspicion from the beginning?)

    The thing about women is, we read between the lines. We discuss. We support. We offer constructive advice, even if none was asked for. There are no winners, and a whole lot more grey area than black and white. Those are the unwritten rules of parenting blogs, particularly those with words like “mom,” “mother,” and “mama” in the titles. Is it saccharine? No. It’s female.

    So now I understand why my suggestions to you were taken as such an insult. We’re playing by our rules and you’re introducing your own.

    I no longer think you’re a sanctimommy, if that’s any consolation. Just a guy who likes getting the last word in.

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 23, 2007

    What a load of crap.

  • comment avatar Mom101 September 23, 2007

    Keep commenting and proving me right.

  • comment avatar BadAti2d September 23, 2007

    It has provided proof. Just not of what you think.

    This is like shooting fish in a barrel.

  • comment avatar pisceshanna September 24, 2007

    I think that all parents would like from each other is some empathy when it comes to situations that are confused about or have a tough time with. Everyone is just trying to parent the best way they know how, right? If your child is not being emotionally, physically or mentally abused, why are we judging each other? Who is right? I guess some people think THIER way is the right way and all other be damned. Maybe with a little more understanding, our kids can grow up in a world where they won’t fear being judged constantly, where they will be willing to show a little empathy themselves.