Yesterday the advent calendar activity was “Special hot chocolate date with Mom or Dad.”
Ryan took the baby and ran an errand, and the toddler and I cozied up in Starbucks and shared a hot chocolate. His first real one.
It was magical, just like I had hoped it would be.
We started out across from each other, me asking questions and him answering. Then he moved into my lap and talked freely. He told me he loves Christmas and that his favorite thing has been the Christmas Jeeps at the light parade… and also the firetruck at the parade. And the fireworks. And making presents for his grandparents. And getting a purple train ornament for our tree.
He told me he was sad because he hadn’t heard the Frosty the Snowman song that day.
And then it took a turn.
He started to giggle and tell me something, but I don’t know what, because a woman in line took that moment to interrupt him and ask me how old he was. I politely but firmly replied, “Two and a half,” and then returned my attention to my boy. “My son just turned four,” she said. I smiled but didn’t respond. I was here to bond with my child, some very rare one-on-one time. I turned back to him and she said, “They grow up fast! I know it’s hard some days, but try to enjoy it!”
I nodded my head, no smile, and then ignored whatever she said next. I felt a little rude, but not as rude as I felt giving someone else my attention when my son, the important-to-me person, was talking. It’s true. He is growing up fast. That’s why I wanted to savor that moment.
He won’t remember that woman, or any other random person we come across someday. But he will remember if he spent his life feeling unimportant because I gave the time of day to any person who asked for it.
We talked for another precious minute or two, then an older gentleman came over and sat at our table.
“What a little towhead!” he said.
I smiled uncomfortably and turned back to my child.
“Hi, buddy!” the man shouted. My boy bristled and turned his face into my neck. He has never liked this kind of loud attention.
“Oh you’re a mama’s boy, eh? That’s good! Your mom loves you very much. I’m sure your dad does too. He have a dad?”
I nodded my head, yes, without making eye contact. I couldn’t help but feel a little offended, and admittedly a little angry. Go away, I wanted to say. Can’t you see we’re busy? Can’t you see he doesn’t want to talk to you? Haven’t you ever heard of Stranger Danger?
He told me about his grandchildren and then, thank God, his order was called.
I apologized to my son and asked him what else he wanted to do that day. He answered exactly as could be expected on a day Daddy is home from work. “Pizza movie night!” We talked about movie ideas and then I got him a straw since he had been struggling with his paper coffee cup’s lid.
“Oh yay!” he exclaimed after the straw proved sufficient. “That’s better!”
“Are you drinking coffee?!” a woman at the next table over practically shouted. “Yummy yummy!”
And that’s when Ryan showed up to pick us up. Baby ready to nurse. Date over.
It was a beautiful moment, a memory I’ll always cherish. And it was one of the most frustrating, upsetting mornings of my life.
This is not a rare thing. It’s a brave, bold statement but I feel confident enough to say that I/we are accosted 99% of the time we leave the house.
“What blondies!” “Look at those towheads!” “Where do they get all that blonde hair?!” “Well, aren’t you just the cutest thing?!” “My neice/nephew/son/daughter/grandson/granddaughter used to have hair that light!” “Are you getting groceries with Mom today!?” “How old are you?!” “How old are they?” “What’s the age difference?” “Boy, you’re busy!” “Boy, you’ve got your hands full!” “Boy, you’ve got some long years up ahead of you!” “Boy, do those kids look like you!”
Most of the time, it’s fine. I smile and maneuver around the crazy person who has chosen to block my cart or stroller to talk to my children like they’re puppies. I smile politely and turn away from the person who interrupts us as I’m reading them a story at the library. Ryan gives the occasional dirty look when we’re interrupted while talking or enjoying family time at a park or restaurant.
But sometimes it gets to be too much. I never want to be a rude person… but am I the rude one if I ask to be left alone sometimes?
Ryan and I say all the time how frustrating it is to watch our children disrespected day in and day out. My son is talking up a storm these days. He’s new to it. Some words are brand new or mispronounced. Some sounds feel funny on his tongue and don’t roll out the way they do for those of us who are practiced veterans. But he’s trying. So when he talks, we listen. Sometimes we have to say “What did you say?” and “I’m so sorry but I just don’t understand. Can you show me?” But we listen every time any ways.
I can’t stand to watch someone walk up and interrupt him, to talk to him with a ridiculous baby voice and then turn to us and ask another version of the same question as he answers.
It’s very sad, the way people tend to act when small children are involved. Each person thinks they are the first person to notice their blonde hair or the first to wonder what their age difference is. Each person thinks now is the perfect time to ask me a question or to tell them they are cute, that whatever question or statement they have must be spoken aloud now. What they don’t stop to think about is the fact that we are having a conversation and they are teaching my son not to respect that. They don’t notice that I’m correcting him for hitting/yelling at/being generally mean to his baby sister. They don’t notice that I’m diffusing a tantrum over the cookies that didn’t make it into the cart, that he’s sharing a piece of his heart with me and nothing in the world is more important to me at that moment.
This time next year we will do an advent calendar again. I hope to do it every year my children enjoy it, and probably even a few years past that point. This time next year I will again plan a special one-on-one date with my son, and with the daughter who will be almost two at that point. Probably we’ll be interrupted just as much next year. I won’t be pregnant and I won’t be so sensitive, but somehow I doubt the interruptions will bother me any less. Maybe this time next year I’ll be a little more experienced and have a foolproof method for brushing off unwanted attention. Maybe we’ll blend into crowds a little better. Maybe I’ll somehow, after all these years, grow another layer or two of skin. But this year, I just want to hang out with my kids. Is that so much to ask?