When I had my first child Zain I found myself constantly apologizing for everything. “I’m sorry he’s dropping the cutlery at the restaurant.” “I’m sorry he’s blocking your way in the grocery store.” “I’m sorry he’s crying on the sixteen hour plane ride.” “I’m sorry you have to lower the bus lift for the stroller.” I felt constantly flustered, not about managing my own child, but about how his behavior was affecting those around me. I found that adults that were over sixty and those with young children of their own were the most sympathetic but many in their twenties and thirties would show great annoyance at the “inconvenience” caused by a young child.
At some point I realized that there was absolutely no reason to apologize so I stopped doing it. After all, I’ve never seen a parent with a wailing baby or toddler just sit there and say “just scream the restaurant down.” Usually they’re bopping the baby up and down, distracting them with toys, or sometimes one of them actually goes outside to try and appease the baby and not disturb the diners.
When I lived in San Francisco, the bus drivers were the worst culprits. When I only had one child I didn’t mind hiking up the three hills to Zain’s preschool but once I had Adil I started to use the bus on a more regular basis because it was just not manageable anymore. Dealing with a baby and a toddler on the bus is no walk in the park. The bus drivers would often tell me to wait for another bus or expect me to lift the stroller myself because it was too inconvenient to wait for me to get on! I resorted to telling them there was a law (which there is) that required they lower the lift for the stroller and kicked up a fuss whenever they refused. Unfortunately, I saw many mothers go through the same thing, looking harassed, and apologizing profusely to the drivers as they boarded.
I also see parents apologizing all the time on airplanes when they’re doing their best to keep their baby or toddler quiet. They really shouldn’t feel the need to. My friend, who has a daughter of her own, recounted an incident on her flight to Italy a few years ago. There was a woman traveling alone with two young children who were being noisy, which was inevitable, as it was a ten hour journey from San Francisco. The air steward came and asked her to try and keep the noise down as it was disturbing the other passengers. She apologized but couldn’t get them to stay quiet. He came back three other times to say the same thing and she kept apologizing looking more and more harassed each time he came. Finally, the stranger sitting beside her got upset and told the steward that she was doing her best, that he should be helping her, and that if he came by one more time to complain the man would have to deal with him. The air steward stayed towards the front of the plane for the rest of the flight!
There are certain places where the etiquette is to leave your children at home; I wouldn’t take them to a fancy restaurant or an adult party, that’s just common sense. I know, however, that many mothers overly apologize for things that they really shouldn’t be sorry for in situations where they have to bring their children. When Adil or Zain act up in public I’m no longer concerned about what other people think and don’t feel the urge to say I’m sorry. I just focus on helping them calm down and feel better, ignore any annoyed stares, and continue on my way.