Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Overhearing Other Families



Before I became a parent, I didn’t pay any attention to families whatsoever. Unless, I suppose, they had particularly cute children. But generally, no, I would notice them, try and sit  as far away from them as the situation would allow, and continue listening to my headphones, or reading my book, or whatever taken-for-granted completely-unappreciated pre-parenthood luxury I was indulging in at the time.

Since becoming a parent, I can’t help but people watch other families. Perhaps it is because I no longer have the luxury of music playing directly into my ears, or the escape of a good book. More likely it is because my two year old is staring at the family and so I’m sort of forced to pay attention to them. Or, maybe I’m just really nosey.

I actually think overhearing other parents is a useful tool when honing my parenting skills. I sometimes hear people say things, and then realise I have on occasion said something similar, and vow never to speak to my child like that again. In a way, it’s like a fresh perspective. If you’ve had no sleep, and are dealing with a particularly strong-minded toddler, it’s easy to occasionally lapse into the type of parent you don’t want to be, and sometimes witnessing that style through another family, is all I need to reset myself.

When Ebony is people watching (or, as it is more aptly known, staring wide-eyed and open mouthed at strangers, and occasionally shouting “HELLO! HELLOOOO?” at them), I am very aware of how she may be interpreting events. So, as an example, when we see a mother screaming at her child, I am aware of how scary that might be for Ebony. It’s never nice to witness bullying, especially if the perpetrator is twice the size of the victim. When there is a hysterical child being ignored by his parent, I think of how awful that must seem to Ebony (and to the hysterical child, obviously) who is empathetic towards tears.

There are certain times when I wish we were not witnessing events, because I feel so uncomfortable. The mum threatening to hit her child at the park, or the mum making fun of her toddler for wetting himself at playgroup. The parent walking determinedly away from their sobbing one year old, or the grandparent shouting at their already distressed grandchild.

I really don’t want to be a judgemental person, I want to say ‘each to their own’ and ‘whatever works for your family’, but I can’t help wishing that Ebony didn’t witness that sometimes parents hit, or ‘you are a disgusting little boy’ if you wet yourself, or that it’s ok to ignore the suffering of others. I don’t want her to think any of those things, and she really isn’t very easy to distract when there is a new family to stare at.

8 comments:

  1. I never paid much attention to other families either before having my own, and I try not to judge, but sometimes it's so hard - especially when your own children are witnessing the behaviour too.... we've had many conversations after we've seen the way other parents choose to parent their children, I wish my girls didn't have to see those things or know that people treat their children in such ways :(

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    1. I'm glad it's not just me who feels this way. Ebony always looks so sad and confused when a parent is ignoring their crying child, I always end up having to whisper things to her about how it's not very nice... I imagine one day I'll get beaten up...

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  2. I totally get this, in fact I remember having this conversation with you before when I witnessed a mum yelling at her two year old that he was 'boring and weird' for wanting to look at the 'boring fish' and then yelling to her friend 'he's crying AGAIN'. Tom said he once saw a man really bullying his daughter and before he could do anything Wilf walked up to the man and said 'stand back!'. Afterwards he said he felt like wilf was a better person for sticking up for the kid when he did nothing.. but you just can't get involved can you..as much as you would like to in some situations..it's really sad xx

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    1. That is so lovely, WonderWilf! What an awesome little guy :) x

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    2. Go Wilf! One of my sisters used to stick up for kids getting picked on by teachers at school, I was always really proud of her, even when she got into trouble for it.

      I totally agree about not wanting Bagl to witness that kind of behaviour, don't think it's happened yet though. I imagine it would be really upsetting to see at that age. I think I'd tell him it wasn't a nice thing to do as well, yesterday I told him a woman was wrong for trying to tell him off. Grr, other people.

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    3. Who tried to tell Bagl off?! How rude! x

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  3. I hate it when I see adults treating children in a way I just couldn't imagine me treating Daniel. That said though, I know there have been times when I have been less than patient with him. It's hard to remember that he doesn't understand his place in the world, nor how to control his emotions and behaviours yet.

    I think it's important we, as parents, take time to reflect and how we handle situations and if we made the right choices in the heat of the moment, I know I don't always react as I would want to, once I have reflected, but I hope by recognising my weaknesses and errors it makes me a better parent in the long run.

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  4. I hate it when I see adults treating children in a way I just couldn't imagine me treating Daniel. That said though, I know there have been times when I have been less than patient with him. It's hard to remember that he doesn't understand his place in the world, nor how to control his emotions and behaviours yet.

    I think it's important we, as parents, take time to reflect and how we handle situations and if we made the right choices in the heat of the moment, I know I don't always react as I would want to, once I have reflected, but I hope by recognising my weaknesses and errors it makes me a better parent in the long run.

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