Saturday, August 11, 2007

It May Take a Village, But Please Mind Your Own Business

A little history: the Muffins were 6 weeks premature and one of the few parenting books that I read while pregnant mentioned that colic doesn't rear it's head in preemies until after their due date (and then, typically, it lasts about 3 months). Well, #2 proved that one right and she was still a bit of a cranky babe in early August of last year. But, deciding to be brave and try something new, Mom, C and I packed up the kids and headed out to the the League of NH Craftsmen Annual Fair in Sunapee. It was a lovely drive and it seemed like it would be a lovely day. The crowd wasn't too large and it's a very family (and stroller) friendly event.

There we were: the sun shining down on us, a slight breeze blowing, beautiful weather - not too hot, and no humidity. Mom, C and I wandered around the grounds, taking our time strolling through the tents, oohing and ahhing at the seemingly endless vendors and their amazing crafts when #2 broke out into a major case of the cranks. She screamed (and man can she scream!) and screamed and screamed some more until we settled on a bench and I could take her out of her seat to try to soothe her. She wasn't hungry, she didn't need a diaper change, she wasn't too hot; she was just unhappy. We were used to this and knew that she would calm down eventually. We were slightly embarrassed to be the ones with the wailing infant, but it's an outdoor event and there were tons of families around, surely people were used to this to some extent, right? Most people stared as they walked by, rather impassive. Some offered knowing smiles, sympathy in their eyes. Others steered clear of us as if a screaming infant was somehow contagious (actually, it seems as though it is to some extent with toddlers).

And then it happened. A woman came over and stood in front of me as I tried to soothe #2. She just stood there, ice cream in hand, and watched me. I maneuvered #2 into different positions, trying to help her to be more comfortable. I shhhed and cooed and offered her anything I could to suck on. And still, she cried. And the woman stared. Finally, she says, "Well, I can see you're not sticking pins in her at least!" I looked up at her, thoroughly confused, and offered a weak, "No, this is just how she is sometimes." Finally, #2 calmed down and Intrusive Lady decided that she could now take her leave. We thought it best to move on and keep #2 in motion so that she'd be lulled to sleep. #2 didn't like that plan very much. When I went to put her back in her seat, she started screaming again. Guess who came out from around the corner? If you guessed rude-and-looming-stranger-lady, you win! Again, she stood within arm's reach and watched as I calmed #2 and worked her into a position that she would tolerate. Satisfied that I had managed to finally calm my child (my child!), she again went on her way. Mom and C were outraged at the woman's behavior and we were all a bit taken aback so that none of us quite knew the appropriate response. When I've told this story to others, they react with similar disdain for and surprise at the woman's boldness and rudeness.

Fast forward to this year...

J took the day off. I ran some errands this morning, packed up the diaper bag (one of 4, but managed to get everything I thought we'd need into 1 bag), packed up the kids, and we headed west. There was some rain this morning and I was a little concerned that it wasn't going to let up, but I needn't have worried. Weather-wise, it was a great day. Temps in the 60s are my idea of perfect. The drive to Sunapee was lovely and we arrived just before Noon. The crowd was larger than last year, but still very manageable. I knew from last year that the tandem stroller could handle the terrain, but we've since acquired a nice side-by-side that's more rugged and would do very well. Plus, it's got netting that zips onto the top and keeps the kids bug free and limits sun exposure. This was J's first visit to the fair and he was looking forward to spending time outside and seeing the various artisans. He was rewarded with an entrancing demonstration of Raku pottery making as we entered the fair. We made it through a tent filled with paintings, small sculptures and some great photography. #2 was happily babbling to anyone within earshot while #1 looked around. People smiled and said how cute the kids were. I smiled politely in return and thanked them. All was pleasant.

Then it happened. At first there was a woman who exclaimed, for the benefit of her happy-as-a-clam toddler, who was perched high up in a backpack on his mother, that our babies were "held captive" in their stroller. "Look!" she says loudly, "they've been captured and can't be free!" The woman motions to the stroller and looks back to her son, "They're being held captive!" I smiled politely, now gritting my teeth somewhat, and tried to chuckle a little, choosing to see her words as creative play for her child, rather than a judgment of my parenting. She looks at me and asks, "how old?" "Sixteen months," I say. "Hmmm, ok." OK? Wtf is that supposed to mean?

On we go...

After a bit, #1 starts getting a little cranky and is sick of the stroller. J takes him out and they walk for a bit. #1 isn't a huge fan of grass and can feel it on his feet since he's wearing sandals so he decides to give up on walking and J carries him around. #2 starts to get a little cranky and I assume it's because she's getting hungry. We grab a bite of food, but neither kidlet is really into it. Regardless, we're having a nice time and look around at more vendors and walk through the sculpture garden. #1 won't really allow us to put him back in the stroller and I know he's getting tired (he has less staying power than she does). #2 becomes increasingly cranky and we know it's because she doesn't want to be in the stroller while her brother seems to be free. We decide to try and switch the Muffins and hope that #1 will pass out in the stroller. #2 and I walk around happily, while #1 cries in the stroller and doesn't let up. I lose sight of J for a bit, but eventually can tell that #1 has stopped crying. I assume that he's given into sleep. No such luck.

#2 and I walk out and see J, #1 perched on his shoulders. #2 decides that she's more than capable of walking around without Mumma's help and, every time I take her hand, she throws herself down on the ground and refuses to move. This continues for about 5 minutes and J and I decide that it's time to head home. I pick #2 up and explain that if she won't hold my hand while she walks then she'll have to be carried. (I know that she can't yet fully understand all that I'm saying, but we always try to explain what's going on.) Of the two kids, #2 is by far the squirmiest and the strongest and the kickiest. I was worn out by the time we made it back to the van, all eyes upon us as, once again, my daughter makes a scene at the fair.

But wait! The best is yet to come (although it had already happened, unbeknownst to me). After we're all packed up and ready to head home, J relays the following: While walking down the other side of the tent, trying to calm #1 in the stroller, J walks by a vendor who says to him, "Well, at least I can see you're not pinching him!" J just kept on walking. I couldn't believe it when he told me! I have no idea if it's the same busybody from last year, but can you believe it?!

It may take a village to raise a child (does that therefore mean that it takes a small city to raise twins?), but back off people.

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