Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Other People's Kids

I love kids. I have loved kids since I was a kid. My brother was born when I was thirteen and my sister when I was seventeen (by the way, this may be the best teen pregnancy prevention strategy in the history of ever). I love babies, I love toddlers, I love preschoolers and big kids and tweeners and teen-agers (provided they don’t live in my house).

But sometimes I come across a kid who is not acting right and I am faced with a dilemma. We’ve written a bunch of open letters to parents about watching their kids at the pool or the playground. And I wrote yesterday how I get all weird and stabby when other grown ups criticize my children, even if it’s only an imagined criticism. Obviously, a teacher or coach or a real problem is exempt from that. I mean, if something is actually wrong – I need to know to about it. But if you’re being a jellyfish and trying to zing me, or you’re a complete stranger with parental hovering issues – please just keep it to yourself.

Let’s be honest though, sometimes you have to say something. I had to speak to a little dude last week at the playground who was waving a ginormous stick at my baby’s head while his mom texted. I used a very nice voice and he complied right away and then gave me a big high five. When his mom looked up I told her: “Your son is a great listener! And what nice manners!”

And my baby picked up the stick and started waving it around. Awesome.

The stick example was too easy, though. Other people’s kids can annoy you, antagonize you or even make you spitting-cherry-pits-moonbat-crazy. Don’t get me started on how badly I wanted to square up on a 5 year old who was an abusive bully to my friend’s son for a year. And no one did anything about it. Not the parents, the school and least of all the kid himself. I know that he was only five, but he was a really mean kid and it made me so angry that he was being allowed to behave so horribly to other children and the only consequences were for the kindergartners that got a stomach ache every time they thought about going to school.

A couple of times, other kids have bullied or picked on my own children and I have had to work really, really hard not to flip out. I had to remind myself that there have been times when it was my kids that were behaving badly. In fact, mine always seem to act up at the worst possible time, too. And the worst, for me, is with friends. Seriously son, you have to pick now to teach Kate's boys how to run screaming through the pews after church? That’s nice.

When there’s an issue with a friend’s kid – it’s just the worst. Because we all know that if the kids can’t get along and play nice, the friendship is going to suffer eventually. At some point someone is going to have say something. It could get weird and judgey. And I get all twitchy and nervous. It’s like being transported to a old episode of 90210 when everyone decides they hate Brenda and I am Brenda.

Actually, I think one thing may be worse than the friend issue. Yesterday, someone left a comment that said: “Be glad you aren't part of a blended family. I would never say anything negative about other people's kids, except when other people's kids live in my house. It is walking a tightrope everyday.” Oh, even YESSER. To the mommies and daddies having to walk that tight-rope every day, I tip my hat. And my t-box.

I decided to write about all of this because last week I flipped out for no good reason. I was being really oversensitive to something that was no big deal. And then a few days later, I quietly smirked at a friend’s kid who is frankly, a lot weirder than mine (and that’s saying something). It made me pause and do some thinking. I have behaved badly when friends said things about my kids. I have said things to friends about their kids when I should have kept my mouth shut. I need to stop being a hypocrite.

Here is my pledge:
  • I will not say negative things about other people’s kids, even when they are being wretched little schmidt-weasels.
  • I will not think less of a kid who is simply doing normal kid things, no matter what. Even if I watch him pick a winner and then eat it. I will merely gag and then hand him a Kleenex.
  • If our kids are being turds to each other, I promise not to take sides. I will recognize that they are both being momentarily awful but are actually really sweet little monkeys.
  • If your kid is mean to my kid, I will still love them and remember that you are a good mom. Please do the same the next time Hawk throws a soda can at your kid’s head or my toddler sets fire to your house.
  • If my children teach yours to say “whore” or yours teach mine a dance routine to “California Gurls”, can we just agree that it’s society’s fault?
  • I will try to keep my mouth shut about unimportant things but please know that this will be really hard for me because I have no filter and also, I’m bad at not talking.
  • Even if your kid smells like feet, if he wants a hug from me, he’s going to get one.
  • If the time comes when I have to say something about your child that I know you won’t like, I will do so as gently as I can. I will not be Simon. I will be Paula. I will be just as crazy and I will hate every second of knowing I’m making you feel bad.
  • If I see your kid being a monster and you struggling to keep it together, I’m not going to jellyfish you. I’m going to do the opposite. I have no idea what that is, but I’m going to do it.
  • I’m going to remind you how amazing your kids are on their worst days and celebrate with you on their best days.
  • I’m going to tell you again and again that all those things that make them difficult to parent will help them be amazing adults. That being stubborn, smart, creative and clever are characteristics you can’t teach.
  • If it involves changing a poopy diaper, I’ll do it. But I might throw up.

