Why you should care what other people think

Today I took my kids to Story Time at the library. This was a first for us in my new part-time stay at home mom role. In my attempt to keep my kids involved in predictable, school-like activities on their days at home, we’ve assigned Tuesdays as library day. Lucky for me, Tuesdays also happen to be Pre-School Story Time day at the library.

To call my family loud would be an understatement. My voice carries. My parents’ voices carry. Growing up, for a few weeks following parent-teacher conferences my teachers would even inadvertently let up on asking me to lower my voice or be quiet out of their newfound realization that the apple does in fact not fall far from the tree. This gift of never needing a microphone was lovingly and unintentionally passed along to my children, as well.

In case you haven’t visited your local library lately, they are relatively quiet places. Even in the children’s section. Like most moms who has been to a public place with toddlers, I laid out my expectations before we got there.

#1. Listening ears.

#2. Inside voices.

#3. Walking feet.

#4. Please for the love of God do not pull all of the books off of the book shelves.

We arrived a few minutes before Story Time was going to begin and took our places in the tiny children’s chairs. As more families arrived I bumped my pre-schooler to the floor criss cross applesauce and pulled my 1 1/2 year old onto my lap so the other moms and grandmas could take a seat. The librarian entered – almost silently – and began.

About two pages into her first of three stories, my son saw a Thomas the Train made out of paper mache in the corner of the room and lost his mind. He said {or yelled to the unfamiliar ear} “train, train” over and over again.

Now, I’ve been a mom long enough to know that whenever your kids are acting undesirably, it is 10 times worse in your own head.

Still, I redirected his attention to the display of books on the table behind my tiny chair in an attempt to keep him quiet. It worked for a minute, but then he saw a book with a train on it and his gleeful reiteration continued. Train, train, train!

I lovingly whisked my son out of the small, nearly quiet room and bounced with him just outside the door so he could still see the librarian and her audience.

A few moments later I noticed my daughter looking around frantically. Apparently she had turned around to an empty chair and thought I’d left her there alone. She scanned the back of the room until we made eye contact through the glass. I gave her a little wave and a thumbs up of encouragement, but it was too late. She started crying.

I motioned for her to come out and stand in the hallway with me and her brother. We walked the aisles for a moment until they both had calmed down and then went back into the room with tiny chairs to finish up Story Time.

We made our selections for the week and were heading to the check out counter when the librarian introduced herself to Daphne. As she engaged my daughter in a series of questions so that I could scan our books  {How old are you? What’s your little brother’s name?}, Henry lost his patience and made sure we all knew it.

I awkwardly joked with the librarian, “I guess it’s time for us to run out on you again.”

The librarian smiled and said, “I thought you handled it really well. You’d be surprised what some parents let their kids do. It’s like they don’t care what anyone thinks.”

Hmm.

Hours later when my kids were played with, fed, read to {the new library books obviously} and tucked in for a nap, I was still thinking about what the librarian said. Do people really just let their children be disruptive during such a calm activity? Do I care about what people think? Is that why I left?

It’s not that I was terribly concerned with what the parents thought of me or my parenting choices {we’re all just doing our best, right?} and I’m certainly not losing sleep over the fact that my son couldn’t keep perfectly still or quiet {he’s 1, ok?}. So why was my reaction to make my kids leave the room?

It wasn’t that I cared what people thought about me personally. I did, however, care a great deal about what they thought about their experience and my family’s ability to impact it.

Suddenly, I was reminded of flying on an airplane with my daughter when she was a baby. It was awful. Awful. Even though she cried the entire flight, I never worried that the other passengers were thinking that I was a horrible mom. They may have been, but I just didn’t care what they thought about me personally. I did my best to acknowledge the disruption {verbally with the flight attendants and through a gesture or facial expression with several passengers nearby}. I was clearly trying to calm her down {a.k.a. not a horrible mom} and I apologized to those around me after the flight.

Unless you live and work alone and rarely venture outside, you’re going to encounter a lot of different people everywhere you go. Have you ever had someone not hold the elevator for you? Rude. Or been standing in line at the bank and the person behind you is yapping away on his cell phone? Come on!

Both on that plane ride and at the library, my choices were telling the people around me that I cared what they thought.

So while you don’t have to {and shouldn’t} care what people think about you {you do you, girlfriend} I do think that the librarian was correct. Many people don’t care what anyone thinks. But they should.

If we all cared a little more about what people thought, we might just make their day a little better.

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