When I was a new mom, I was terrified to bring my daughter anywhere. If she began crying, I’d panic. I recall her first ever appointment with the pediatrician; she was days old and unsure of the world, so of course she was crying! That’s what newborns do! But I was in a state of sleepless hysteria and panicked over other parents judging me: WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?! WHAT KIND OF MOTHER CAN’T STOP HER NEWBORN FROM CRYING?!
Unfortunately, these fears did not depart immediately and the screaming in my brain continued to bombard my everyday life. I was afraid to go anywhere with her unless my husband was with us. It didn’t bother me, though — I’m a homebody through and through, and I loved the near-constant nap schedule of an infant because that meant I could get some rest myself.
But as time went on, those brain screams turned to whispers, and we were able to happily visit the library, the park, and the grocery store. I was confident in my baby-soothing methods and knew that the worst that could happen were some sneers from strangers or having to leave the grocery cart behind.
My confidence soared when I took her on an airplane when she was 9 months old. We survived. Just barely, but we SURVIVED!
And then we had to fly back home.
I was hurled into the most stressful social situation ever, at least in my mind. Unbeknownst to me, my daughter contracted a stomach virus, and just before takeoff, the retching began. Then the wailing. She cried the majority of the flight and threw up six more times on two separate planes. Oh, and did I mention that this all went down on Christmas Day? And that I was sick, too?
By the end of that flight, we were both a putrid, crying mess. I kept my head low to avoid the scowls and sneers of fellow passengers. I was ruining everyone’s Christmas flight and wanted nothing more than to be tucked away in bed, far away from the reality of my kid being the “problem child” that everyone talks about on a flight, even though it was clearly not her fault or mine.
Once my second daughter was born, the brain screams returned briefly, but they were more of a yapping noise at this point; annoying and small. I found myself staying home more often again, but less out of fear and more out of comfort.
But now, they’re older. There’s only one nap to rotate around, and even that is fading with time. Now, (almost) anything’s game. Signing papers on a mortgage? Bring ‘em with! Updating my driver’s license? Bring ‘em with! Voting? Bring ‘em with!
In three weeks, I’ve dragged my kids along to two vet appointments for our ailing dog and three doctor’s appointments for their ailing mom. We’ve also been to H&R Block — twice. None of these meetings were short, but they know the drill because that’s how it’s always been.
We always go prepared, of course. If it’s a new doctor, I call ahead and ask what the protocol is. No one’s ever told me that I flat out can’t bring them. One receptionist told me, “Just bring their electronic thingies and they won’t even know what’s going on.” I don’t rely on those, though. I want them to learn from these experiences, not zone out. Instead, I dig to the bottom of the toy box and sneak a few small toys into my purse, and throw in some snacks for good measure.
Not all of our visits go perfectly. There was the time that I packed one pack of animal crackers instead of two and they screamed at each other, and there was the time that the only open time slot was when my youngest daughter was in dire need of a nap. But for the most part, the appointments we’ve had have gone swimmingly well and the girls get compliments nearly every single time.
Afterward, we always have a rundown of how things went. Was there something they could’ve done better? Was there something I could have improved? Did everything go perfectly well and we can do a repeat the next visit? These teachable moments, I hope, will last as they grow older. They’re learning social skills, how to act around adults, and get to see professionals do their jobs. They’re learning how to be respectful, and I am learning how to be a better mother.
There are definitely places I would not want to bring my kids. A dentist appointment. A super swanky restaurant. But most things? I see them as fair game and good life lessons. So yeah, I pretty much take them everywhere with me.