Lydia B. Coupon

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010


  1. Love it Lydia! I have no filter either, and I need one SO badly! I usually have to warn my friends in advance tho that I will boss their kids around unless they tell me not too. Luckily so far they've all been grateful for the reinforcement b/c I'm going to be in big trouble when I run into someone who hates it!

  2. I just love reading this, and my kids are all grown up!!! Knowing you make my daughter's day a little brighter makes me smile too. Hang in there, all you mommies!! I had two sets of twins, and whew...I can relate!!

  3. I think all of us crazy mommies probably need to tape your pledge to our fridges and refer to it often. It's hard not to step in sometimes...sigh. On a totally different note, did you know that today is National Coffee Day???? :o)

  4. I must be PMSing because this just made me bawl like an overtired toddler. I think I need to embroider this entire thing on a sampler.

  5. I know that I try monumentally hard not to just gripe about other peoples kids.. because lord knows my monsters really can be monsters. Lately though I seem to have a really tough time filtering anything. Probably why we haven't been invited to playdates lately. sigh.

  6. I bite my tongue until it bleeds. A lot. Because telling teachers how to teach and parents how to parent is off limits for me unless there is abuse involved. That being said, I parent a lot of other people's children in public places -- with the apparent blessing of the parents -- because they are otherwise occupied (chatting, reading, texting) or so worn down they just.don' And I am the mom who gets swarmed by other people's kids at the bus stop who all want first shot at tattling to me about my (adorable) little hooligan -- so it's not as though I have any special skills on board.
    You rock. I'm adopting your resolutions. If for no other reason than that I get to think the expression "schmidt-weasel" on a regular basis. You get extra points for that one (!)

  7. Having taught preschool at a daycare for 2 years, I dealt with other peoples kids 5 days a week, all year 'round. There were days I wanted to strangle some of those kids... and other days where I knew I had the best job ever. It's hard to step back and put up your filter, and realize that kids are kids... and sometimes it's not THEIR fault about the way they act, but goes back to who is raising them and how.

    Case in point. This past spring my 6 month old daughter and I were in a swim class together and there was another class going on simultaneously with 4 and 5 year-olds. After the classes were over it was open swim time and you could splash and play anywhere in the pool area.

    After one of the classes, I was sitting in the ultra-shallow end with my daughter, and she was happily splashing around and playing with toys. Some little boy from the other class was watching us, and proceeds to walk over to the water fountain area (about 5 feet from where we were) and stands on one of the spouts that shoots up from the pool floor. We were in about 2-3 inches of water. He turns and moves his foot around and all of a sudden the water shoots straight at my baby's face. She flips out, I throw my hand up to block the water. He moves his foot again and it hits me in the face. Then re-aims for my daughter again. His mom was about 30 feet away, and as she slowly walked towards him says "watch the baby". Really? Watch the baby? How about telling him to stop!

    So he "stops" for a moment, like all of 10 seconds, and then does it again. So I proceed to say (in my nicest voice that I could at that point) "please stop splashing the water in my baby's face" and he looks at me like no one has ever disciplined him before in his life. His mom turns to me, gets all snarky and says "You don't need to tell my child what to do. It's a pool. You are going to get wet. And he's just being a kid". I turn back to her and say "I understand it's a pool, but he was purposely spraying water in the face of my 6 month old. I asked him nicely to stop. I have a son around the same age as him, and if he did that to some random baby that we didn't know, you can bet I'd say alot more to him than 'watch the baby'. But fortunatly my son realizes that doing something like that is wrong and wouldn't act that way in the first place." She muttered for words, scooped up her angel and stormed out of the pool area. Thing is, the week prior to that, the same innocent little boy decided it would be fun to walk up behind me at the pool and dump a bucket of water on my head. His dad was with him that time, and he didn't do a damn thing about it.

