Teaching Oliver to walk in public is the same thing as learning to discipline for me. It's very, very hard for me to be assertive in public, and I'd rather just do what's easiest. Does he want up? Fine. Does he want to use the potty just so he can wash his hands? Fine. Whatever, it doesn't matter.
That attitude has worked until now. Over the past few weeks, taking Oliver out in public has been a nightmare. I am miserable the entire time and just want to get home where things are normal. In public places, he wants to go to the bathroom over and over and over and over. When I finally tell him no, he starts to cry and then asks for, "Up." After I pick him up and set him down, he tries to run to the bathroom again. If I try to be firm and tell him no, it leads to tantrums. He starts crawling (of all the bizarre things to do), and it's very challenging for me.
As I stated in my blog yesterday, Andrew and I want to work on teaching Oliver to walk in public. We don't go out much, and we don't walk far (the grocery store is probably the most walking we do with Oliver), so we feel that it's an obtainable goal. At the very least, we don't want to have to carry him everywhere when he's two.
I've had anxiety about trying to discipline Oliver in public. I don't know why. I'm afraid of looking like a bad mom or something. I'm not an assertive person, and I'm not comfortable with, say, letting Oliver cry or putting him in timeout in a public place. I went on a few forums for parents and got some support from other parents with toddlers this age. Armed with information and support, I felt slightly more confident.
Today, I started dinner at 4pm. As soon as I finished chopping all the vegetables I needed, I realized I didn't have coconut milk. We had to go to the store for one item. I decided that one item is the perfect time to teach Oliver to walk. Before we left for the store, I sat Oliver down and I said, "Oliver, we're going to the store! We're going to the store, and you're going to walk. We just need to buy one item, and then we'll go home."
When we got to the store, I repeated the same message to him. I carried him through the parking lot and set him down inside. I was happily surprised when he took my hand and started walking. We made it about twenty feet when he stopped and looked up at me and said, "Up."
I said, "No, we're going to walk." Oliver sat down on the floor, and I felt certain there was going to be a tantrum. He asked me to pick him up again, and I said, "Remember, Oliver, we're here to get one item, and you're going to walk." And, so, he started crawling. It was 4pm, and the store was fairly busy. Still, I was glad he was moving on his own and not insisting that I carry him. So, I followed him for a bit as he crawled. I tried to stand him up once, but he tucked his knees up and wouldn't. So, I let him crawl all the way to the aisle we needed. When we were almost there, an older man (about sixty) stopped to let me know that this probably wasn't the best place to let him crawl around. On the one hand, I knew where he was coming from. On the other hand, where *is* the best place for me to be firm about not picking up my son in public? Should it be a restaurant? Where? At some point, at some place, parents have to teach their kids to behave.
Once Oliver and I got to the aisle we needed, I had an idea. I reached into my purse and gave him the Safeway card. He loves the Safeway card, and I thought holding it might motivate him to walk. It worked. At the end of the aisle, he thought about crawling. I said to him, "Look, Oliver! There's the checkout! Do you want to scan the card in all by yourself?" He got very excited and took my hand and walked all the way to the checkout.
There were only two lanes open. One was express, and one was regular. The regular lane was very long. Usually, I go through the regular lane anyway because things can just take longer with kids. This time, though, I didn't want to press my luck and make Oliver stand for a long time waiting. We had one item, so I decided to go to express.
There was only one couple ahead of us. They were about 60ish in age. The man could have been the same man I ran into earlier, but I'm not sure. I was really focused on Oliver, so I didn't pay attention. Anyway, this couple took a very long time to check out. They stood there, browsing the candy for a while and each chose an item. They got up there, and they didn't have a Safeway card. Long story short, it took about five minutes. Oliver was eager to scan in his Safeway card, but he was very, very patient. He looked at the candy a bit (he doesn't know what they are), and I told him it was looking and not for touching. He listened and didn't touch. He stayed right by me and was so, so good. In my proud mama brain, I thought, "I bet the people behind me are impressed with how well-behaved my son is being." As it turns out, that must not have been the case.
The couple finally got through the line, and then the register lady decided to take her time setting up her desk area, prepping her register tape for the next few changes. Oliver and I go to Safeway all the time, and this lady is always slow. By this time, there are about five people behind us. It's OK, though. I was a little rude and said to Oliver, "You're being such a good boy and being so patient. You'll be able to scan your card once she scans our item." I think she got the clue because she scanned in the coconut milk. I lifted Oliver up and used his hand to scan the Safeway card in. Then, I scanned in my credit card. Oliver took it. I said to him firmly, "No, Oliver, that's mine," and I took it from him and put it in my purse. I stood up to grab the coconut milk and receipt, and the lady behind me shoved into me to get me out of the way.
I was so offended. Oliver and I probably took all of 30 seconds to check out. The old couple took forever; the register lady took forever. Everyone took forever except us. As I stated already, though, I'm not very assertive. I didn't have the courage to say anything, but tears sprang to my eyes. It's silly, I know, but it was my first time trying to be consistent and strong-willed with Oliver in public. All things considered, he did a very good job. We honestly didn't take a long time at check-out. I wouldn't do that.
I left feeling deflated. We went to the grocery store for one item, and two people treated us poorly. I just wonder how these people think parents are going to teach their children to behave him public if they never have a chance to practice in public. As Oliver's mother, I felt proud. I'd stood my ground, and Oliver got through an entire trip to the grocery store without being carried and without sitting in a cart. We did it without tantrums, too. As an adult in this world, I felt humiliated and ashamed. People clearly gave us the message that we were in the way and unwelcome. I wonder, then, if they want me to just keep my child in a cart or stroller everywhere I go. Better to keep him out of the way than teach him how to behave? If so, they'd better not be the same people who scoff at parents who do this. In the end, I really do have two choices. I can teach my son how to behave in public. It will require him practicing and messing up sometimes. He might step in front of people or slow us down. Or, I can just keep him out of everyone's way, and when he's seven, he still won't know how to behave in public.