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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

other kid's parents

When I was little, maybe 12, it was a really snarky comment to say, BIG SIGH “Some people’s children,” usually in reference to a younger kid in the crowd, all the big girls would snicker and the little kid would say “shuddup” and run away. (Cruel, wasn’t I?)

on our way to our first park outing of the
season, a few weeks ago.
(the snow is gone now!!)
Today I think I would reverse that. I am pretty forgiving of kids behavior, maybe because my eldest dear son has taught me, so well, to empathize with the causes behind a child’s “problematic” behavior (sensory overload or a long big day or hurt feelings or bad sleep the night before). The other day my kid told his cousin to shut-up (a big no-no word) after his cousin teased him about his hair, which is very much too long at this point. I made little man apologize (as did his cousin’s mother) but I got why he responded so harshly to an innocent little tease. His cousins are his idols and any suggestion that they don’t approve of him makes his little heart sad.

Other parents however. Big however. Seriously, dealing with the parents you encounter in your child’s life can be one of the hardest and yuckiest elements of your parenting journey. Okay, not most parents, obviously, I mean the random encounters.

Examples are needed.

My first parent run-in was at the lake when little man was barely walking. A dad was there with his little boy, maybe slightly younger than mine and his kid was seriously crazy. I mean, in a great little kid at the lake way, you know? Running and laughing in the waves and throwing sand and just enjoying the moment.

However (you sensed that coming, right?) little boy then decided to use up some of this wild aggression on my kid. He ran at little man, full throttle, dove into his pile of sand where he had been quietly digging, grabbed his shovel and bucket and ran away, laughing. I look at the dad. Like, um, can you get your kid to not do that, um, please? Little man, of course, starts crying, wide-eyed, what the heck was that? I look at the dad again. Umm. Really? He in fact moves further away, enjoying the lake and the scenery. So, I say to Other Kid, do you want to come dig with us? We would be happy to share! Dad sees me talking to his child. Runs up. Grabs his kid around the waist, grabs the shovel out of his kids hands, throws it at my kid (I am totally not exaggerating here) and yells at me, “HAVEN’T YOU EVER TAKEN ANY PARENTING CLASSES? KIDS THEIR AGE DON’T KNOW HOW TO SHARE! HE IS JUST GONNA TAKE STUFF IF HE WANTS TO. GO TAKE A PARENTING CLASS!!”

I was flabbergasted. “Umm, I just thought they could dig together and share the bucket and shovel. They ARE our toys.” I thought I was being pretty generous. The man stormed off. Yikes, remind me not to take THAT parenting class.

I thought about that run-in for weeks. Came up with good come backs. Witty ones.

I avoided that beach for a month.

Another one that stands out. A little one is throwing sand at my kid in the park. He is wearing a diaper, no clothes or shoes on a semi-chilly summer night, his dad had brought him ... and a six pack of beer. I tell my kid to come to the other swing set. His kid follows us, to throw more sand. I ask him to please stop. His dad comes over, beer in hand, to yell at me. He actually threatened us and so I left, quickly.

my baby using the big girl ladder
for the first time...
And then there are fun incidents like today. A beautiful spring day, for Minnesota (FINALLY). We are at the park, drinking in the sunshine and blue skies. I am reclining on a slide, watching the kids play when I see a mom and kid walk up. She is on the phone. Her kid, like half the kids in the city today I would bet, goes to take off his coat. She screams. “GET THAT F-ING COAT BACK ON. WHAT THE F--- IS WRONG WITH YOU??”

Lovely. If my husband were there he TOTALLY would have asked her to not use that language around our kids. But me, I don’t do confrontation like that. So, I just hope my kids didn’t hear and she doesn’t do it again and we stay. She does do it again. And again. And again. And her poor little four-year-old seemed like a good kid, just playing, not being rough, no back talk. Finally I got my kids to take a walk down to the lake and then, with a bribe of fruit snacks, to the car.

It’s these scenarios that make parenting hard. You can’t shield your kids from the world forever. And parents are NOT going to always parent the way you do. Or even decently for that matter.

I was totally a hovering mom at first, wanting to shield and protect little man from every fall, every bump, every mean word. I quit a play group once because a few of the toddlers kept knocking him over, on purpose. Then there was a biter. I couldn’t bear to see my little man out and about with all these rough kids everywhere.

big brothers make the park MUCH EASIER for mommy :)
But, you can’t hover forever. I was totally (and probably ridiculously) overprotective though and I see that. I would follow little man around the park, helping him up the ladder, down the slide, over and over, while all the other moms sat in the shade of the big tree, chatting.

My how mommy has changed. I now confess to spending half the time at the park today composing the perfect email to a potential editor and hardly minding where my kids were running (of course they are older so its easier but, you see my point).

And I am also much more empathetic to other kids’ behavior. (A year later my sweet innocent boy went through a month long phase where he hit at any kid in his path. Gulp. Sorry!)

Other parents though. They are grown ups, with grown up responsibilities. And a lot of times my sympathy is lost. Then, unless you are my husband who has no problem calling out someone for stuff like this, there is nothing you can do except say a little prayer for that kid getting yelled at or the one with no shoes and a beer drinking dad and get out of the way.

Its funny how parenting does so much to you, makes you relax about the little stuff, makes you enjoy spontaneity, but especially how it makes you a more compassionate person. I’m glad for it. But it does make trips to the park hard sometimes.

Almost every time I leave my house I pass by a bench at a bus stop with an ad on it for foster parenting babies. And every time I think, I could do that, in another life. I should do that, in another life.

In any case...sobering thoughts for a beautiful day. The sky is alive and the air is fresh and hopeful. So, happy spring mommies!


  1. Thanks for this post. I can totally relate.. some parents are just so oblivious/psycho that they make it hard for the rest of us. You have certainly had some pretty good encounters to share... they gave me a good laugh (in a "glad-that-didn't-happen-to-me" sort of way)!

  2. Sweet Mary! I cannot believe that has actually happened to you. I have had weird encounters, but nothing like that. I do love hanging with my kids at the park though, and it would seriously annoy me to no end to have to cut our playtime short because of weirdo/pottymouth parents. I'm sure it'll happen at some point. I am with you, though, I do not confront people when we're out, you cannot risk any sort of retaliation when you have your kids with you, ya know? But, yes, happy spring! Enjoy!

  3. this totally came off so crabby, and i didnt mean it just really is a struggle as a parent, how to deal with parents who are so different from you, and its not just "bad" parents (though i hate that label) there are so many parenting traps that we can get caught up in or feel judged ourselves by! and sometimes, sometimes you just want a drama free trip to the park.


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