Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Someone please take away my license before I commit a mommy drive-by

I don't think I actually would have said anything, because I am not very good at confrontation. But it was all I could do to keep from fixing her with an icy stare.

"Look at your jeans! What are you doing all the time? How am I supposed to
keep your pants clean?"

"Stop that. Listen to me. Settle down!"

"I can tell just by looking at this that you went too fast. Look how sloppy
this is!"

"No, you're doing it wrong. You need to pay attention!"

And the one that broke my heart: "You are six and a half years old! You should do better!"

Six and a half. This child was only six years old and for 30 minutes straight, I listened to his mother scold him, belittle him, and ignore his desperate attempts to get her to lay off the homework critique and throw him a little positive attention, for pete's sake.

For the entire 30 minutes that we shared a waiting room, I struggled mightily with my overpowering need to judge this mom. Maybe her boss yelled at her today. Maybe she has a chronically painful or terminal disease, or her kid/spouse/mother/sister/best friend does. Maybe this kid is a holy terror and responds best to a firm hand and tone of voice. Maybe he's a genius and she's trying to help him reach his true potential. Maybe she is having one of those days where she wants to ship her kids back to the cabbage patch and only take care of herself for awhile. Maybe it's just none of my damn business.

I knew there could be many explanations for her behavior, and his. If I were a better person, I would have smiled at them both and said something like "Mondays are hard, aren't they!" to defuse the tension. But I couldn't summon the generosity to do so. I buried my nose deeper in my book and waited for our shared sentence to end.

And I still feel bad about it. I guess in the end the one I judge the most is myself.


mothergoosemouse said...

So sad.

There's a woman I see at Tacy's swim lesson whom I've been dying to blog about. She behaves similarly - it's all about her agenda, so it's really no wonder her kids act up to get some attention - but I can't even bring myself to say, "Tough day, huh?" because I don't want to engage her in conversation - she's that off-putting to me. And I honestly don't think it would make a difference.

Tacy and I refer to her (privately, of course) as "the noisy mommy".

Anonymous said...

That kind of criticism doesn't sound like a "bad day" to me - blowing up and losing your temper is a bad-day thing, but a steady barrage of calm criticism is more of a HABIT.

I'm very much against judging parents on the basis of the children's behaviour, as if there were some kind of direct cause-and-effect relationship. But it just breaks my heart to hear the conversation you sketched out.

Not that I would have said anything either, of course. ;(

Karianna said...

It breaks my heart. My son has one classmate whose parent says, "Okay, don't fuck up again today"

Every. Single. Day.

(Well, okay, the Cat has only had three days of school so far, but still: three days in a row!)

Suzanne said...

It is hard to sit by and say nothing sometimes. I recently witnessed a mom curse at her 8-year-old daughter in the most hostile, nasty voice that I just wanted to shake her. I just wonder what parents who speak to their children like in public are doing in the privacy of their own homes.

Binkytown said...

You're a better mommy than me, at least you tried to defend her in your mind. I wouldn't have even given her the benefit of the doubt. Im a mean mean mommy.

nomotherearth said...

I would want to say something, but I would be too chicken. I'd probably end up give her the dirtiest, nastiest 'look' I could dredge up. If I was feeling particularly ornery that day, and I had someone to talk to, I might make some very audible comments. I'm very passive agressive, it seems...

What a yucky situation to have to sit through.

Anonymous said...

I'm the type that normally doesn't say anything either, but one day I saw a mom swat her little two-year-old repeatedly on the head. I was so scared, I thought she'd hit me too. But it just came out - "Stop it! He's so little!" She turned beat red and was clearly humiliated. She stopped. It was in line at the grocery store - I have to think maybe her eyes were opened a little. It was scary, but I think of that kid frequently and hope maybe a little light was shed into that mother's thinking.

Anonymous said...

so sad and it happens so often :(

Anonymous said...

That's so sad. I hate seeing people verbally abuse their kids like that. I saw a woman yelling at her 2 year old to "shut up" at store once. The kid was crying and was obviously tired, or just needing a snuggle, and the mom was so mean. And we wonder why so many kids turn into rotten teenagers and non-contribuing adults...

Anonymous said...

You have more restraint than I do. I have confrontations often. I figure children do not have a voice and the only people to watch out for them are grown ups. People need to know that their behavior towards children are toxic.
What is the parent going to do to me? The child? More often than not, they are embarrased. Someone was actually holding them accountable for their behavior- and a stranger at that!
Sometimes I wish I could keep my mouth quiet for 1/2 hour like you did. There are no easy answers.

Nancy said...

It's so hard to know when to intervene, or how. I have done both -- intervened gently and pretended not to notice. I still felt bad either way because I was sure that I wouldn't be correcting the parent's normal way of interacting with the kid. Sad, but true.