Monday, July 29, 2013

Talk to Me – Letting Your Kids (Sort of) Be Free in Public

Let’s talk shopping/going to public places with a near two year old, shall we.

Preface: See the silliness, sweetness and innocence in this picture?!?! Well DON’T BE FOOLED!!!

Ok, Henry actually IS a very sweet boy.  Loves to snuggle, give out hugs and kisses, he always has a stuffed animal to squeeze on, wants to help around the house and do EVERY chore we do.  Seriously, a sweet boy.

However, he is also extremely ornery and full of energy and wants to get into EVERYTHING.

There is NO slowing down for this child.

And all this energy is now combined with a new sense of independence and eagerness to do everything on HIS own.

That brings me to my story.


So a week ago we went to the grocery store.  We went to put Henry in the cart and he was NOT having it.  Terry and I were trying to reason, then force, then bribe him to sit down in the cart but all was to no avail and ended with a 34 pound toddler clutching to me and screaming. 

The boy wanted to walk.

So walk it was.

I was a bit nervous at first.  I didn’t want us to be those parents with a near two year old running around the store, bumping into people, or grabbing everything off the shelf.  The visions of what could transpire scared me but as we had about a cup of milk, week old pasta, and random condiments in our fridge a shopping trip was necessary so we ventured on with a toddler “leading” the way.

We told him he HAD to hold onto the side of the cart and one of our hands and he could only take stuff off the shelf if we told him too.

And folks, he did.

Ok, ok….there was a slight distraction in the frozen food section with the rows of doors to open and all that cold stuff. AND in the cheese section where he went down the line and literally threw one of everything into the cart while Terry and I put them all mostly back.  (But it is cheese, so who can blame him.)

But overall he did REALLY well!  I mean really well...I was truly impressed and proud of him!!

And at one point, when his little legs needed a break, he asked to go in the cart.

Uh, YES you can go into the cart!!

So the last 15 minutes of the trip he was contained.  Awesome.

Now of course my fear is that he is going to want to keep doing this, being free to roam the store. 

I know, I know…..we started it. 

If both of us go it shouldn’t be an issue, but with one it just wouldn’t work as someone needs to keep their eye on and a firm grasp on that sneaky kid while the other shops.  Seriously, would NOT feel comfortable letting him roam with just me and him in a busy store.  I feel safer when he is in the cart.

And the same thing happened this weekend at the Zoo.  He was OK riding in his stroller at first and when he ate his snack, but soon the boy wanted to walk.  And honestly, we wanted him to walk…the purpose of a trip to the zoo is to get him tired for bed!  Can I get an amen, parents?!?!  

And he did pretty well.  There were only a couple times of fighting the hand holding, walking infront of someone, or asking to be picked up (which was not an option…ride or walk little dude) but overall he did well…..and fell asleep early at bedtime! Win, Win for everyone!

But now that he is exerting his independence more, it is becoming increasingly harder and more frustrating to keep him contained.  I know, we are the parents and we have the control.  But as you all know, when a kid is screaming/crying and fighting to not do something they don’t want to do that child suddenly turns into a baby hulk with extreme strength and supernatural like powers!!! 

And while we don’t give in all the time or very much, I feel like sometimes we also have to let them prove to us what they are capable and not capable of doing.  I know I am guilty of either thinking he is ready to do something when he is not or thinking he isn’t ready to do something and it turns out he is.  Three months ago, he was not capable or even willing to walk around on his own while also listening to us.  Now, he is.

The fact remains, he listened to us in both these situations.  He held our hand and thoroughly enjoyed being a “big boy” and helping us out and exploring.  Oh how he loves to help.  Had he not listened, he would be in the cart (or stroller) screaming or one of us would take him to the car.

Moving forward, I don’t know what to expect with him when we are at the store or out in a public setting.  Will he mind riding in the cart/stroller or want to walk?!  Will he be mad to be contained or mad that he has to walk?  Toddlers are totally unpredictable and just time bombs ready to go off at any moment because of any factor!!  I know that each outing could be different with different results.  The thing is I want him to be able to be independent and I also want him to learn how he is suppose to act in public, which includes learning our rules and boundaries that we have 

So let me ask you this, how do you handle your toddler in public places?  Do they always need to be contained/restrained in a cart or stroller?  Do you let them walk with you?  What are your rules? What do you do if they are fighting whatever situation you have them in?

And in all seriousness, what are your thoughts about a child on a leash?!?!

This still cracks me up!!  

P.S. the boy can unclip the seat belt in the cart and stroller. (I can hardly do that!) so even when we get him in, he can decide when to get out. Sigh.


  1. Henry sounds like he could be one of my kids. Haha.

    All of mine decided around 14-16 months that they hated being restrained in any way - no carts, no strollers, etc. With S and E, it was perfect because we always had another baby coming and NEEDED them to be independent and BIG. With V...well, I can see how most parents want your kid to stay little and be constrained, etc., but I enjoy that they can be independent. I enjoy watching them explore and watching them make decisions. You know? They become this little cool person with opinions. It's fun.

    With that...both girls walk everywhere. V is wishy washy. Most times, he walks. At the Zoo, we take an umbrella stroller (mostly to hold our lunches and stuff) just in case he gets tired and wants to ride. Some times, he walks the whole Zoo, other times, he'll get tired and make the decision to get in and ride. I don't force him either way. I ask sometimes if he wants to ride, but most times he chooses to walk. If he doesn't listen, we tell him he gets strapped in - no more big boy choices. Then, tantrums start and we ignore it and leave. ;)

    In most stores, I make him ride in the cart and distract him with something. It's just easier...but if I'm not in a rush and have extra patience, I let him walk. He seems more willing to follow my rules of cart sitting if I let him make decisions some times (meaning I ask if he wants in the cart or walk).

    Sounds like Henry is growing up! Sigh. And it sounds like he's doing a good job at it! Holding your hand AND listening. Awesome! I'd let him walk in most 'safe' situations and play up how 'big' he is. Then, the times (like the grocery store with a long list and little time) when you need him to sit in the cart, he may not fight you as know, because it's not ALL the time what MOM wants. ;) Ha. Honestly though, the more you let him walk and practice listening, following, etc. the faster he'll learn to do those things better. He's got to have those meltdown, pull all the cheese off the shelves kind of situations to learn that that's not okay. I mean, if I could pull all the cheese off the shelf and eat it all while I shop and no one looked twice, I just may do it. But I'd choose the baking/candy aisle instead. Ha.

  2. We didn't restrict BB to a cart or stroller. It really depended on his mood and the situation on whether he rode or walked. We took some chances in the name of nuturing an independent kid. We figured if we didn't give him opportunities to learn and grow in, how can we expect him to learn and grow?

    If he wasn't listening, he went in the stroller or whatever the situation called for or we went home. We started small and built. It wasn't all or nothing. We had low expectations. We weren't afraid to 'turn this car around and go home' if he acted up or didn't listen.

    I'm hesitant to share this in public, because I don't want to start any debates, but I'm not a fan of leashes. I understand that some kids might 'need' them. I understand that in some places (super crowded fairs or malls?) they might make sense. But I wouldn't use one.