I see the looks as my toddler and I enter the room. I feel the disdain aimed at me from all directions, as though I’ve walked in carrying a jackhammer instead of a 2-year-old. But here’s a newsflash: Kids don’t own the market on rude, disruptive behavior. For all the haters out there who think my child and I should never venture into civilization, here are nine obnoxious things my toddler doesn’t do—but you might.
1. Interrupt dinner to ask for a photo. I’m desperately attempting to cut up my toddler’s chicken as he giddily mounts my head, my own food growing colder by the minute. What better time to ask me to take a photo of you and your significant other, to commemorate your four-month anniversary? Wait, you’ve taken a look and the photo’s not quite right? Sure, I don’t mind taking another 10 shots until you’re not making that “squishy face.” And don’t worry about my toddler bolting toward the door. He knows how to cross the street—sort of.
2. Scream into his cell phone. Recently I watched two people on a train almost come to blows over a woman shouting obscenities into her phone. As I listened to shouts of “You don’t know me!” I pondered how it is that the same people who, glued to their phones, regale everyone in earshot with intimate details of their sex lives, suddenly become irate when my toddler blurts out, “Yay! Boat!” Maybe if I got my toddler an iPhone, his outbursts would blend in better.
3. Text while I’m talking to him. I’m not saying my toddler never ignores me. “Go brush your teeth” often triggers a deep fascination with the carpet. But when I’m reading him a story, he never whips out his phone and starts texting one of his buddies “OMG! Mommy totes lied about going to the gym today!”—not that I would ever do that, of course.
4. Post inspirational status updates. We get it. Your girlfriend made you a frittata for breakfast and you are #soblessed. Every moment of your life is a ray of sunshine you need to share online. Well, my toddler just gave me a Cheerio from inside his mouth. Frankly, I think I prefer that kind of sharing.
5. Talk trash about his friends. Toddlers don’t have frenemies. If my son is angry at someone, he’s pretty direct (translation, ear-splittingly loud) about it. When the confrontation ends, he moves on with his life. I think it’s a trait we should all try to emulate.
6. Take up multiple seats on the train. My little guy never manspreads, hogs the subway pole, or dumps his stuff on the seat next to him. If he takes up any seat besides his, it’s mine—when he climbs on my lap, puts his head on my shoulder, and falls contentedly asleep.
7. Wear ironic T-shirts. You see that Curious George on my son’s shirt? He actually likes it. And not in the way a Radiohead fan “likes” a Poison T-shirt. My kid is honest about the things he likes, without games or posturing. But, hey, I’m sure your ironic Trump hat will be a big hit at the Bernie Sanders rally.
8. Offer unsolicited advice. There are certain advantages to living with a 3-foot-tall narcissist. He never tells me how to improve my family’s health with a gluten-free diet, or how to dress to better flatter my figure, or the “right” time to reenter the workforce. If it doesn’t involve him consuming a banana or breaking something, my toddler generally doesn’t care.
9. Prejudge people he doesn’t know. My toddler says a lot of inappropriate things. But I’ve never seen him take one look at someone and say, “That person doesn’t belong here”—a message I see in everyone’s eyes whenever we go out in public. The only people my son prejudges are older men with white beards, whom he assumes are Santa Claus and therefore superior to all other humans. The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the tolerance of a 2-year-old.
So, as you roll your eyes upon seeing my family and I enter a restaurant, take a look inward. The truth is we’re all capable of rude, inconsiderate behavior. Perhaps with a little tolerance and a greater awareness of how our behavior affects others, we can all have a nice meal—without anyone interrupting it for a photograph.