This weekend, after boarding a plane with their 6-month-old twins, George and Amal Clooney handed out headphones to their fellow travelers just in case. Along with the headphones, the new parents included a brief note.
“Apologizing in advance,” the note read, according to Page Six.
Rumor has it, the babies never fussed as the A-listers made their way to their home to the U.K. So, no one on board was put in a spot to need the headphones, which featured the Casamigos tequila logo.
When I read the story this morning, I couldn’t help but think about how I may not be handing out headphones on a first-class flight to the U.K. anytime soon, but I’m prone to just what the Clooneys were doing. I have a tendency to feel an apology is owed when my kids are simply being kids.
In fact, it happened just the other day.
We just joined the Y, so I’ve been taking advantage of the free childcare and trying to spend a little more time exercising. My 3-year-old daughter doesn’t really love the childcare situation, but she loves running the track. While she jogs in front of me, I find myself consumed with a singular obsession—making sure she doesn’t get in anyone’s way. It’s laughable, really, considering the fact that the track at the Y is the favorite choice of the elderly and moms with strollers at 10 a.m. on a weekday. Not a lot of sprinting going on, as you can imagine.
It’s something I’m guilty of far too often. I avoid eating out because I’m worried my kids won’t use their inside voices and might annoy fellow diners. I let fellow shoppers cut in front of me in the checkout line, because I feel bad about my cart full of groceries and slow-moving kids. I intervene when I feel like my kids are asking too many questions to family members or friends. I try to manage their behavior, not because they’re behaving badly, but because they’re just being kids.
As their mom, it isn’t my job to teach them not to be an inconvenience.
After reading this story about the Clooneys, I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s a precedent our culture sets. Even when the locale is “family-friendly,” there seems to be an expectation that children are welcome when they can behave like adults. Not to mention, “apologizing in advance” is praised, not criticized in the media. In this specific case, we see Vanity Fair saying the Clooneys “outdid all other parents,” as if keeping children from inconveniencing others is the bar for good parenting.
It’s not a message I want to continue to send to my children. The “better seen and not heard” kind of vibe simply isn’t inline with what we want for our kids. Of course, I hope my kids will be kind and that they won’t climb the walls in public, but this isn’t what we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about babies who fuss on long flights, because long flights suck for everyone involved. We’re talking about clumsy toddlers who can’t always stay out of people's’ way in public places, who talk loudly at the dinner table, and cry when they get upset. Because, toddlers.
I never want my children to believe they’re too much, that being themselves isn’t OK. As their mom, it isn’t my job to teach them not to be an inconvenience. No, my job is to guide them as they grow into the person they’re meant to be.
Moving forward, I hope to apologize less. I hope to let them take up space in the world, without concern for how it might slow down or inconvenience the world around us. I hope to let them be themselves, whoever that might be. And I hope George and Amal do the same.