My husband and I were out to dinner. It was just the two of us. We hadn’t had our little one yet. We sat there and talked about whatever it was we used to talk about before our conversations were consumed by baby. A few tables over a couple sat with their child. He had to be around a year old and he was consumed by the iPad sitting in front of him, watching some colorful video and chewing on his hand. The couple seemed oblivious to him and I frowned. “We will never be THOSE parents”, I said.
We’re walking through Walmart. We’re standing in the cereal aisle and I’m trying to decide between Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles. A woman rounds the corner, struggling with her cart while she tries to entertain the baby in the seat while the toddler hugs her leg. The toddler spots the Lucky Charms box and immediately reaches out for it. The mom tells him no and the toddler doesn’t like that. He starts screaming and crying. He sits down on the ground and refuses to move. The mother pleads with him, cajoles him, and tries to pick him up. “Why doesn’t she just take him home?”, I whisper. “We will never be THOSE parents”, my husband replies.
We were four weeks in when we became THOSE parents. It didn’t take very long. We had ventured out to Babies R’ Us to grab a few things and everything had went smoothly. But I pushed my luck. I just wanted to run into Old Navy really quick. It was right next door and I wanted to get some new jeans. (New jeans at 4 weeks postpartum?! What was I thinking?) We head into Old Navy and I find a few pairs to try on. I head into the fitting room and I hear it. I’m mid-change, one leg in and one leg out, when I hear the cries. My baby is screaming. I haven’t heard him scream like that. I hurry up and change and head out to find my husband. He’s frantically pacing, holding our son. “He’s had a blowout. He needs changed,” he says and hands him to me. I head into the bathroom and change him but by now, he’s past his breaking point. He won’t stop screaming but I need to check out. I bounce him and bounce him and bounce him. I see people staring and realize we have become THOSE parents.
Our “no technology” rule lasted a few months. We were strong right out of the gate. We weren’t going to be THOSE parents. We weren’t going to plop our baby down in front of a screen. Colorful cartoon shows were not going to babysit our son. These were all great aspirations. Aspirations that didn’t last long. He was upset. It had been a long day of tears and they wouldn’t stop coming. He wasn’t hungry, he didn’t need sleep, and his diaper was clean. We tried blocks, we tried books, we tried all the toys. Nothing worked. But the TV – the TV fascinated him. The flashing images, colorful pictures, and catchy tunes were sometimes the only thing that could calm him down. And that’s when we became THOSE parents. The TV was my saving grace. That beautiful box provided the only break I could get. But we play educational shows if that makes it any better!
I laugh looking back at those pre-baby days. The ideas we had for how we would parent, the things we would and wouldn’t do, they were laughable. We were so naive. We had no idea. Parenting is hard. Sometimes you need that iPad so you can finally have a semi-date with your husband that you haven’t felt connected to in months. Sometimes you have to let your child scream because you’ve got nothing in the house to eat. Sometimes you do everything you can and they are still unhappy. They are still upset. And that’s not your fault. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
So to the couple sitting two tables down listening to my son throw a fit for the third time this meal, to the woman in the dairy aisle who is staring at my son while he watches Sesame Street, and to the mom in the thick of it all who never wanted to be THAT parent – it is okay. Babies cry, children get upset, and sometimes parents just need a break. And that’s okay. So do what you have to do even if it means you have to be THOSE parents.