The Only Kids’ Behaviour I Worry About

“We have a zero screen time policy”

“Formula is practically poison!”

“I’d never let my child behave like that!”

These are just a few of the statements I’ve overheard lately whilst trying to squeak out some writing time at various coffee houses. Most of the time, I’m pretty good at tuning out the conversations of others, but sometimes these gems just filter through.

The screen time one made me laugh out loud because until he was about two and half, I would’ve given anything for my older child to sit still and watch something – anything! – on TV for just five minutes! (Please honey, just a little Toopy and Binoo? I need a bathroom break!). I grew up with Sesame Street on pretty much permanent repeat, and if anything, I learned more from Telly, Maria, Big Bird and the gang than I did though most of kindergarten and early elementary school. 

The latest formula conundrum came courtesy of some pseudo-celebrity who advocated making a “natural” formula for her infant from goats milk, coconut oil, hemp hearts, unicorn blood and the tears of a Phoenix (I may be exaggerating here slightly).

Admittedly, this is a sore spot for me as I’ve been pointedly questioned about feeding my children formula by various busybodies, and given none-too-subtle side-eye by random strangers. Sometimes I give my reasons, but even then have been cross-questioned. Because don’t I know that formula — tried and tested, Doctor-approved, FDA certified formula — is just so terrible for babies? Hmmmmm.

Finally, I saw a small, over-tired child having a truly epic meltdown over having to leave where he’d been happily playing (a.k.a. Wrecking everything in sight). A fair few of the other moms responded with the classic been there, done that, not judging you shrug. But one older lady leaned over to her friend and said in a stage whisper that would’ve echoed around Carnegie Hall, “I never let my children behave like that”.

Maybe it was the rose-tinted glasses of middle age that made her say it. Maybe it was the fact that she would’ve been a new parent in the days of nightly martinis and valium handed out like candy. But it took every ounce of self-control I have left not to cough bull$h!t !

I think it’s safe to say that pretty much all children have a tantrums of some degree and variety. It might not be a lying-on-the-floor-screaming-until-you’re-blue kinda tantrum (pointed stare at my two year old) but at some point I’d wager every kid has freaked out/ over-reacted/ had a monumental pout-fest that resulted in public mortification for his or her parents (more pointed stares at both my children). 

My Dad taught me the only real behaviour test a few weeks ago: we were listening to the boys play with their sidewalk chalk and as we heard them sing and giggle, he said:

That’s how you know a kid is happy: they sing.

It’s so simple, but it still made me stop and think. When my kids are sad or sick, or just having a bad day, the house is either weirdly quiet or filled with crying.

But when they are well and having fun, the house is filled their singing — usually  a long medley of their greatest hits ranging from the alphabet song and itsy-bitsy spider, to the theme tunes from Toopy Binoo and Little Charmers.

Of course most of the time, they don’t really know all the words to the verses so they mubble bits and pieces half a bar behind, but make up for it by shouting the chorus while enthusiastically banging things. Its less Von Trapp family and more Rammstein for the under-5s. 

But it means they are happy and reasonably healthy. And that’s the only test my formula-fed, t.v. obsessed, tantrum and pout-fest throwing kids will be taking. 

Because for this parent, it’s the only thing I’m really concerned about. 

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