Friday, March 2, 2012

A Drive-By Parenting

What's black and white and sucks all over? When a stranger drive-by parents you - as in, offers an unsolicited, uninformed opinion about how you're parenting all wrong. Because they, of course, know all about you and your child and have the secret answers from the mythical Book of Parenting.

Today, while meeting a supremely darling reader (hi, Reader!) for lunch, I had just such an incident. Now I'm seeing not my usual polka dots of prepdom but those un-Pretty ones of rage.

We met at a very casual lunch spot with playground attached and, true to tempestuous toddler form, Master P was having a difficult time from the get-go. The calm, sit-down lunch with beatific child beaming from his high chair and flirting with lunch companions just wasn't happening today.

I had to make one of those quick toddler parenting decisions where you either give up and go home or make the best of it and try to stay out of the other diners' way. Given the family-friendly setting, I decided to stay, and we sat outdoors near the playground so he could safely meander while we chatted - rather, while we tried to chat in between bouts of my sprinting to keep the wee CEO off the nearest table / on the playground.

Mildly Relevant Sidebar: I now have a new definition of "working lunch", which did not previously include coaxing my son down a slide while inhaling a now-cold slice of pizza he isn't interested in eating.

At the end of our meal, my little explorer caused me to sprint again when he wandered over to the field adjacent to the playground, where a grandfather-looking type and what I assume were his school-aged grandchildren were flying one of those expensive kites that look more like a weapon than whimsical child toy.

Master P cheerfully toddled into the kite cord and got tangled before I could catch him, which is when the (stuff) started flying:

"Your kid is going to hurt my kite and make these kids very angry," barked our hero, "He should know better - you need to do a better job of watching him." (note: nothing about how Master P could have been hurt by the sharp cord, just concern about the kite).

Perpetuator of kite crimes to some, pretty awesome to mama here.

You know those red spots of rage that cartoon characters get in front of their eyes? I actually get those - right before I slink away from a bad situation, usually, muttering under my breath. Not so this time:

"I'm sorry, sir" I offered, incredulous at his aggressive tone. I couldn't help but add, "He's one and one-half years old." I scooped up Master P to exit the bad scene, but not before our playground parenting expert replied:

"That's not good enough. You need to do a better job of watching him."

"And you need to do a better job of not insulting parents who are just trying to do their best," I cooly replied (yes, really I did) (Reader, please back me up here!) (parentheses) before issuing my patented Icy Glare and stomping off in my cute new Mom Shoes, which, I can only assume, helped here - add that to my list of purchase justifications. I ignored the invective he spewed about "(my) best isn't good enough" - in front of his grandkids, mind you - as we marched off.

Sigh. In my dotage, I now try to look at these situations and see what I could have done differently . . . should I have cancelled lunch and gone home when I saw Master P wasn't going to sit politely at lunch? Maybe - ordinarily I would have, since I believe restaurant patrons have the right to enjoy a peaceful meal without my child interrupting them. However, given the noisy, outdoor, casual setting spilling over with kids - there was a playground, for the love - I decided to chance it and try to do my best to make sure any bad behavior of his (and there was some, admittedly) didn't ruin another diner's experience.

Should Master P have free rein to run wherever he pleases and assault innocent kites? Of course not, and I did my best to remove him from the situation and apologize when it happened.

Should I have clocked that kite-crazy grandpa over the head with his fancypants toy while issuing some devastating one-liners - which I would have come up with on the spot, naturally - about how middle-aged men hanging out near playgrounds aren't at all creepy? Almost certainly - but then, what message am I sending to Master P or that guy's poor grandkids?

How would you have handled this? Anyone else have a drive-by parenting story to share?


Danielle said...

I can't believe people actually say these things out loud. Sure I've raised the occasional eyebrow at parents who were not disciplining the way I would, but I've never actually said anything! I mean who am I to judge a soul when I have a 4-year old who hits little girls at preschool?! I would say I hope your comment sunk in with him but I'm thinking that's probably doubtful. Like you said, you did the best you could and I think that's all you can expect. You're a great mom and don't you forget it!

Belle on Heels said...

Pardon my French, but...What. An. Asshole. I guess one of the perks? downsides? of being older is that you forget what it's like to, you know, be a parent. Jerk.

Heather W said...

How frustrating that must be! I deal with enough assholes who want to tell me how to walk my dogs; I don't really care what kind of language I use in response. If I had to worry about setting an example...

ms. mindless said...

Whoa. I would have handled it with far less grace than you did. What a jerk!!!!!!

Whitney said...

What a {insert non-pretty language here}!!!! I'm seeing red for you! And as a grandfather, he of all people should understand. Shame on him. You absolutely said the right thing in the moment.

Sarah @ Bend it Like Becker said...

NO HE DIDN'T! Omigod. Great comeback on the spot. I would have sputtered incoherantly and cried in the car.

Cheryl E. said...

What is wrong with people?! I just dont get it. Those little toddlers are fast little buggers and sure have minds of their own. If they want that kite they will find a way to get it. Ugh I think you handled it just fine girl.

The Preppy Princess said...

Unbelievable. Really? He's more worried about his moronic kite than a child?

