The Perils of Public Parenting

A friend of mine I haven’t seen in a while wanted to get together at Applebee’s. We were celebrating her pregnancy. Sweet Pea came along for the ride.

Like any good 21st century mother, I brought along pumped breast milk and homemade organic food in sealed containers. I had separate Ziploc bags for her clean and dirty eating utensils/receptacles. I brought a washable cover for the public high chair and two different toys on little links–I could link toys to the high chair! They’d never touch the ground! It would be epic and germ-free!

Sweet Pea, of course, was having none of it. She detached her toys and threw them to the floor within 5 seconds. She then grabbed one of the menus and started gnawing on it. And honestly? I didn’t care. I was thinking, “I really want to visit with my friend. This is making you happy. You will probably live through whatever germs you might pick up. In fact, picking up germs might be good for you. I am not raising you in a hermetically sealed bubble so that you can grow up to be that perpetually snot-nosed kid in kindergarten.”

Best, least selfish parenting decision I’ve ever made? Absolutely not. There was definitely some justification of laziness going on.

But even when I’m on eagle-eyed surveillance, Sweet Pea somehow manages to sneak my keys in her mouth (or, my favorite, chew the bottom of my high heel. Nasty!) I have to believe she can handle germs–even, in the occasional case, a generous helping of germs.

So I let it ride… until one of the hostesses barreled across the room, took the menu from my baby, and chastised, “You can’t let your daughter have this! It’s filthy! I’ll go get you some crackers.” I thanked her, demurred on the crackers, and felt a little spike of rage.

I mean, really. It’s not like I was dipping my child in a vat of ebola virus.

So now I’m feeling annoyed that (a) a total stranger felt it within her rights to interfere with my parenting decisions (b) this same total stranger probably thinks I’m a terrible mother (c) my brief interaction with the total stranger has me wondering if I’m a terrible mother and finally (d) that I lack the emotional balance and self-confidence to just write this off. (Three minutes of some random lady’s work day just became a whole night of agonizing for me.)

And speaking of agonizing… (e) what if my kid does manage to get ebola from gnawing on the Applebee’s menu?

There are days when motherhood really sucks. This is one of them.

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2 thoughts on “The Perils of Public Parenting

  1. Ah, motherhood. The hardest job you’ll ever have, and no one understands except other mothers of small children (Mothers of older children have already forgotten what it’s like.). I remember at first I was so paranoid about germs. When J tossed her binky on the ground I wouldn’t let her have it back until I washed it with soap and water. Not even a wet wipe was good enough! Now I’m like, you want to eat that cracker you found in the couch cushions? Go ahead. I’ve realized how incredibly, crazy hard I was on mothers until I became one myself. For all those times I judged before, I’m sorry. For all those people judging me now, chill the F out. If your kid is growing and happy, you’re doing a GREAT job. Keep up the good work!

  2. Ahhh… public scorn. Nothing quite like it, is there? Judgy McJudgerson clearly has not attempted public communication with a tiny person in tow. Things are grabbed and chewed on. Food is tossed. Shrieks will be heard. One can either spend the entire time fussing over said tiny person- thereby nullifying the attempt at public communication with another adult- or, one can allow a few harmless things (like gnawing on a menu) to occur so that EVERYONE in the restaurant can enjoy their meal. Sweet Pea will be fine and her immune system will be the better for it. Promise. Judgy is wrong. Neener.

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