• December 22, 2014

Navigating unwritten rules in life

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Posted: Sunday, October 25, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:15 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Olga Pena

Killeen Daily Herald

Some rules are unwritten. And some are up for interpretation.

When I go to a public bathroom, both my daughter and son go with me. This means even when my boy has to "potty," we have to go to the bathroom marked for women.

I really have no choice. There is no way I'll trust sending my little man into a public restroom where he is out of my sight and care. Anything could happen.

Most people understand and even give me a "hang in there" look as they see that I'm flying solo with two little ones.

Nonetheless, he's 6 now, and built like a linebacker. I get looks – not good ones – from time to time.

Even I've seen moms with what appears to be 10-year-old boys going into the female stalls and question the action.

How old is too old to take a little boy to a restroom not marked for his gender ... or for that matter, for dads flying solo with little girls? That rule is unwritten.

Speaking of children, I was in a restaurant the other day when I saw a charming group of stay-at-home moms who had gathered to have lunch. They were swapping baby and toddler stories as their children happily ate, played with food or took a little nap.

I was enjoying my meal and doing a little baby flirting with one of their little ones when I was suddenly distracted.

One mommy began breast feeding as did another mom a little later.

Both moms were completely covered but it was obvious that they were nursing in this public place while people ate.

I understood and wasn't upset but, as I've experienced before, some people stare, get mad or suddenly decide to finish their meals and leave.

When I went through the nursing stage of parenthood, I decided to use pumps and take my God-given baby food on the go when venturing to public places. That was my choice, but there are plenty of tools and garments out there that help moms who choose to nurse in public do so discretely.

So is public nursing OK as long as moms are appropriately covered? That rule is unwritten.

But of course not all rules on what's socially acceptable are related to children or parenting.

Earlier this week, I found myself about to walk through a public door that was heavy and really required two hands to open. I happened to be carrying a load of books, coffee, purse, keys and a cell phone. I was obviously not in a position to briskly walk through the entry way. Thankfully, there was another person just two feet in front of me who would surely hold the door open while I walked through.

Um, no. That person, who clearly saw me, decided to walk right through, let the door slam behind her and not take a second glance back.

Wait a minute! I sort of thought that rule was written. You always hold the door, right?

Well, apparently that rule also is unwritten.

What's most interesting is that all the social situations I mentioned above would be approached differently for those living outside of the Lonestar State.

I lived in New York and New Jersey many years. Trust me. Public nursing and boys in womens' bathrooms (a subject that was ridiculed, by the way, in a "Sex in the City" episode) would not yield as many understanding bystanders as here in the South.

As for holding doors open, although I was ignored this week, it rarely happens in this area.

And maybe the rule should state: If you're clearly in no position to open a door and someone is nearby, for Pete's sake, just ask for help!

Managing Editor Olga Pena lives in Copperas Cove with her two children, Daniel and Elizabeth. E-mail her at opena@kdhnews.com.

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