An open letter on behalf of my two year old

This is an open letter. A letter to restaurants that say they are child friendly — until children start acting like children. To the people that don’t have children — and think they come with an off switch (hint: they don’t). To the the people who have grown up children — and have completely forgotten what toddlerhood looks like.

This is an open letter to let you know about two year olds. Average, gorgeous, busy, squishable, frustrating, lovable, wonderful two year olds. It’s about my two year old.

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He loves to “read”. He’ll sit for minutes on end (that’s a lot for a toddler) with a book in his lap, telling himself fragments of a story. He idolises his older brother. He tries to join the games he plays even though they are way too old for him. He will grab both my cheeks and squish them together before leaning in for a kiss. When I say “I love you”, he says “lub you too Mumma.”  He has the most amazing blue eyes and the softest, almost-white curls. When he sleeps, he makes a funny little snuffling sound. I can’t put sunscreen on him without him running around and making it into a chasey game. He says funny little things like “I quite like that,” and “Oh deary gosh”. He always wants to share with his friends. He has a big smile that lights up his eyes and my world.

He likes routine. When something deviates from the routine he is used to, he can get upset. He doesn’t have access to all the words he needs to let me know how he feels. That gets frustrating. Sometimes he resorts to throwing himself on the floor and screaming because of that frustration. Sometimes there are too many emotions for a little body and mind to handle. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes he will get an idea in his head and not let it go. There is a certain dogged belligerence that only toddlers possess.

There are times when I try to reason with him. Which is unreasonable. He doesn’t posses the capacity to listen to measured argument. There are times I try to discipline him into stopping the tears. Getting angry at an upset child does very little to calm them. There are times I ignore him, hoping that he will settle himself, and it looks like I am being a poor parent. There are times when I try to hug it out with him. Sometimes he will tolerate that and sometimes he won’t. Most of the time, he just needs time. He just needs to feel listened to.

When my child loses it, because he isn’t getting what he wanted in that moment, he is not being a spoiled brat. He is not being an undisciplined monster. He is certainly not deliberately setting out to ruin your day. He is being two. 

When a child starts a tantrum in a shopping centre or a cafe, believe me, the parent accompanying that child just wants the ground to swallow them whole. They are taking no pleasure out of their darling child transformed into a screaming banshee. They are wishing for the off-switch that you are glaring at them to locate.

When a parent stands up to a screaming toddler’s demands and doesn’t give in, even when they are making an embarrassing amount of noise, they deserve a standing ovation, not scorn.

When a parent gives in to a screaming toddler’s demands in order to achieve some peace of quiet for all, they have partially done that for you and they don’t deserve your judgement.

When you operate a child-friendly restaurant in a shopping centre that deliberately targets young mothers and values the mummy dollar, you don’t get to turf kids out for being kids.

You don’t get it to have it both ways. We live in a world that has children in it. Sometimes children don’t behave the way we want them to. Not because they are undisciplined or badly behaved or poorly brought up. But because they are children.

But you are not a child. You are an adult. With access to empathy. Please use it next time you encounter a screaming child who is certainly not doing it to ruin your day.

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Ever had this happen to you?

Linking up with Essentially Jess and IBOT

44 thoughts on “An open letter on behalf of my two year old

  1. Nicole @ The Builder's Wife says:

    This is great! I have to admit, now that my children are older, I do forget this at times, however it only takes a quick look a mum to remind me of how trying these times could be. Kids are kids at all ages, and a little tolerance and patience from us all would make parents lives, so much easier.
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  2. Vanessa says:

    To me, even with no kids, it is blindingly obvious when a parent is letting a kid settle themselves vs being a poor parent.

    A parent may be “letting” the kid have a tantrum but to me it’s very clear they are still observing them and paying attention to them.

    Is it not normal to be able to tell when a parent cares vs when they don’t?
    Vanessa recently posted…What Is Pretty?My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I think the people who get upset aren’t really doing it because they are concerned about the parenting — they are doing it because their life is inconvenienced for five seconds.

  3. Tracy says:

    As the mother of now adults and mid-teens I remember those days, still very clearly. So when I see a toddler being….a toddler, I am just grateful that I have passed through that season to the other side. Because it’s HARD!!! Mums of littles need all the encouragement they can get for putting in the hard yards that will reap good-children rewards.

