WARNING: TO THOSE WHO MIGHT BE OFFENDED, THIS IS A RANT. IT INCLUDES SOME BAD LANGUAGE, WHICH I REALLY TRY NOT TO DO IN MY POSTS NORMALLY. IT’S ESPECIALLY BAD AT THE END, BECAUSE I AM REALLY, REALLY MAD. THIS IS MY OUTLET. PLEASE STOP READING HERE IF BAD LANGUAGE OFFENDS YOU. THANKS.
A few days ago I was in the park with my son, who turns five in a few short weeks. He had his brand new shark fin bike helmet on and was riding his bad-ass motorcycle-like Big Wheel thingy. He’s a thrill seeker, my son, and directly at the entrance of the park is a pretty nice hill that lets him pick up some cool speed before he hits a nice, level grassy area in which to stop.
We’d had a tough few days, my son and I. He’s one of those “strong-willed, high-energy” types (you know the kind — five years old, male, and too smart for his own good) and, knowing he’s leaving his beloved preschool to head into the Big K in September, he’s been pushing lots of boundaries lately. This endeavor has landed him in his room sans Kindle Fire quite a bit over the past few days, and on this day we had both agreed to have a better day.
So when I took him to the park, I was determined to let him have some fun. We stopped at the hill and I let him go up and down to his heart’s content. He was having a blast, and I was totally comfortable with the danger level. He was, after all, wearing far more armour than I ever wore as a kid doing much more stupid things, and he was totally in control on the bike and his body. In fact, here’s a video I took on that day so you can see for yourself:
So as we’re doing this, some guy — probably in his late fifties — is walking by with his daughter, who’s about eleven, maybe. “How old is he?” he demands. “He’ll be five in a few weeks,” I say. He says, “Oh. I was gonna say, that’s a pretty steep hill for a three year old. You were gonna be in trouble.” And he walked away.
Excuse me???? I’m going to be in trouble? With whom, exactly, you obnoxious, judgy, stick-your-face-in-where-it-doesn’t-belong jerk? The three-year-old-big-wheel-police? Who are you to tell me I’m going to be in trouble for letting my son have a few minutes of kid-fun? Really? He was wearing a helmet, for Pete’s sake. He was in complete control of the Big Wheel and it wasn’t like I was letting him head right into the lake with a weight attached to the front wheel. I didn’t tie him to the bike and let him ride in traffic. What — have you gotten so freaking old you forgot what it’s like to have the wind in your now-missing hair? Dude, if you want to shelter your poor eleven year old daughter so much she can’t ever have fun that’s your problem, but my kids are going to experience life. And you know what? If that means a few bumps and bruises from falling off a bike so be it. Idiot.
But the issue here is not so much that he’s obviously a paranoid, over-protective, superior-feeling stick in the mud. The problem is that he felt it was his absolute right to impose that bubble-wrap parenting style on me. And on my kid.
Look, being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I screw up royally at least once a day. I pray every morning and every night that I’m not turning my kids into serial killers. I tell them I love them often to make up for all my mistakes. I am impatient, I yell at them, I have high expectations. I negotiate, I bribe, I don’t spend enough time with them. But damn it, taking my kid to the park and letting him ride down a hill is NOT one of my Worst Parenting Moments Ever. In fact, it was a pretty stellar mommy and me minute if I do say so myself. If this guy thought my kid’s life was in danger, he should have seen me a few days ago when this precious little four-and-three-quarters-year-old kicked me and tested my patience to the limit and the best parenting strategy I could muster was to remove myself from his presence. And any parent who says they haven’t had a moment like that is flat. out. lying.
As parents — I am purposely not limiting this to just moms — we need to get a grip and instead of practicing judgment over the thirty-second snapshots we catch of each other’s styles, we need to shut the heck up and at send some warm support vibes each other’s way. I can’t tell you how many times perfect strangers have inserted themselves into my role as parent.
When my daughter was a baby, she hated hats. It was an on-going battle that I would always lose, so when we’d go for a walk, I’d slick that bald baby head up with sunscreen and head out the door. Once, on a particularly sunny day, some old fart was walking past, looked at her, sucked his tongue loudly and muttered, “No hat,” as we walked by.
Or how about the time she was an infant and we were in Home Depot, and some woman came up and said to her, in a little baby voice, “Oh, you don’t need that binky, do you?” and proceeded to reach into my baby’s face and begin to remove the pacifier from her mouth.
If you know me at all, please go ahead and imagine what happened next. I won’t repeat it here.
Shortly after that, another woman told me I was wrong for dressing my daugher in a brown shirt (that had a flower on it) because SHE couldn’t figure out if my baby was a girl or a boy. I’m not making that up.
