20 April 2011

Age Appropriate

The first time I took Emmaline out for lunch after she was born, my friend Merielle and I walked a few blocks from our condo to Panera pushing Em in the adorable sky blue bassinet pram that I loved and she hated.

She cried the whole way. Recently nursed, changed, and napped she was noisy but she was safe. She wanted to nurse again, which we did as soon as we got to the restaurant, but she did not need to nurse if the point of nursing is calories and not only comfort. It was, despite the decibel level of my fourteen day old, completely under control. Nevertheless, some batty toothless old woman we passed along the way felt compelled to comment even more loudly than Emmaline was wailing, "Well, someone obviously needs something."

Someone obviously did. Someone obviously needed to be told to shut up. The lady. Not Emmaline.

The reality is that babies cry. You deal with it. When they get older they yell. They do lots of things we'd rather they didn't, but that is all part of the process of learning. Well done to those parents who can endure the chaos of creativity and come out smiling on the other side.

On a flight Daryl, Em, and I were on when she was very young and still in the nurse/sleep cycle that kept her quiet from take off to landing, a woman was traveling alone with her three children. One was in a carseat and babbled adorably the entire ride. The two others, across the aisle from mom and the baby, played games and read stories to each other the whole way. They were noisy, but not unhappy. I was terribly impressed.

But when it came time to disembark there was of course a small delay as mom helped the kids gather all their things and negotiate the narrow aisle. I don't even think there was crying and yet the person in the row behind her, smirking to the others who were waiting, felt compelled to say, "That's why you shouldn't have so many children."

Later, at the baggage carousel, I told the mom how beautiful her children were and she promptly burst into tears.

So today, at lunch with Emmaline, she was completely out of control. We went out in hopes of scoring the discount kids meals Friendly's has on Wednesdays only to quickly be reminded by the gaggle of families waiting to be seated that it is school vacation week. So we ended up at our favorite burrito place across the road where Em proceeded to eat several bites of lunch only to then become intent on pitching herself out of her high chair. Luckily, I was with my mom so we took turns eating and wrangling the baby and eating again.

Here's where it's possible we went wrong. Em, you see, really likes that there is a glass entryway of this very informal family joint that she can walk around the corner of and still see back to our usual booth to wave. She's not in any danger of being hurt. I can still see her. No harm, no foul, right? True, she's a little bit underfoot at times when she wanders back to the table, but people generally smile, comment on her overwhelming adorableness, go along their way.

Today it happened that there was another child about Em's size who was at the table between us and Em's usual play corner. He was sitting quietly in his high chair and eating while his parents sat silently beside him, not talking to him, not talking to each other. Granted, he was behaving far better than Emmaline, but he also wasn't saying words like outside, applesauce, milk, glasses, up, walk, sit, or any of the other sundry vocabulary wins Em had during the outing. He wasn't saying anything at all. Even when Em went over to him and waved and said hello, he only smiled wordlessly. His parents didn't look at her or (seconds later) at me when I came to retrieve her and tell Emmaline how good the baby was being by sitting so still. The baby smiled, but said nothing. Even without giving me the look, I still felt it from these parents - the disapproval, the judgement, the condescension.

Well, there are a couple of possible scenarios here, none of which actually makes me feel bad about my own parenting. One, the child is a few months younger than Em, at which point she (too) was willing to sit still at lunch for more than ten minutes because she had not yet gotten really interested in things. If this is the case, hopefully these parents will have an out of control but interactive child on their hands shortly. Good luck to them. Alternately, the child is a few months older than Em, able to understand enough to sit still, and shy and silent around strangers. Fine. Well done. Or, he's the same age as Em. Kids have different temperments, different energy levels. Maybe this couple is just lucky enough to have a kid who will never pitch himself out of his high chair. If so, yippee for them.

But in none of these scenarios is Emmaline (or am I, for that matter) doing anything wrong. She's happy. She's learning. She's safe. When this stops working for us, I'll let you know. In the meantime, let me brag about the more than one hundred and fifty words she says. Yes, I counted. I didn't believe it could be that many, so I made a list. And if you don't understand what she's saying, I suggest you take the time to listen and maybe even talk back once in a while. It does wonders for the vocabulary, even if it sometimes makes them leave their seats.

I have to go now. My brilliant nineteen month old just said mango open please so it must be snack time.

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