    So yes, while we as parents have to breathe and count to 10 sometimes when dealing with other people's kids, you can bet your t-box I'm gonna go all momma bear on your kids mess with mine and YOU don't do a thing about it but stand on the sideline and watch.

  8. Such a great post! How is it you can rant AND say such nice things about this? Bless your heart, you must have some "south" in you! Ha ha!
    Inspiring! Really!

  9. This is something I struggle with, too. As a primary school teacher (and a mom of two kids three and under), it is very hard for me not to say something to other people's kids. It is embarrassing to me, and I really try not to do it, but it is like a compulsion I can't stop. I guess because that's what I get paid to do all day long, so it is very hard to cut it off.

    I don't have a problem with my friends' kids ... I can recognize that as being different. I also don't correct kids who are with their parents. But unsupervised kids? If I'm thinking more about my shopping list and keeping my own two kids in the buggy and not really thinking about NOT correcting random kids, I give the boy running down the aisle in Walmart the teacher evil eye and say, "Hey - walking feet, buddy. Walking feet." Then I realize - or my husband so helpfully points it out - I'm not at work ... not at work ... not at work. Oops.

  10. Is it weird to feel all giddy that you used my quote in your post??!!!

    I love the list. I'm on board with it all except the hugging. I'm not a big hugger and I especially don't want to hug any stinky little kids except my own.

  11. Amen to this! I am living in a blended family, we have "yours" "mine" AND "ours" (a total of 4, with 3 teenagers). They all live with us. During this incredibly mind numbing suck-fest, I have gained at least one positive thing. No matter what your kids are doing, however awful and petty, I am pretty sure mine have done it or are doing it too.

    It gives me a ton of perspective, and makes me much less judgemental as I have been on the receiving end of a whole lotta crap. Hey, my husband and I are reasonably well adjusted, productive adults. I hang on to the hope that it's just a series of overlapping phases and they will eventually grow out of it!

    Cheers to you!

  12. I used to be all judgy on my one friends parenting and her odd kid as a result...then she told me that her OWN MOTHER asked her if she thought her child were READY for kindergarten next year.

    Ummm. WHUCK?

    I got all mama bear because this child is SUPER SMART. Yeah she may be a little socially odd because she didn't hang around a lot of other kids, but she is getting over that now she is in pre-k. Ugh!

    And kind of a hypocrite and I didn't like it.

    I pledge too.

  13. Oh Lydia, how do I love thee? Let me count the 90210 references...

    I love the part of the pledge about how a difficult-to-parent kid leads to an amazing adult. All my favorite adults must have been pistols as children. I know for a fact that my passionate, creative husband was a gigantic schmidt-weasel as a kid. Here's to the schmidt-weasels!

  14. Oh thank you for this post, truly. Had a tough morning with my 10 year old stepdaughter who lives with us, and that comment that someone made to you about not making comments about other people's kids unless those kids live in your house, and tightrope walking and all of that? Yeah, my house. Plus add nearly 18 month old b/g twins, and stir vigourously! Your beautiful listing here made me sniffle, really...and that line about the things about our kids that make them difficult to parent will make them amazing adults, and about you being there for friends to remind them about the cool things about their kids on their worst days, and helping to celebrate with them on their best days...yep, uber sniffle! Thanks for being a good mom, and for sharing it with the rest of us :).

  15. It takes ALOT for me to say something to somebody's else kid, but H*ll yes, if they are messing with MY kid and the parents don't say something, I go all momma bear too...

  16. I'm sorry, but am I the only one who wants to hold these parents accountable INSTEAD of holding my tongue? If my child or another is in harm's way or the idiot kid wielding the bat is going to shatter my planter, you bet your ass I'm going to nail that kid to the ground. WHERE ARE THE PARENTS!!!!? Everyone has bad days, but letting these kids do/say whatever the hell they want over and over again is ridiculous.

  17. It's so hard to walk the line. I never know when to say something and when to smile and nod! Like there's a kid in J's "class" who always seems to push J down and take his pacifier. And the mama bear in me wants to kick his 1 year old butt... but instead I smile and say "no no no" and give it back to J.

  18. I'm also a elementary school teacher, a step-mother to a wicked awesome 11 year old (who lives with us on a year on, year off basis - mom lives in Nova Scotia, we are in Ontario), I'm pregnant and due ANY.FREAKING.DAY. as well as having a feisty 2 year old who flits between being the biter and hugger at daycare.