But I have to say, the one that sticks out in my mind the most is a shopping trip to the food store after a long night with my daughter. She was probably about 9 months old and I had been awake with her all night long as she battled a high fever. I remember sitting in bed with her in my lap for hours that night, hand-feeding her Pedialyte ice pops to keep her hydrated. It was hours of sticky fun, let me tell you. The next morning, I awoke groggily after about ninety minutes of sleep ready to call her pediatrician. But when I looked at her, there was a happy, smiling, fever-free baby who seemed ready to go out and face the world. I, on the other hand, was exhausted.
But life must go on, and we needed groceries. So off I go to the store, where the multitudes were, too. And those multitudes, they were congregating around the cheese display. I needed cheese. My daughter was in the cart, happy as a lark. I took three steps away from the cart to squeeze in and get some cheese, because I couldn’t get my cart any closer. Within five seconds, I was back at my cart. Three steps, five seconds.
I felt a finger dig into my shoulder from behind. I turned. “How can you turn your back on her like that?” a woman asked. I was so tired. So very tired. The night before flashed before my eyes. The hours of my baby crying, feeling so sick, me holding her, rocking her, keeping her hydrated. Maybe taking three steps away from my daughter was not my best mom-moment of the year. I get that. But where the hell was this chick last night when I let my baby puke into my hand? Where was she when my little girl’s fever shot up to 103.9? Where was she at 3am while I was rocking my little girl to sleep?
All I could do to this woman who dug her finger into my shoulder was hold my palm up to her face to obliterate it from my view. I let out a laugh that said, “I can’t believe you said that and if you say another word this palm will be slapping your face.” In response she said, “No, I’m serious.”
I then turned to my smiling, happy shiny baby, who was looking up at me with complete adoration and joy, because if I didn’t look at her, I would be wrapping my hands around that woman’s neck. I took her beautiful face in my hands, my smily, happy baby, and said out loud and pointedly, “Some people need to learn how to mind their own business.” She laughed, and I walked away — barely — from an attempted murder charge.
The point here: if she was so worried about my kid, how about just hanging out, watching the scenario for the 5 seconds it took to occur, saying, “Hey maybe she’s having a rough day, but the kid is fine, I made sure to watch for that eternity it took that mom to get her cheese,” and move. the. hell. on.
A friend of mine recently posted something about how other moms give her the Playground Look of Death because she lets her kid go up the slide instead of down. She said hey, it helps gross motor skills and upper body strenth. What’s the problem? Now, I have a different approach. I am all for the up-the-slide-the-wrong-way when there’s not other people using the slide. But when we all have to share, I insist my kids use the ladder. But let me tell you about the kind of person I am: if one uppity mother gives me the Playground Look of Death, I will look her in her scary eye and tell my kid, go ahead, go up the “wrong” way. Have at it. Not for any other reason than I am tired of moms judging moms, of these stupid park and recreational politics. Enough already.
See a mom on her cell phone while she’s pushing her kid in a swing? Cut her a break. Maybe she’s texting her shrink. Be glad you don’t need a shrink. Maybe you do need a shrink to handle all your judgy-ness.
See a kid eating ice cream? You don’t need to tell the mom all about the dangers of milk and hand her an anti-Monsanto brochure. We all know the food in this country sucks. And maybe the kid deserves the treat. Shut up and stay out of it. It’s none of your business. All you save the world types are really annoying after a while. Go save someone else’s world. Leave mine alone.
Oh, and please don’t say things like, “I’ve seen you grow so much as a mom over the past few months.” Really? You’ve seen me, like, twice in that amount of time. Do you even understand how condescending and arrogant that statement is? Do you want to see my fist grow larger before your very eyes? Here, bring your face over here. Judge-y bitch.
Unless you see outright child abuse (in which case, you better damn well stop it then report it — and that includes verbal — or you’ll be the topic of my next PMS rant) if you catch a parent not at their best, exasperated and tired, stressed out, — or even, GOD FORBID — letting their kid have some fun, instead of casting a judge-y comment or offering advice, how about you say a little prayer for them, give them a friendly, understanding smile, offer to carry something for them, or, if you are the type who can’t keep your mouth shut for anything, make sure you’re saying something kind, uplifting, and helpful, even if it’s just a, “Hey, we’ve all been there. Can I push your stroller over to the bench for you?” (understanding that they are tyring to tame a three-year-old-turned-octopus-having-a-tantrum and require all possible limbs to do so).
See, here’s the thing. If you’re not a parent, shut the fuck up. You have no idea what it’s like. If you are a parent, shut the fuck up and remember that you, too, have had your moments. You know how hard it is. And be warned: the next idiot who decides to comment on my parenting skills will get my FULL ON JERSEY STYLE revealed. ‘k?