Apple picking was a blast. It was typical toddler chaos, involving Maddie and Riley trying to eat apples off of the ground; picking apples off the tree only to take one bite, reject it, and demand another; and a surreptitious wee-wee by Maddie in the orchard. We took a hayride (two thumbs up from all participants) and the kids rode mini-John Deere tractors around a haybale obstacle course. We ate donuts and drank fresh-pressed cider from waxed paper cups.
We also stood in line for what seemed like forever for the moon bounce only to have the twins decide that they didn't want to do it after all. In and of itself, that was fine. But we—I—had an embarrassing experience while waiting in line that has been eating away at me for two days now. I'd spent about ten minutes in line reassuring Maddie and Riley that none of the dogs with their owners at the orchard were going to hurt them. M&R are terrified of dogs, and even though there was not a dog within fifty feet of them, and all of the dogs were leashed and calm, they were going ballistic: crying, clinging, demanding to be picked up. I was sympathetic, but my reassurances fell on deaf ears, and since I knew nothing bad was going to happen, I was getting frustrated with trying to keep M&R calm. My nerves were starting to fray.
Then a little girl totally cut right in front of us in line for the moon bounce. No biggie, right? She looked to be around five, and she was just an excited kid, not a deliberately malicious line-jumping maniac. But between my already heightened annoyance, what I thought was a distinct lack of her parental presence, and my innate sense of Rule Following Virtue, I snapped, "Excuse me, but we are in line here."
Suddenly, the girl's mom was on the scene after all. "There's no reason to talk to a six-year-old like that," she barked from directly behind me.
She's right. There's not. Of course, she had no reason to talk to me like that, but still. She had a point.
"You're right. I'm stressed out about something else and I took it out on your daughter. I apologize," I said, invisible tail between my legs.
I'm not trying to beat myself up here. I don't think anyone involved handled this situation well. The mom should have told the girl not to take cuts. I should not have snapped. The mom should not have snapped. Whatever.
What has stuck with me was that I had no idea how I sounded. In my mind, I sounded firm but kind, like I was telling a girl old enough to understand the rules that she should not take cuts, especially in front of kids much younger than herself. What became clear to me when the girl's mom went all Protective on me is that I had no idea how I sounded. As soon as I was called on it, I realized how snippy and rude I'd been.
This experience came on the heels of me reading a post on Fussy, in which Eden (I act as though we are some kind of BFFs, when in fact I highly doubt she even knows who I am!) was at a wedding and ended up being the Mom Who Watched the Kids for while. She said (post from 25 Sept 08), of the other moms who would come check on their kids from time to time:
I realize I'm more on the causal end of the parenting spectrum, however, and maybe all the nervous mom energy that blew threw the room every twenty minutes was born of hard experience having to pay for broken shit, so I will cut them some slack. But can we all agree to talk to kids in a normal tone of non-condescending, non-shouty voice? THAT WOULD BE GREAT.
I read that post on Friday, and thought, "Huh, I don't do a very good job with the non-condescending, non-shouty voice, and that is an excellent point." And I was trying to be mindful of that. The apple orchard experience on Saturday made me realize that even when I'm trying and even when I think I'm speaking in a kind, compassionate manner, I'm not always succeeding.
Do I expect that I will be non-condescending and non-shouty all the time? No. But, especially as Maddie and Riley get older and truly understand and take in what I'm saying to them, do they deserve to be spoken to in the same tone and manner in which I'd speak to an adult? Yes, absolutely.
I'm going to try to really listen to myself this week. I don't do that enough. It's not the words I'm worried about so much; I usually get the words right. At least I think I do. But the tone. The tone! I want to hear myself. What do I really sound like? I'm ready to find out.