One thing you learn pretty quickly as a parent is that if you want to survive in the wild (e.g., the grocery store, church, and yes, even the park), you must control your child. Sure, I get it that your child has a mind of his own and acts impulsively at times despite the endless hours you have poured into teaching him how to behave in front of other people. But as soon as your kid pulls the arm off a mannequin at J.C. Penney trying to shake hands, it's all on you, and there is nothing you can do but apologize all over yourself, make some lame attempt at a joke, or drop whatever you were going to buy and run from the store at a full sprint. You can also take the plastic arm and spank your child with it in front of the store manager just to prove who's boss, but this will likely end with a visit from CPS and thousands of dollars in counseling a few years later. In order to avoid embarrassment from our kids, we develop strategies for keeping them in line when nothing less than our identity as parents is at stake. These strategies can take on many different forms, and you will likely use more than one during any given event. If you are a parent whose child is between the ages of not-yet-conceived to almost-crawling, you may want to take notes. I know you look at parents like me and swear your children will never act like mine sometimes do, but trust me, they will. And when they do, you may not be able to find this blog. Here are some of the most popular defensive schemes used by parents today, and most of use a variety of these strategies at any given moment.
This tactic is mainly used by parents who only have one child. Oh, you 2-on-1 parents, who think you have it all figured out. I can see your smug little smiles when you go to a restaurant. One parent eats dinner while the other one walks around with the toddler, listening to everyone tell you how adorable your child is. You think you were made for this thing called parenting. So you decide, since you are so awesome at redirecting one child, you might as well have another one. How hard can it be, right? Go ahead, try it. See what happens.
This is probably more like what most of you experience on a daily basis. Two kids, two parents. There are those times when one parent isn't there, but most of your big events involve the parents switching off between children, one holding the baby while the other chases the toddler. Then, in a coordinated motion that came straight from the synchronized swimming textbook, you make the switch so one parent can rest her arms while the other rests his legs. It's poetry in motion. By the way, you "it's not a leash, it's a backpack with a long handle" parents don't count. I don't even have a category for you. Cheaters.
Any time parents are outnumbered by the children, you must move into a Zone defense. This strategy requires, by far, the most skill. Don't you dare try this for the first time at the State Fair or atop the Empire State Building or along the railing at Niagara Falls. For this strategy, you must start small and work your way up to a larger venue. Try taking both kids to the mailbox, and if you make it back inside with both children within your line of vision, you pass. If not, you must practice at the mailbox for 7 days straight. Once you have had 4 successful trips the mailbox, you may move up to ... wait a minute ... I lost my kid.
The proper pronunciation for this defensive scheme is PRE-vent. Don't ask me why, but it probably has something to do with the percentage of football players who were English majors. We have all tried this one, and don't try to convince me it worked. Anytime you bribe, promise, or strike any kind of deal with your child prior to entering any type of public setting, you are attempting the Prevent defense. Oh, it prevents alright. It prevents you from leaving that public place with any dignity whatsoever. No prize, or idle threat for that matter, can compete with the instant gratification that comes from covering 10,000 square feet in 7.2 seconds. Nothing. Save your stickers and candy for Halloween, and avoid this strategy at all costs.
Full Court Press
Got a stroller? Use it. Car seat? Strap 'em in. There are times when every parent, no matter how patient or skilled, needs to use the Shutdown defense. We all know the Meltdown all too well, and sometimes it's best for everyone that you take control of the situation. Just don't forget that your child is in the stroller or the car seat. This is a strategy, not a vacation. Remember, this same child who is screaming words you didn't think she heard you say will one day choose your nursing home.
This strategy is also known as Train-the-Trainer, or the Special Forces. If you survive every other stage of parenting, and if your children have listened to even 8% of what you have been telling them for years, you can begin to trust them with their younger siblings. You can pick these parents out from a mile off. No, it's not because they migrate in herds. Their smile is glowing like the International Space Station because they actually got to finish their meal. They can describe what coffee actually tastes like because they didn't guzzle it between making breakfast and packing lunches. They have 63 scrapbooks in their family room, and they just gave you a handmade quilt as gift, and it's not even a holiday. They actually read a book ... during the day. Yes, if you make it to the hallowed ground of Duggarville, you are no longer just a parent. You are a CEO, and your home is your Fortune 500. Ironically, that's about how many kids you need to have to pull this off. And what is your reward for this accomplishment? You get to buy a fleet of 15-passenger vans. Don't worry though, your older children will drive them as you sit back and update your Facebook status for the 14th time that hour. We'll all be reading, and we stand in awe.