Jidge is 3. In private he is a sweet, well spoken, witty, fun and funny little man. His daycare and sunday school teachers love him and he rarely needs disciplined, This is my day to day reality and I love it, sure he is high energy and high needs, but the private parenting of my child is pretty pleasant. He gleefully reminds us when we forget to say a prayer before a meal then leads us in his tiny voice, asks to hold his sister because he loves her, learns quickly and obeys well.
Then we go out in public. Not the routine stuff mind you, he loves the store, library, school, church, playground, etc.
No. I mean with pushy strangers or friends or family. Watching.
My kid HATES to have strangers attention on him. Like literally hates it. It stresses him out, causes him anxiety and anger and frustration. He tries to tell them this with his body language and when that doesn’t work with his words but people can’t resist his adorable little self and they want more…this is when it happens everytime:
“Hi, aren’t you cute?!” to which he responds by letting out an angry sound “AAGGHHHHHHH!” and hiding behind my leg.
“Oh” they say slightly taken aback, but then they come at him again, “Is that your baby sister, are you a good big brother?” This time he wants them to get the picture, “NOOOOOO, Leave me alone!”
Frequently people are bad enough at reading his clear expressions of disinterest in communicating with them that they go in again, “Oh are we grumpy, are we having a bad day?” to which the only reasonable option left in his eyes is wailing. Loud, loud wailing.
This happens all the time, my sweet, loving, typically polite son tries to make his boundaries clear but, because he is small, they are not respected so he turns into this angry, scared, emotional mess.
Where am I in all of this?
Trying to make excuses, trying to explain his behavior, why? I have no idea. If an adult made it clear they didn’t want spoken to or touched we would leave them alone but for some reason we think children should be exempt, they are not allowed these discomforts. They should accept interactions from complete strangers (who we also tell them shouldn’t be trusted by the way), they should take forced hugs from mild acquaintances. Why? and why do I feel the need to apologize and rationalize when other people overstep my son’s boundaries of comfort in their interaction and cause him to have a meltdown? Why do I not stop them?
Because I don’t want to offend them, because my child having a tantrum in public makes me feel like a failure, because I know my son is quirky and he gets it from me so I feel like I am really apologizing for me when I apologize for him.
I don’t want my child to get a complex from hearing me try to reason away these tantrums though, i’m tired of hearing myself say (sorry, he takes a while to warm up, sorry, he doesn’t usually like hugs, sorry, he’s a little scared of strangers, sorry he’s a little shy, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry..)
I am sorry, sorry I keep apologizing. My son is who he is, he is an amazing little person who happens to have a very introverted personality until he feels comfortable and I shouldn’t be allowing people to force themselves upon him by touching or talking to him just because they want to and not giving him a choice in the matter.
So while I am going to continue teaching him polite ways to tell people no I am also going to try and stop apologizing for him because there is nothing wrong with him.