Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Isn't there a line somewhere???

A few weeks ago, not long after I had gotten to Southern California, my kids and I were going to the local Old Navy. I had gotten out of the car, and Blondie (my daughter, but not her real name) had gotten out. Superhero (my son, and obviously not his real name) was taking his sweet time getting out. Normally, Blondie would just stay near me or the car. This time, while my head was turned trying to get Superhero to move a little faster, she decided to go and stand right where cars drive. I did not see her do this. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a car, so I turn and look to make sure of where she is. When I see where she is, I grab her and pull her over to the side out of the way. By then, Superhero had finally gotten out of the car. We closed doors, locked the car, and started walking towards the store. The car was at the stop sign at the end of the parking row. As we get closer, she rolls down her passenger window and proceeds to yell at me. Because, according to this person, I am irresponsible because my daughter, who knows very well not to stand where she was (who, actually, had done it on purpose, because after the car had passed us ran right back out to stand there, where I grabbed her arm again and pulled her near me) was standing where the cars were driving. I don't even remember what else she said. Me, being in a not fantastic mood, do not react well to this. From what I recall, I said things like "Leave me alone" and "This is none of your business" and since I had seen a Sheriff as I was driving in I suggested I go find him and complain of her harassing me.

Here is my question: When is it appropriate to talk to a stranger about their children? I think it was pretty obvious that 1) Blondie is old enough to know better 2) that my attention was elsewhere at that moment and 3) when I realized what she was doing, I corrected the situation immediately. Many times while in the commissary or PX (which is very different when shopping at other stores. people will talk to me more frequently there than any other store I have ever been to.) other adults have said things to my children, like "you need to be good for your mom" or "don't you walk away from your mom". I have never been offended at anything anyone has said in those situations. Sometimes I have been grateful, as it has caused them to stop and think about what they are doing. Or, at least get them to stop crying, or screaming. I have said similar things to other children in stores or at parks. I have also heard of parents confronting or stopping other parents that are speeding through school parking lots at drop off or pick up times. Sigh. And the crappy part is that I know I will have to deal with this sort of thing again sometime.

What are your experiences on both ends? What have you found that works? And, what behavior by either parent or child do you feel constitutes crossing the line and saying something? Because the next time this happens, I am going to be prepared.


  1. It sounds like the driver was frightened by the sight of your child standing in the middle of the road and took out her fear on you by yelling. I was in a similar situation when my son, then 4, ran out in front of a car and I yanked him back onto the sidewalk so hard, I was afraid I hurt his arm. And then I proceeded to SCREAM at him about listening to me and how he could have been hurt or killed because the driver ws on the phone. And then I burst into tears. I felt terrible afterwards, but it was my natural reaction. Now...when someone's child has run out in front of MY car, my reaction when my heart stopped racing was to be thankful that I didn't actually hit them. But everyone's different.

    It bugs me when people say things to my children that I don't think are constructive. But some people believe in the "it takes a village" thing and other people want the village to mind their own business.

    The way I see it, you have two choices. You can be nasty and tell the person to F off, in which case you risk them getting angrier and escalating the confrontation in front of the kids. Or you can practice the art of the dismissive smile and say, "thanks for your concern, I can take it from here." And save the F you part for inside your head where no one else can hear it.

  2. not to say that my kids are perfect or that I am either, I haven't had to deal with either situation (people yelling at me for not watching the kids or me about to run off someone else's)yet. My gut reactions either way though would probably have been close to Kayris'. She has a good point about the inner swearing at the perpetrator who do the yelling at you. It allows you to let some steam off while remaining civilized!!