Social Contracts and Parenting Issues

Sometimes I am just not sure where I stand as a parent. As soon as I got this baby thing down, the little guy grew into a toddler. Now I am faced with a whole new set of issues as he begins to assert his independence and interact with other children, but he still isn’t speaking yet.

Today, while we were out for a break, we stopped by a little cafe that has a well-fenced play area for younger children. I am fairly certain it is the only place of its kind in Gabrovo. There are other play areas by other cafes and restaurants, but they either do not have adequate fencing or their playground is obviously meant for older children and I have to watch Peatuk like a hawk.

Here, there are a few tiny slides and teeter-totters, but nothing that would normally attract older children. Usually, we can let Peatuk roam free with a few other toddlers his age and barely manage their behavior. Unfortunately, when we arrived today, there were two older boys (6 or 7) throwing stones at the kittens that live in the bushes. They were with a very fussy little girl (3 or 4) who was very possessive of all of the toys there. The parents were, naturally, enjoying their drinks and not paying much attention to their children.

I don’t really begrudge them that. After all, that is what I wanted to do. What frustrates me is that after Peatuk was thrown into the mix, they still did not give their children more than a glance. I had to stay with him to make sure he didn’t get ran over by the older children, which is fine. But I was also making sure he did not invade their space or grab toys they were playing with, while the little girl would run to whatever toy Peatuk had, cry, and push him away from it.

Finally, after a few times, my father got up to say something to the family. Since he could not speak Bulgarian, I had to ask them to please ask their daughter to stop pushing Peatuk off of toys. They said they hadn’t seen it, talked to the daughter, and said it wouldn’t happen again.

What I am wondering here is whether I was in the wrong for being there at all, and expecting them to accommodate a younger child. They were playing first, and although throwing rocks and terrorizing kittens is not my idea of constructive behavior, it seemed to be working just fine for their family. Perhaps I should have just moved on when I saw them. But, knowing there are not many places like that in Gabrovo, is it fine for me to say,

“Hey, there’s a toddler here who also wants to use this play space, reign your kids in a bit?”

I am not sure. It seems a bit like the prisoner’s dilemma for mommies. We all want the other kids to obey the social contract and be nice, but we all just want a little break from managing our own children. In an ideal world, everyone else would manage their child and I wouldn’t have to. Do I just assume that no one is going to manage their children and let mine run wild? Or do I continue interrupting dinners to tattle on three year old children?

Feeling frustrated, we left without finishing our meal and just went home. On the way, there was someone parked in an empty parking lot, but instead of using a parking space, they parked where the sidewalk connected to the parking lot, meaning I had to squeeze my stroller around them.

Again, I thought that no one should HAVE to take women with strollers into consideration. After all, THEY don’t have kids. But, at the same time, there are rules that are in place. Why not follow them and park in designated parking space?

When I was a teen, I loved rules. I wished everyone would agree on a set and follow them. However, as a parent, I am even more frustrated with people who do not follow general, basic social contracts and end up endangering my child or making my life as a mother more difficult. Follow the speed limit. Lock the door behind you. Watch your personal space and that of those around you. I’ll do the same. Isn’t it simple?


On a lighter note, here’s an adorable video of our little guy over the past few months (music: Twinkle Twinkle by David Mumford via Free Music Archive):


2 thoughts on “Social Contracts and Parenting Issues

  1. It sounds like you all handled the situation really constructively, and maybe even encouraged the other parents to spend a little more time making sure their kids are playing nice in the future. We have a restaurant near our place that we love, but we’ve learned not to go in the evenings in summer at all, because parents treat it like a daycare while they drink and relax. This particular restaurant has no playground at all, just a wooden patio where parents let their kids run wild. The waitresses are always dodging toddlers and bigger kids as they come out with steaming hot pizzas. I understand not being considerate of other families eating at the restaurant, but it drives me nuts to see those poor waitresses trying desperately not to knock over or burn someone’s completely unsupervised, hyperactive kid. The restaurant is adjacent to a park and several playgrounds, so it seems easy enough for parents to take their kids to one of these places, and try to tire them out a bit before sitting down to dinner. But I’m not a parent so I try not to judge. a

  2. Yeah, I try not to judge, but sometimes I am just confused by different parenting styles, and I really wonder how my attitudes/beliefs about certain situations will change as Peatuk grows up and gets more independent.

    I can definitely empathize with a parent’s desire to relax… to sit some place and not constantly manage their child. Apartment living with no yard (which a lot of Bulgarian families do) can make it really… frustrating? (not sure if that is the word I want) to be a parent sometimes. I think that is my main issue… that one of the reasons this frustrates me is that I cannot use the place to relax as well.

    And I definitely feel for the wait staff. The waiter at this place was obviously annoyed at the children throwing rocks at the cats that he seemed to feel protective of (which, hello, don’t throw rocks at cats!!!) and he did have to dodge kids a few times.

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