Before I became a mom I had parenting figured out. You were either a good parent or a bad one and you either had naughty kids or you had well behaved ones. As simple as that.
I have since realised that parenting is subjective. What's considered naughty by one mom isn't necessarily that for another. This raising kids thing isn't a one size fits all.
Without children in your life it's so easy to pass comment, and judgement, on THAT mom chasing after her kid in a shopping centre screaming "Wait til your father hears about this!" or THAT mom allowing her offspring to play hide and seek in amongst shoppers legs, while going down the escalator. In my mind I'd tell myself that my children would never behave like THAT!
Fast forward three years later and there I am in the mall having an OMF! moment. I am THAT mother and I have THAT child! I can no longer throw stones, or stares, at those parents with the kid screaming "I want a toy!" I can no longer think "how cruel" when I see a toddler on a 'leash' because I am THAT parent and I have THAT child.
But she's not THAT child. In a 'AHA' moment I understood that in a different environment Emma's a three year old doing what three year old's do. 'Naughty' or 'Nice' is subjective. It's not black or white. It's grey and it's colourful.
This weekend, Emma, used to being with friends, running around using her outside voice, suddenly found herself in a mall. And Emma being Emma decided she'd make an adventure out of it. She explored underneath clothes racks, tried on sunglasses and hats. She peeked through people's trolleys and waved hello to those passing by. She ran away from me towards the bright pink car in one of the department stores and played hide and seek with some new friends in another one. She sang and danced from mirror to mirror and shook hands with the shop mannequins. She cried when she was hungry and got stroppy when she was tired. At some point she wanted to take her shoes off and I let her. Shock! Gasp! Horror! A barefooted child in Sandton City!
Some onlookers used euphemisms to describe Emma's behaviour. I heard things like "strong willed" and "creative". "Live wire" and "very expressive" was also mentioned when all they wanted to say was "what an over indulged naughty child!" In their minds Emma was being naughty and I wasn't winning any parenting awards.
But there were other parents too. Those who saw the situation for what it was. A little girl, bored out of her mind, stuck in an over lit, overpopulated, closed in area with not too much to do. And a mom who was carefully trying to judge the situation and handle each one for what it was. Some of them played along with Emma. One kind old soul even 'twirled' her around during a waltz...
Unless Emma was putting herself, or someone else, in direct danger, I let her be. No harm, no foul was my mantra and if she wasn't purposefully being destructive or breaking things I joined in her 'bad' behaviour. I played hide and seek with her. I danced around stores and played hopscotch. We found mirrors wherever we could, the bigger the better, so Emma could watch herself singing and dancing (to her captive audience).
Emma wasn't being naughty. Emma was making the most of a crappy situation. And even in this strange environment without her friends or much to do, Emma and I had fun.
So yes, parenting is subjective and while you say 'precocious' I say 'precious'!