It’s funny how becoming a parent suddenly throws open the door to a whole new world of friendships. It is the world’s greatest ice breaker. You both have something similar to rant about, speak about with pride and laugh about.
I’ve found myself swapping phone numbers and email addresses with women I’ve just met. Something I never would have done when forging friendships before. But when you both have children and live in a similar area it’s great to reach out. Let’s face it, we need all the help we can get!
However, as much as I now approach random people for a chat about how rubbish their night’s sleep was I also often don’t say anything when I wish I had. When I see another parent struggling it can be hard to speak up, to say “I’ve been there”. Sometimes I kick myself for not saying something to a mum I saw having a bad day. My reason is often that I don’t want to make them feel worse by flagging up the fact they’re obviously tearing their hair out today. Now I wonder if I actually could have made them feel a bit better by showing solidarity. So for all those missed opportunities, here’s what I should have said to the other mother.
To the mum at soft play
All parents know going to soft play is like descending into a real world Dante’s Inferno. Your kids alternate between sheer joy and mega tantrums. You struggle to keep track of where they are when you have more than one. You worry about their interactions with other children as they push and shove to be first down the slide. I heard you trying to get your son, who I guess was about five, to calm down as he played boisterously with his siblings. You nearly lost it when he started hurling some of the balls from the ball pit at them.
He then created a little fort out of the large soft bricks to block the slide entrance and you threatened him with leaving. The tantrum started. And escalated. Between you saying “we won’t be coming back if this carries on” and him repeatedly hurling “no” defiantly back at you I felt saying anything would only make you feel worse.
But I can’t help but wish I had said “we’ve all been there”. Because we have. We’ve all struggled with a public meltdown. Wished we hadn’t had to discipline our kids in front of other people. Struggled with what to say to diffuse the situation. Made all sorts of threats about no ice cream etc.
The truth is tantrums are totally unpredictable. Remember it’s easy to think everyone else’s kids are little angels but you’re only seeing them for a brief part of their day. All children can test even the most patient of parents at some point.
To the mum in Costa
There you were trying to have your decaf cappuccino and enjoy a bit of grown-up normality. But your baby had other ideas. She was hungry. I didn’t stare but I could see out the corner of your eye you were struggling to get her to latch on. It can turn into a bit of a wrestling match as you try to find the right position while also trying to keep covered up at the same time.
Between trying to feed the baby and get your muslin in place to keep your modesty I could see you getting frustrated. Your eyes darted round the room as your baby wailed. Your moment of peace shattered. I wish I had made a joke. Said anything to make you know you’re not alone. This breastfeeding business is so tough to get the hang of and doing it in public can be overwhelming.
You should be proud you had got yourself out the house with such a small baby. I wish I told you I hardly left the house for more than 30 minutes when my first was a few weeks old. You are clearly doing a bang up job. Don’t let it put you off trying to grab those precious minutes of grown-up time again.
To the mum at the shops
You were trying so hard to choose something from the selection of gift ideas in front of you. Something that I guess would carry a little meaning for the recipient. Unfortunately your two kids had hit their boredom threshold and were alternating between whinging “when are we going?” and running off to the other side of the store.
You gave a big sigh and threw in the towel. It’s tough to do anything normal with kids. Seemingly ordinary tasks like having a wee in private become impossible. I wish I had joked “they don’t make it easy unless it’s the toy shop, do they?” Anything to show a bit of comradery. We’re all in the trenches together.
To the mum trying to have lunch out
How sweet it was to see you and your other half toasting your new baby as you enjoyed a meal out. I remember my first lunch out with our first. It was my husband’s birthday and we got lucky as she slept the entire time. We weren’t so lucky with our first lunch out with number two, who screamed no matter what we tried to do for her.
I saw you as your baby’s wails cranked up and up. Nothing was settling her as you sat at the table. So finally you and your other half resorted to alternating walking him up and down as the other had a few bites of food.
I’m sure it wasn’t the date you had hoped for. You barely spoke about anything apart from the odd “what’s wrong with him?”
I wanted to say don’t worry. We weren’t bothered by the noise. Our eardrums were shattered long ago by our two. I wish I had said we’ve been there too. That this is a family friendly restaurant, crying is on the menu. I wish I had made you feel a bit less self-conscious. If only newborns came with a mute button.
To the mum on the bouncy pillow
You were having a fab time with your two children jumping around on the giant bouncy pillow at an outdoor play park. My eldest was jumping about with your kids too having a whale of a time. You were helping your youngest, who was clearly quite new to walking, to bounce about with his elder brother.
Then a member of staff came over and told you to stop, that you were “making it too bouncy for the other children”. I saw your face go red and how you hurriedly picked up your youngest to carry him off with you. You tried to help your youngest from the ground but he fell over without your help. That was the end of his bouncy session. I wish I had said “how silly, there’s only a few of us using this and the kids are all fine”. I wish I had tried to laugh it off with you, being lectured by a young lad drunk on power.
Have you ever wished you had spoken up to another mum? I would love to hear your stories/thoughts.