The Scarlet Letter of Parenting

Today, I would have traded places with Hester Prynne in a heartbeat. Instead of a red letter A stitched to my bodice (okay, Gap t-shirt), I bore the screaming five month old in an Ergo. That red letter and all the Puritan ostracizing that came with it couldn’t hold a candle to the stares, eye rolls and nervous tittering I received as I tried to haul arse with my three year old in one hand, the stroller in the other and a hot screaming baby strapped to my chest.

I made the brave decision to go to the zoo today. It’s a warm, beautiful spring day and Peanut has no school, so we packed a picnic and off we went. Only trouble is the whole of Atlanta is also out of school this week for spring break. It was packed. We managed to have a good time, despite the crowds – which included two neighbors, one acquaintance and one of Peanut’s preschool teachers, had a picnic lunch and were squeezing in a few more exhibits before heading home when Pumpkin had enough. I took him out of the stroller and tried the Ergo. It worked for about 10 minutes and then all baby hell broke loose.
Pumpkin is overall a happy baby. But when he’s upset? Grab your earplugs because this kid’s got a set of lungs that could rival a jet engine. And today at the zoo? He was beyond upset. The only problem is that we were at the opposite end of the zoo from the entrance and our car was far from the entrance thanks to the crowds.
As we tried to make our escape, I was outraged at the looks. Of course people are going to turn to see what’s going on with a screaming child, but when you see that the mother is cooing at, shushing and overall trying to calm said child while also trying to gracefully extricate her and her sweaty, worn out (i.e., not moving at the speed of lightning) three year old from the situation, I would have appreciated a few looks of sympathy. I was honestly shocked. Sure, there were a few mothers who offered sympathetic looks as they tended to their own sweaty, hungry and otherwise cranky children, but there were just as many mothers who looked at me as if I must be jamming hot pokers in that baby’s eyes to make it scream like that.
The icing on the proverbial cake was the man who laughed as he passed me by and announced: “That’s why God gives children to the young.” I honestly still don’t know if he was trying to insult me or offer some sort of been there, done that, now I have grand kids and can hand them back when they get that way type of camaraderie. Either way, I wish I’d had the where with all to respond: “That’s also why God provides an able-bodied gentleman to help push a stroller…” because guess whose car was parked just 6 cars over from mine?
After a quick nap, snack and some time in the air conditioning, my happy little Pumpkin returned complete with drooly smiles, giggles and the most deliciously ticklish and chubby thighs for munching. A much better ending, I’d say, than any Hawthorne novel.

3 thoughts on “The Scarlet Letter of Parenting

  1. This captures a feeling I've had many times – and I don't even have 2 kids yet! I wonder how I get the stares I do when we are obviously headed for the exit, and the stares are coming from those with children in their own arms. You can't tell me that my 2 year old is the only one to have a bad day now and then… 🙂

  2. The worst is all the people coming up and being “helpful” by suggesting such innovative ideas as “Maybe she's hungry?” during a full-on meltdown.

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