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Sherri Richards, Published April 20 2010

Parenting Perspectives: Cocky mother humbled by 2-year-old’s behavior

Compared with some other 2-year-olds, my daughter tends to be pretty well-behaved.

Eve sits in my lap during circle time, even as other children wander around. We usually make it through half a church service before she gets really antsy. While in the grocery cart seat, she keeps her hands mostly to herself.

Good behavior for a toddler is quite relative. And when Eve is the one setting the curve by sitting still or being quiet, I tend to get a little cocky.

Like when a particular boy starts acting up at story time. Or a mom in the diaper aisle of Target can’t get her toddler to stay in the red shopping cart. I sympathize with the parent dealing with the outburst, but inside I sometimes get this smug sense, like, “Ha, ha, my kid wouldn’t do that.”

And. Then. She. Does.

As Eve and I left her day care the other afternoon, I saw her little friend’s dad trying to persuade his son out of a pint-sized race car in the front yard.

Eve had put on her shoes and her coat without incident, and I expected a drama-free stroll to my car.

Cue smugness.

Then Eve ran over to another riding toy in the yard. Like the boy, she wouldn’t get out.

I asked her to get out. I told her to get out. I tried luring her with promises of graham crackers and milk.

A slow-speed chase ensued around the yard as she pedaled away from me, shouting, “No! I drive!” I was utterly flustered, my parenting toolbox emptied.

The day care dad smiled at me knowingly as he finished buckling his son into their full-size car in the driveway.

“It’s so great that we’re all in this together,” he said, noting how similar the kids’ expressions and antics were. No smugness. No sense of parental superiority. Only empathy and understanding.

I hauled Eve to my car, having finally wrenched her away from the plastic steering wheel. She was kicking and screaming. I was regretting my flash of arrogance. Cocky mom had been taken down a couple notches.

We are all in this together. We can acknowledge and cheer our children’s good conduct. But another 2-year-old’s temper tantrum doesn’t make me the better mother.

Sherri Richards is mother of a 2-year-old daughter and is an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com/.