Good on you. I'm glad you whipped out the Icy Glare and let him have it, he deserved it. He's lucky you didn't wrap the cord around his neck. I never cease to be amazed at what people will say publicly.

Sending you a smile Miss Pretty,

PS: I adore the Mom shoes! Not to mention Master P's boat shoes....Cute-o-Meter peaking in the red zone!

Tracy said...

agreed with all above, what a jerk! hard to imagine these grandkids even want to spend time with grandpa. you couldn't have done anything different and he deserves someone to really give him a piece of their mind.

LPC said...

I bet he was severely stressed out. So sorry. In case it helps, I want you to know that when mothers who are doing their absolute best apologize to me for a rambunctious toddler, I always tell them it is not a problem. That I've been there. That they shouldn't worry. The mothers who aren't trying? That's something else. But those who are doing their best deserve societal support.

Modern Housewife said...

This is what is wrong with our country (and probably others). There is no empathy for others. Especially mothers. We (well, this old guy) have lost our ability to cut other people slack.

How sad for that guy's grandkids. I'm guessing that they can not just be kids and act like kids in front of their grandfather. Good thing they didn't mess up his kite.

Meg said...

Ew. Helicopter parents. Why can't they let kids be kids. He's _one and a half_ lady. Sorry for your annoyance.

Nice response off the cuff though. Come up with se more. You'll use 'em:)

The Little Crane said...

If this would have happened to me I would have 100% cried in private and then would have let myself be consumed by it for days.

When I see a parent and kid going through what y'all went through today, I always feel compelled to tell them they are not alone and that I've been there before. This old man.....ugh! I hate him. Is that too harsh??

I hope you know that you and Master P were not in the wrong. His behavior today was 100% normal. Just saying!

Melissa said...

Oh. No. He. Did. Not. I'm seeing spots of rage for you.
Ugh. I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

My first comment is snarky. Well, Pretty, if you were French, your child would never wander off. Harrumph.

Can you tell I'm still a bit miffed about the French-parents-are-superior book?

You will encounter these types of people along the way. You handled it perfectly. Kill them with kindness. Or just kill them.

Hope your relaxing weekend soothed the mommy nerves.


Rachelle said...

Reader here! Finally logging on after a blissfully unplugged weekend. (and thanks for the "darling" shout out - I blush).

But, holy cow - I didn't even hear the "he should know better" comment. I'd only caught up with you at the end, just in time to hear the "better job" bit. Which was enough in and of itself to have had me flustered and stammering apologies. So, your handling of the situation was exceedingly appropriate.

Besides, Master P was adorable. His tempestuousness was so brief it was hardly even noticeable. It was such fun to watch him exploring, even if it did restrict conversation to fits and starts. He's such a bold, brave boy - willing to go explore on his own. And, he didn't even touch the kite - he was perfectly polite in that regard - simply ran over the lines as they were lying on the ground - what adult hasn't done that at some point?

Glad to hear that Houston was such a refreshing change of scenery.

Mrs. Pretty said...

Thank you all so much! I can't tell you how much your comments helped soothe a stressed mama's nerves. Truly, from the bottom of my icy heart, thank you.

@TippyL - trust you to be the one to bring the snark. Funny enough I've started trying to "helicopter" at the playground a smidge less thanks to that French parenting stuff, and this is the sort of thing that happens. Back to hovering good ol' USA style ;-)

D @ Naptime in Suburbia said...

I cannot believe that someone with kids around him would have the nerve to say something so obnoxious. Good for you for sticking up for yourself!

Whitericebryce said...

You should have punched that old dude right square in his saggy nutsack.

Sorry this response is late to the game....I was in Vegas this weekend.

[darci @ the good life] said...

These situations are awful. I had one VERY, very similar but a lot more awkward. A weird ass Ikea employee wanted to tell me my business about standing closer to my baby in the cart (I truly think she had mental issues or wasn't all there...don't know?)....anyway, she got super close to me and started lecturing me as though I was a 15 year old girl. My face turned bright red and I lost my shit. Sure did. In Ikea. Asked for her Mgr. Lost my shit some more.

It was horrible and her comment and tone / demeanor was awful. Not okay! NOT okay!

People are crazy to say some of the things they do involving ones children. Can you think of a quicker way to make someone lose their shit than to insult their parenting skills or their child?

I think you handled it very, very well.

ps - glad you enjoyed Houston this weekend (do I sound like a huge stalker or what... like I have a lo jack on your car...I read your post today). Do tell, did you try Crave Cupcakes? Please say YES.

Solar Powered said...

Just now catching the story I saw you send a little tweet about. I'm sooooo glad you responded the way you did. I wish I could think on my feet that way!

Rhiannon said...

I suppose his grandchildren were never toddlers?. I think you handled this perfectly. And, I need some of those mom shoes.

Perfectly Imperfect said...

It shouldn't shock me that people actually say this stuff, but somehow it still does. I like to think I would have spouted off some perfectly snarky retort, but truth be told I probably would've been pitting out while trying to wrangle said toddler from the kite. I'm sorry you dealt with that. That guy sounds like a total douche.

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