Bringing Kids to Big Events
Three-year-old Maille Martin stood at the back of the church at her uncle's wedding, awaiting her grand entrance as flower girl. Her mom and dad had already walked down the aisle together, followed by two other pairs of bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Maille looked around and asked loudly, "Where's my boy to walk with?" Then she plopped herself down on a chair, refusing to budge.
Oops. No one had predicted that Maille would want a partner like everyone else. The bride nearly fell apart, but Maille's grandpa quickly stepped in and said, "Your boy to walk with is right here!" And off they went. Kids are unpredictable, and you never know what might happen when they're included in a big event -- whether they're playing a key role or just attending. "Your child might be dressed up like a miniature adult, but it's unrealistic to expect her to behave like one," says Rita Bigel-Casher, Ph.D., a therapist practicing in Manhattan and author of Bride's Guide to Emotional Survival (Prima, 1996). A 3-year-old may throw a tantrum at his cousin's high-school graduation, a 9-year-old may pout through his sister's bat mitzvah because she's getting all the attention, and a 4-year-old may shout out during a funeral, "What's in the big box?"
Just thinking about what your child might do is enough to make you want to leave him home with the baby-sitter. But the prospect of less-than-perfect behavior doesn't mean kids should be excluded. "It's wonderful for kids to attend events that bring together family and friends," notes Tim Murphy, Ph.D., a psychologist in Pittsburgh. "They get a sense that they're part of a network that reaches across miles and generations." And though kids under 5 may not appreciate the notion of family ties and shared bonds, most will enjoy getting dressed up and feeling like adults, as well as playing with cousins and other relatives.
So how can you ensure that the child you're about to show off to friends and family is in top form -- and not about to fall apart? By accepting your child's limits and planning ahead, you can avoid the triggers that lead to crankiness, meltdowns, and general bad behavior. Follow these tips to make formal events more kid-friendly.