It usually starts something like this:
Whilst out running errands, my 2 year old can no longer stand being in his pushchair. The fact he's never really sat in it for more than 5 minutes at a time in his entire life is no reason for his father and I NOT to try and coax him in it when we are out at the shops. After insistent 'begging' for a wee while, he is set free.
The moment he is released from the confines of the "push", he is action, movement, locomotion, motion, running, jumping, climbing, crawling, speed. These two years of parenting this restless soul has taught us to trust that he knows how far he can go. We keep a wary watchful eye, but understand that he needs to be free and his needs have to be accommodated in amongst the to do list of the day.
In the triangulation of the 3 of us, we accept this. We can imagine how adventurous a shopping mall must seem at 3 foot something tall. Escalators are mountains to scale, clothes racks are deep caves. There is food and people and children and adventure at every turn. Though, in a shopping mall full of people, it is never just us.
Recently, I was standing in a shop watching Ellis as Kev looked for work clothes. E had run to the outside of the shop and was waving at me from the other side of the glass, in the shopping mall, thinking it was very funny. An older woman grabbed his arm and dragged him into the shop, calling out, "Who does this belong to?". I had broken into a run when I saw this and met them at the door. Understandably, E was upset at being grabbed by a stranger, but not nearly as upset as I was. The woman began a tirade, first about E "getting in the way of the shoppers" and then about the dangers of letting a pane of glass separate me from my son with all of the predators lurking in Glasgow.
I wish I had come back with something, but I didn't. The danger card is a hard one for me...no one wants to put their child's safety at risk, even if I would argue that the risk was negligible. I just calmly asked her to let go of my son. I picked him up and walked away (to have him scramble down and run off a moment later to climb under the clothes racks).
This happens a lot. Comments, looks, and judgement follow our family outings. I have often been on the wrong end of a tirade about control, disruption and rudeness. We dare to let him free in busy shopping malls. I support his efforts to scale walls, only step on the coloured tiles, explore puddles on cold wet days, get up close and waist-deep personal with pond life, climb slowly over a cattle grid . I feel it is not different than extending full access rights to people with disabilities or the elderly or anyone else who may not walk in this world with the straight path and single-minded focus on power walking from A to B whilst sipping a latte. Children need space and to make their own mistakes.
Mark Twain is famous for saying that, "You can't depend on your judgement when your imagination is out of focus". How did we get to a point in society when we can no longer imagine what it is like to be a busy two year old whose whole life is one great adventure? Why is it that so many people place tremendous value on charecteristics in children (quiet, complacence) that are looked down upon in adulthood? I guess, I probably don't want to know. Quite frankly, I'd rather go play in a puddle.