    I have received encouragement, from time to time, in a supermarket with three littles who started with the “Mum, I want a … “. Because I tend towards being blunt my response was “I didn’t bring you here to give you everything you demand, you’ll get food everyday this week. Aren’t you lucky.” Some other parent walking the other way said to her child “See, I’m not the only one”.

    Solidarity Mummies!
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  4. Tegan says:

    Children screaming makes me feel overwhelmed mentally, but I would never say anything to a parent who is most likely already feeling like the worst parent in the world. When Mr 6 was 4 he had a tantrum that lasted 45 minutes. He just screamed and screamed. Nothing I did or said made a difference so I made sure he was safe and let him go, all the while hoping that the ground would swallow me up. Someone came and said something to me. You know what, it made the situation 100 times worse because now not only was Mr 6 mid tantrum, but he was also scared of the person yelling at his Mum. That experience was really exhausting mentally.
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    • Robyna says:

      It floors me that anyone would think judgement in that situation would be in anyway helpful. A sympathetic look and an offer of help, outside of the tantrum (e.g. can I help with your bags etc.), is all that is needed in that situation.

  5. Nadia says:

    You know, it’s rarely toddlers I have issues with in restaurants, if at all… It’s when they are around twelve and still behaving like two year olds and they’re parents are either absent (because apparently it’s ok for children to run amok so long as you can’t see them) or don’t care. I feel awful for parents when their little children are just being little children and people who either haven’t had children, or seem to have forgotten what little children are like, give them dirty looks. I have gone over to people (when I can see their uncomfortable looks) and said to them, “That was my child 10 minutes ago, don’t feel bad. Can I help in any way?” It’s awful when little ones get all wound up and there isn’t anything that you can do that will calm them down. Like you say – time. They need time.

    • Robyna says:

      It’s so lovely when we support each other as mums like that. There are some parents who seem to have very short memories. I would never take my two year old into a fancy restaurant because I can’t guarantee his behaviour and the comfort of other people. But if I’m grabbing a coffee in a busy suburban shopping centre – then I expect some understanding.

  6. Sarah @ Sarahs heart writes says:

    This is a bit of a tough one for me. As a parent of a child on the spectrum I encountered my fair share of looks and comments during the (what seemed like) endless melt downs during his childhood (especially toddlerhood). As I near 50, however, and my children are grown, I do find my own tolerance for screaming children in restaurants waning. Perhaps this is because those quiet times in a coffee shop or restaurant have been few and far between and feel like they have been hard earned. Having said that I haven’t lost my empathy. If there is a mum struggling with a screaming baby, I remember with compassion what’s it’s like and if I find it too much I will choose to leave (without fanfare or tutting). Often I don’t but sometimes, if quiet is what I need I simply move to where I need to be. Thanks for the reminder Robyna, that being 2 is tough sometimes.

    • Robyna says:

      I totally get the desire for a nice quiet cuppa. And in a different kind of place, I wouldn’t have even take him in. But this was in a shopping centre filled with kids on a day that the shopping centre specifically designates as “Mummy Monday”. I think the leaving approach is a much kinder one and those empathetic little looks mean the world to mums with little kids. I am quite looking forward to the days of cuppas sans children 🙂

  7. Toni @ Finding Myself Young says:

    I have written two posts like this incidentally. One was about being judged in a restaurant and one was an open letter to the other mothers who saw my daughter throwing a huge fit at a shopping centre. People really need to stop judging each other, especially when they’re only seeing a minute snippet of someone else’s day.

    • Robyna says:

      It really is such a tiny part of who they are – it IS unfair to judge them (and accompanying guardian) on that one difficult moment. Glad to know I’m not the only one who has felt the need to post about this. I tried to find the posts on your blog but the search alluded me. Feel free to post them in a comment – I’m all for sharing discussions!

    • Robyna says:

      Escape routes! Love it. And yeah, it’s not like you’re in an expensive restaurant and disturbing the peace, a shopping centre is a perfectly reasonable place to have a child. And sometimes children act like, well, children.

  8. Melinda says:

    Can’t stand the glare and eye rolls when children emit more than 1 decibel of noise when ‘out and about’- and a lot of the times from people who should know better, like other parents and grandparents. Sometimes you can have every strategy under the pre-school yard sun but nothing is going to stop your kid screaming for that blue car they saw for $99 in Big W!

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