Here's the story: S and I were at Whole Foods the other day. The store wasn't particularly busy, and I generally let her run around (we'll call it moderately wild) as long as there aren't a billion people and she's not breaking things or hurting anyone.
Most of our fellow Whole Foods patrons reacted with surprise or good humor at the happy toddler delightedly squealing "mama! bread! hummus!" and then running across the aisle to scream "mama! cookies!" (If you don't currently parent a toddler, you may not know that this isn't a sign that she doesn't get out much; it is, rather, pretty typical of a toddler's reaction to anything except the carseat or putting on pants.)
At one point, S careered around a corner near the soap and almost ran head-first into a woman's cart. In my gentle voice, I said to S, "Be careful, sweetheart -- not everyone is looking out for toddlers to be running through Whole Foods."
I said this, of course, as an instruction to S -- she, like most two-year-olds, assumes the world revolves around her, and I was reminding her to be aware that this is not the case.
The woman, however, thought differently -- presumably, she assumed this was my passive-aggressive attempt to teach her that she should always be on the lookout for wild toddlers. (In case it needs mentioning, I am not in the least bit passive aggressive -- I am either totally passive or blatantly confrontational, with little room for misunderstanding.)
The woman responded with unkind words directed at me and S, which I ignored. She then followed us to the checkout and continued to berate me for my parenting skills. All of this largely to my back, as I responded by ignoring her 100% and continuing to talk calmly with S (who was, at that time, pressing the buttons on the credit card machine, prompting further words from the woman).
At the time, I was proud of my response. We preach peace, patience, and kindness in our house and I do my best to keep S's world filled with these things. Not letting on to the fact that someone was being intolerant of her was my way of ensuring she was protected.
But I realize that at some point, I need a shift. My question is this: at what point does it become more valuable for me to demonstrate what peace, patience, and kindness look like in response to intolerance, impatience, and nastiness? At what point do I let her see that people are weenies, but we don't have to be? And how do I do this when it's something I struggle with, particularly when it comes to a lack of tolerance for my child?
Tell me, fellow parents (and Whole Foods patrons!): what would you have done?
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