Not helpful strangers

* Life has been pretty busy over the holiday season and into the New Year so far. I have a few carefully composed half-written posts, interestingly enough two of which are about the difference that the kindness of strangers can make – so of course, I’m posting this rant about a not helpful stranger this morning. Maybe I’ll find time to finish up one of the others someday soon…

I have never come so close as I did this morning to giving a stranger a verbal lashing for feeling like it was within her rights to judge my parenting.

She didn’t know me, my child, or the situation at all. She didn’t even see the exchange between him and I that lead to him being upset. She didn’t know why he was crying in the grocery line. But she felt it would be fine to assume and judge me.

The sum up is that my 17 month old non-verbal Vaughn was exhausted and hit nap time right before I finished grocery shopping. I stayed calm and positive and managed to distract him and chatter with him while I finished up, waited in line, checked and paid for our things and was loading them in the cart when he pointed at me in his I want to nurse way. I whispered to him “Sorry buddy, but we’ll be home soon” and landed a kiss on his forehead. He threw his head back and sobbed as if I had plucked out one of his eyes so I offered him a strawberry which he luckily decided to take and start nibbling instead of throwing it across the room and going into full tantrum mode. The lady behind me in line said to him, “Good job, buddy. You’ve learned that if you cry she’ll give you what you want”. I gritted my teeth and kindly replied, “I had just told him no about something else and this seemed like a good compromise”. This should have ended our exchange. She continued on to say “hmmm…yeah, you keep telling yourself that.”

I said nothing.

Thing is, there are so many other things she could have said…things that could have helped a tired mom of a toddler. Things that could have encouraged.

She could have said something simple like, “that looks like a good strawberry” and given him a smile.

She could have given him a little grin and said, “Do you feel better now, buddy?”.

Something like, “wow you must have been pretty hungry” would not have been totally uncalled for.

Perhaps an encouraging glance or a “way to keep your cool, mom”, an “I remember those days”, or a “good save” would have been helpful.

Or, you know, she could have said nothing at all.

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4 thoughts on “Not helpful strangers

  1. I remember those days!! What you did was fantastic!! Don’t let anyone else judge your parenting skills!! And good for you for keeping it cool… I would have lost it on her… Lol.

    Keep up with the posts and blogs.. I’m loving them!!

  2. wow. That’s awful! You’re lucky you’re a strong woman, because I have to admit I have had stuff like this happen and I always find myself thinking afterward, “what if there ARE people out there who somehow manage to NEVER have something like that happen.” I always end up second guessing myself and feeling angry and bad the rest of the day (sometimes week.) Once my toddler got sick and we rushed her to emerge. It had been a long day. She was exhausted and tried and cranky and hurting and so were me and my husband. As we sat waiting she was doing well, considering but reached down and plucked her shoes off. Now, we had ran out the door in such a panicked rush we had slid her bare feet into her boots, so when she took them off she had no socks. I went to put the boots back on – I know hospital floors are dirty, I don’t let her roam public places shoeless or sock less, I’m not that terrible or clueless – but she LOST it. she started to cry and get worked up and started choking on her phlegm and I knew immediately forcing her to wear those shoes when all she wanted to do was curl up in my arms and cuddle without heavy cumbersome feet…let me put it this way she was miserable enough without adding to it over such a little issue (in the grand scheme of things). So She went barefoot. She stayed on my lap but on occasion got down. All she had energy for was standing a few seconds anyways before crawling back up. But some woman decided I needed to learn a lesson, and ripped into me about how terrible it is I let her go barefoot. Would I normally? No. Am I stupid? No. But she didn’t ask any questions, she just assumed I was terrible. I was just exhausted, when we left without socks we were panicked and not in our right minds, and to make the kid suffer more for our mistake….? ‘Wasn’t going to happen. The likelihood she’d catch her death in bare feet on that floor? Not likely. High enough I normally wouldn’t do it, but low enough I felt it was worth that risk just this time. She sat with us and yammered at us for a good 15 mins. we smiled politely and said, “yes you’re probably right.” But inside we wanted to smack her.

    • After a day of reflection (and anger), I think what you said at the beginning is exactly how I’m feeling. I am grateful I am a strong woman (because think of how devastating that could be to someone less confident or to a first time mom just figuring things out). And also it has made me feel upset on and off for a whole day. Think of what a difference she could have made if she had chosen to be positive instead. It made me think of the last time I was in a similar situation. Zander melted down over something in a store. Based on the way I handled it, I had two separate women pull me aside and tell me that they were proud of me or that I handled it well. Obviously, I don’t manage to handle all challenges perfectly, so those positive words made me feel so good. They carried me through the challenges of the next few days – wanting to continue to live up to that praise. They didn’t have to say anything but because they chose to be an encouragement, I was prompted to be a better parent. Sometimes parents make mistakes – this is part of doing anything (though, in this case, I really don’t think I did). Choosing to discourage/belittle/berate/judge a stranger, who is doing a job as challenging as parenting, based on a few seconds of their life – is never going to help anyone. (This is, of couse, based on interactions with parents who vary in opinion to yours and not in the case of witnessing obvious abuse)

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