Please Silence Your Child

Posted by mwallach on July 6, 2011 in My Kids, New To You |

Dear That’s Life,

I have played the role of ‘parent on plane with screaming child’ way too many times. Ear infections, temper tantrums, or simply suffering from exhaustion, almost anything can set off one of my children on a crowded flight. On an empty flight they’re great, nary a peep be heard from any of them. But a packed flight with not one extra seat available? All hell breaks loose. I have learned to be incredibly tolerant of families flying with young ones or of the parent whose child has thrown himself on the floor of a department store in the toy department. As my friend would say: been there, done that, have the t-shirt.

One would have expected my son to be absolutely ecstatic when we went to see ‘Cars 2’ considering he had been counting down the days until its release. I am not what it was that set him off, however, but he completely panicked when we got to the theater. He simply would not go in, terrified that it would be too noisy, which he equated with the movie being frightening. On only one other occasion did I take him to a movie, when he was much younger. Our concern then was the numerous times he would need to use the bathroom. Suffice it to say, I cannot even tell you what ‘UP’ was about, but I can tell you how many steps lead up to the women’s bathroom in the Frankin Square Cinema.

It seemed pretty irrational for me to force my son into the movie theater as he continued to panic right outside the double doors. He screamed and he cried and made quite a scene, as people on line for popcorn began to stare. One mother, apparently startled by his tantrum (because I am sure HER kids are perfect) seemed to jump as his wailing reached a pitch only heard by dogs. “He is just SO excited,” I said with a smile, “that he just does not know WHAT to do with himself!” She smiled back, but his vice grip around the pole outside the theater did not corroborate my story. At that moment, I was the crazy mom of a screaming child who was being literally dragged in to a theater to watch an animated flick about talking cars. Even for me, it sounds completely ridiculous.

You have to know your child and I know my son. He is bizarrely rational for a young child. Not even in kindergarten, I am able to speak to him in the same manner I would one of my older children. I knew, therefore, that he would settle down after we had discussed the situation and reviewed the options. We could not go home, I explained, as I had seven other children with me. It took a couple of minutes but he finally agreed to come back in the theater, with the understanding that he could sit on my lap and that I would cover his ears until he adjusted to the sound. With a little further coaxing, he settled in and settled down. In less than ten minutes, sitting in his own seat and enjoying the movie, his hands resting comfortably on his lap. It was all good.

Not every situation can be handled that easily. When my toddler is tired, there is no rationalizing or reasoning to be done. Case in point: on a recent trip to Target, I was really pushing it when I noticed it was her nap time but carried on regardless in search of what was needed. On line to check out, she began to scream and carry-on. Moments away from completing our purchase, her wails increased, as if she was actually being tortured. Nothing I could do about it anyway, I played it cool and bagged my items when I was startled by a voice behind me.

“Could you please get your kid to be quiet?!” bellowed the voice behind me, coming from a woman on another line. Clearly horrified, the woman on line before her froze, afraid of what was going to happen next. Little did she know that the heckler was actually a friend of mine playing a joke. While I did not know she had been in the store, I quickly caught on after I looked up, seeing who it was who had made the snide remark. Never to let an opportunity go by, I had my own retort. “Actually, no I can’t,” I responded loudly, grinning like a cat. “And I’m not even going to try.”

We both smiled and I reassured the previously horrified woman that everything was fine – we knew each other and were just joking around. Suffice it to say, her miraculous transformation from petrified to completely relieved took less than a second. If only I could have made my toddler calm down just as quickly, it would have been a much quieter experience.

Then again, when have I ever been looking for ‘quiet’?

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