Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Cheeseburger Microcosm

I am all about rewarding my children. Clean up the toy room… earn a trip to the park; Use the potty….get a sticker; Stay quiet in the store, get a lollypop, etc. etc. etc. So when H managed to get a haircut without a single tear a few weeks back, I had to reward him.

Todd was working and so I had the Three Muskateers all by myself. We ended up at the McDonald’s Play-zone for dinner, a perfect reward for us all on a Friday night. I didn’t have to cook after a long work week, J could continue to collect her Strawberry Shortcake Happy Meal toys, H could simply run around, and L would get my undivided attention while the other two were off in the tunnels.

After my children finished their Chicken Nuggets and Apple Dippers and abandoned me to climb up the crazy tunnels I always fear they’ll get stuck in, I sat with L and “people watched”.

Around me were 6 different parents, who like me were juggling their kids and the Friday night McDonald’s crowd…

In the corner was a Mom with expensive high heeled shoes and a suit...she was so put together and professional she looked out of place sipping on a strawberry shake. Her face was glued to her I-Phone with the occasional glance up to check to see where her son was. A total multi-tasker, she called three people in a span of 5 minutes to schedule a play date, a business meeting, and an oil change. She could “sense” her son was nearby and without even looking up from her dayplanner she would reach over and wipe ketchup off his face as he ran by.

In the booth next to her were a husband and wife laughing and enjoying each other’s company. They appeared to be taking their date night to a more convenient location and as their children screamed and fought over a slide…they seemed oblivious to their surroundings and munched on their fries. Apparently, the Hamburglar was their babysitter tonight.

Next to them in the corner booth was a single Dad who appeared extremely stressed out at the prospect of taking his kids to the playzone. His children had disregarded his instruction that they were to eat before playing and this bothered him to no end. You could tell he was trying to figure out how to punish his kids without making a scene. He would pull them aside harshly and whisper in their ears, but then quickly look up and talk to me with a happy face, almost so I wouldn’t think he was a “mean parent”.

On the other side of L and I was the “Paranoid Mom”…the Mom with the hand sanitizer that kept making her daughter come over every few minutes for a few more drops. She didn’t have any reading materials, phone, etc…her eyes were constantly glued on the playzone, almost as if she was standing guard. Her teammate was her husband who remained standing the entire time near the outside entrance door, like a soldier assigned to prevent any stow-a-ways from escaping.

And then there was me, in my blue jeans and worn t-shirt, making bee sounds with a rattle trying to entertain L, slipping into character every so often to play the “Grumpy Old Troll” in my daughter’s game of Dora the Explorer, and laughing as H played peek-a-boo with the Ronald McDonald statue.

This little microcosm of parents all reminded me that we all parent differently. No two parents are the same. Although I will admit I can be quite judgmental, I never judge how someone parents…because I would never want someone to judge my parenting skills. It seems like we are all just trying to survive, to enjoy our children, and hang on to our identity…how we get to this point is entirely up to us.

So I try not be too hard on myself as a parent. Sure others can do it better, sure I do it better than others. I try not to worry about if my parenting is "working" for my kids, although let's face it, I'm a Mom so I'm always going to be worried about screwing this up. Sometimes I watch other Moms and wonder how they do it...why are their kids sitting perfectly still in a restaurant while mine are peering over the booth and climbing under the tables? I sometimes wonder if that Mom is looking at me thinking..."I am a much better Mom than she is!".

But then I remind myself that I am just another parent...it doesn't matter how I am viewed to the outside world, just as long as in the end I am looked at as a wonderful Mom by my three children. I don't buy parenting books, I don't worry about what the new trends of parenting are, I just go with the flow and parent based on the needs of my children.  And after being a part of the "Cheeseburger Microcosm" for an hour, I'm starting to see that that's okay.


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