    There is a saying that I'm sure you've heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Children NEED influence from other adults other than their parents so they can learn how to behave appropriately. Lets face it - some parents truly suck at behaving themselves.

    I'm sure you can figure out that I have no problem reprimanding, protecting and watching out for other people's children in public. I've saved countless children from falling, being hit with sticks, from being beat on and being lost that I don't care what the parents say anymore... but honestly, if you are tactful and gentle, I find most parents are grateful for the intervention.

    Ew - I just read over my post and it sounds really preachy. LOL! Sorry - I guess I'm just agreeing with you - and I hope more moms pick up the torch.

  19. "I’m going to tell you again and again that all those things that make them difficult to parent will help them be amazing adults. That being stubborn, smart, creative and clever are characteristics you can’t teach."

  20. I drive a carpool of 7 kids...4 of my own, 3 that I bring home on 1 afternoon a week. Ever since school started about a month ago, one of the older kids that I pick up (an 8 year old) is routinely RUDE and kind of nasty to my younger kids (ages 4 & 5). For weeks, I tried gentle correction, but this kid was coming in and taking all of his frustration out on my kids and it was apparent that my words weren't doing anything to help, so I had to tell his mom. I felt terrible. But, I also know that I am standing up for my kids, and that feels good. I tend to err on the other side, letting other kids get away with stuff that I call my own kids out on, not wanting to ruffle feathers, REALLY caring what other people think of me. But in this case, I really think it was more important for my kids to know that I am their advocate, and to see me stand up for them. Ya know?

  21. We've had a remodeling project going on in our house for what feels like 100 years, but is actually closer to 2 months. At any rate, it has been going on long enough for carpenters "Jim" and "John" to start to feel like members of the family. Things have gotten to the point that one morning chain-smoking, muscle car driving "Jim" gave my son ("His Nibs") a talking-to about leaving toys on the walk beside the house where the J's need access to bring in their tools, and then not 5 minutes later told him that he needed to wait and stop shouting until "mommy was done talking with 'John' about something important." And then soon afterwards showed "His Nibs" how to stick the nozzle of a shop vac to your cheek with suction until it falls off. My first impulse was to want to offer him a job as a baby-sitter.

  22. I have to agree with you about the teen pregnancy prevention strategy. My sister was born when I was 12. I am now 30 and happily married and I am having a real problem trying to get to the "let's have our own" stage. I enjoy children and am the backup babysitter of choice of my friends (they keep telling me - you're so great with them, we feel so comfortable leaving them with you) but every time my husband and I start discussing it all I can remember is what it's like to have an infant in the house and I really really don't want to go there. I'm hoping the old biological clock will kick in at some point or I'm going to end up childless.

  23. I realize I am posting MONTHS after everyone else has thrown their 2 cents in (3 due to inflation?) but I wanted to add that there are times when you SHOULD go mama bear on some fiesty kids. I have no problem raising my voice when there's a safety concern; I'd rather have Attitude Mama give me attitude than having to attempt to stop the bleeding OR WORSE. Friends? For me, they make it easier. I parent their kids just as much as they parent mine but fortunately I have friends that have the same standard of parenting that I do. Let's face it; I am a ninja mom, but I am a tired/stressed out ninja mom, and I sure as heck don't have go-go gadget arms attached to my body. But friends? They fill in the gaps when I'm having a "mommy moment". You know, like eating ice cream after you've already eaten too much other, healthier food. Just that awesome that way. Kids will be kids, kids will do some crazy schmidt, they will act like they were born and raised in a barn and forget the things that I have. Constantly. Reminded. Them. Of. A. Million. Times, but if they're doing something wrong, they need to be corrected, and corrected on the spot. By a smart adult who realizes that I/Me/Their Mom am doing my best but drooling a little because I'm not completely there. *Happens to all of us* That said, if I feel like someone is picking on my child and just being Bossy-Pants/Helicopter/Doesn't Play Fair Mommy, she'll get a shoe in her taco.

  24. Yes, late to the game reading this one but I love it. Starting to try to blend my family with boyfriend and his two kids (one of his and one of mine are 3 yo. Yikes.) and it's very, very hard. Hey, if you know of any bloggers or advice columns on blended families, I could use the info. Thanks!




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