We Like Kids, As Long As They Look Like Baby Gap Models

In my fourteen months as a mother, I’ve observed that we, a society, generally don’t expect kids to act like kids.

In other words – we like babies, but only if they look like Baby Gap models.

Ideally, we want our babies to wear pin-able outfits, be immaculately clean, to only say cute things at appropriate items, and always be smiling with dimples. Yes, they must have dimples. We want to cuddle all the babies, but only if they are wearing pristine outlet store layettes, not covered in yogurt, and aren’t too obnoxious: throwing tantrums, slapping their sibling, making a mess.

Proof of the fact that we want kids to behave like mini-adults (only cuter) is by the way parents react to their children acting like children in public places. When a threenager flops on the floor and wails in Aisle 6, her mother feels compelled to ask loud enough for onlookers to hear, “Why are you doing that? Come on! You know better!”

Or when the mom profusely excuses the carrot-colored stains on her son’s clothes. “So sorry, we had lunch just before we came, he’s a little messy.”

We, the society of grown adults, need to accept reality. Kids act like kids.

I have a sneaking suspicion many moms and dads attempt to conjure a sort of parenting mirage for strangers in public. I can’t give you hard facts or figures, but I can give tons of anecdotal evidence. It’s a common occurrence to witness parents disciplining their children in pronounced ways, obvious enough that onlookers won’t think they’ve been lax in their parenting duties.

I’ve heard this phrase “let them be little” repeated a lot in the mommy blogging world lately. It’s a great reminder.

A kid might run around all day in his superhero outfit.

Heck, a kid may run around all day in only his diaper.

Is it really that big of a deal?

One day these tiny humans are going to have to deal with flat tires and bosses and mortgages.

Let them be little.

Don’t freeze up if a child you’re around cries or tantrums or throws food on you or does anything quantifiably un-adorable. Sometimes kids do look like Baby Gap models. And sometimes they just need to get out some good ol’ fashioned, messy, romp in the dirt kid energy.

Let them.

5 Comments

  1. Sarah M on February 28, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    I totally agree. I think as a society we still very much believe in the philosophy “seen and not heard” (and seen meaning seen looking well!). If I hear one more suggestion about handing out snacks (and gift cards! for pete’s sake!) and treats while flying with a toddler, for the people around, there will be steam coming out of my ears.
    Sarah M

  2. Beth Anne on February 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Ok, so one suggestion that helps at our house a lot is me, as Holden’s mom, making sure I give him enough, time, attention, activities, and fun for him to be a kid. When I do this, and we’re laughing, having fun, and connecting each day, then he does such a better job of listening and behaving in other situations.

    I would never expect him to be an angel for an entire day of shopping or hours and hours of doing something that he finds dreadful or boring. He’s 4. A few hours is the cap for doing something that is “not his deal”

    So… I would add to the advice, “let them be kids… and let their parents spend time being kids with them….”

    Sometimes I think these wild and crazy kids that I see out and about, while yes, some of them may have different personalities, I think some of them are just crying out for more attention and connection with their parents and those they love the most. And yes, it’s a vicious cycle because if a child is difficult to be around, then I’m sure it’s hard for those parents to spend that time with them. But it starts with the parents.

    If you have a true baby 0-2 years old, then yeah, everything is fair game! Bring on the drooly, crying, messy reality of babies.

    And thankful that everyone showers love, attention and admiration on Holden in public even though he doesn’t fit the Gap Model mold with his wheelchair. Sometimes he gets treated like a celebrity, and in those moments, I feel like, “Ok, this world isn’t so bad today…..”

  3. Yvonne R. on February 28, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Just in case you haven’t heard this (because it’s been playing in my head from the start of this post): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCuVHi_gwuY

    Also, though I’m not a mother, I’ve spent a lot of time with kids and have vivid memories of childhood frustrations with feeling discredited based on my age. There is a certain point, though different for every child – based on experiences and examples, among other factors such as personality – when children’s intellects ought not to be undervalued. I treat kids like miniature adults because I hated being talked down to when I was a child. I believe children deserve respect, which is another problem that arises from the “parenting mirage” you mention. Consistency is key, though it’s a tough thing to do as imperfect people!

  4. Stefanie on March 10, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    My kids typically look homeless. I like them that way.

    • Victoria Easter Wilson on March 10, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      LOL! Yes!

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