I did something today that, while well-intentioned, has left me upset, and it’s too late to do anything about it. I’ve been a mom for nearly 12 years. So I know what it’s like to be proud of your kid’s accomplishments one second and utterly mortified by his or her behavior seconds later. I can honestly say that I’ve never said, “My child would never . . . ” because that would just be an engraved invitation for the referenced action to come on by for a very loud, very public visit. Likewise, I don’t appreciate judgy moms who give their opinions and offer unsolicited advice when they see something that their child would “never” do. Fortunately, I have a great bunch of mom friends, and we’re all generally on the same wavelength.
That being said, if one of my kids ever does anything we consider to be inappropriate, I would hope that another concerned parent would clue me in so I could address the situation. And believe me, it has happened. That’s why there’s a debriefing after playdates, “did everything go fine, I’m sorry my child asked for food every five seconds, etc.” But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about that, and I meant to do it the right way today, but I don’t think I did!
While coming out of Aldi balancing my groceries (no cart/no bags), I encountered a little boy of about three or four years old. He looked me straight in the eye and quickly gave me the finger. The surprise on my face must have registered with his mom because she said hi and looked a little confused.
You know how you have little conversations inside your head, all lickety-split when you have to make a quick decision? Well my interior dialogue was something like this: “Whaaaaat? Ohmygosh! He’s so little. I would want someone to tell me if one of the boys did that.”
So I smiled back at her and asked if she’d seen what he had just done to me. She said no, so I told her, “I think he just flipped me off.” She looked equally shocked and responded, “I don’t think he even knows what that means!”
And I wanted to assure her that I knew he didn’t, and I took no real offense to the gesture. But right then, my receipt blew off the top of the pile I was carrying, and when I turned to catch it, she chased her little guy into the store yelling, “Get back here!” And then I went to my car, with all of my reassurances and commiserations unspoken.
And now I can’t stop thinking about the two of them. Does this mom think I’m one of those superior, judgmental mothers, happy to gleefully point out her child’s misbehavior? Or does she assume I’m childless, so I would have no point of reference, no way to understand? What will she tell her husband, her mother, her girlfriends about the mean tattletale lady she met at the grocery store? Or worse, will she punish the little guy severely for his likely innocent imitative behavior? Aaagghh, I won’t sleep tonight!
So the best thing I can do is finish the conversation here, and hope that she feels it, cosmically, somehow. Here’s what I wanted to say: “He’s so little, I’m sure he just saw someone do it and was experimenting to see what kind of reaction it would bring. I have three boys of my own, and I know how they can be. I’m not offended–I just thought you’d want to know.”
Then if she had all day, I could entertain her with such stories as my oldest son liking to call people “dumbass” when he was a toddler (thank you, That 70s Show), and another son who spent an entire summer spitting on people (THAT was fun, by the way, especially when over the railing on fans at a White Sox game–I hope they thought it was raining!).
“I don’t think you’re a bad mom, and I hope you don’t think that I’m a bad mom. I’m sorry our exchange ended so abruptly, and I hope I didn’t ruin your day like I just ruined my own.”