Sunday, March 01, 2009

Drawing the parenting line

Do you catch yourself parenting other parent's kids? Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you are the only responsible adult in the area and feel an overwhelming need to correct another child? Well, I was. TWICE this past week, and a few assorted times over the past month (all at the same place). the first was when a little boy, maybe one or two, came up to my 7 month old and visited with her. Then he touched her shoe - cute with butterflies and all so I said "Those are butterflies," looked up and continued watching the soccer game. Ian and Sam were mid-game and I wanted to watch. Most kids get that message - after the grown up finishes polite time they wander off. But this kid chose instead to kick my daughter in the foot - an attempt to knock those butterflies off, perhaps, or an attempt to get my attention once again. I assume that the mom or dad of this critter would come over and apologize, but no. So I said "We don't kick babies. Do not kick my baby again." Not sure if he understood or even spoke English, but he got the message that the mommy of the baby wasn't happy and wandered off. Then a few minutes later a man came around with little critter in hand asking if I was his parent or if I knew where his parents were. Nice. Not even watching your 1-2 year old in a big huge indoor soccer facility. He was eventually returned to his folks and all was well. But it was my turn to parent him - no kicking babies.

The second incident was at the grocery store as I was walking out. There was a three year old little man climbing up the wall of water bottles at the front of the store as his mom was checking out. I had to walk past him to get out so I simple said to him "That's not a good idea." It wasn't loud, and it wasn't anything offensive, but ho chose to ignore me, freaked his mom right the heck out, and had the cashier walk away from her open cash drawer to make sure that he didn't hit the floor. In the span of the three or so seconds after I walked away, he climbed part way down and then all the way up. Seems that he did kind of listen and waited until I turned my head, then chose to head back on up because I was walking away. Should I have told the mom - she was about 8 feet away and I assume that she was paying attention to her kid, but no. I had to tell him - don't climb the big stack of water bottles.

The third incident that happened on and off over the past few weeks. One of the three year olds at the boys' gymnastics place has finally figured out how to open the door that leads out to the parking lot - all thanks to his six (or so) year old sister. She took the time one day to show him how to open the door, which was a very nice, thoughtful thing to do. The mom was right there when she did it and even complimented her on how nice she was being. Since then I have found one or both of them out in the parking lot of this gym about three times. Sometimes it's the little man all by himself, proud that he made it out there. Sometimes it's both of them standing or wandering around, the mom nowhere to be seen. So this time it's me telling the mom "I found your kids out int eh parking lot again." While she looks displeased, I'm not sure that she's taken any steps towards correcting this. The last time I saw the older sister outside I told her that she was not allowed outside without her mom, and that since she's older she needs to not let her brother out as well. She looked surprised by this info as if the mom never really mentioned to them that parking lots were dangerous. So it was my job to tell her - don't play in the parking lot.

At what point is it NOT my job to parent other people's kids? These were all safety related incidents, but I'm completely hands off on the politeness rules - that is unless I know you - then I demand it from you. None of these parents have gotten mad but it has happened in the past and at some point people need to stop being offended about other parents correcting their children - if someone sees my kids doing something unsafe I'd expect them to speak up. But I guess not everyone takes that approach. Oh, well, I was beginning to think that it did take a village, but apparently it's only a few folks in the village who need to be concerned - everyone else is on vacation.


Smiling Mama said...

I am SO with you on this. Right before Christmas we were at the playground about 100 yards from our town community center--it was a warmish day but still coat weather--and two 4 yo boys suddenly appeared alone and without coats and in short sleeved shirts. I grabbed their hands and we marched back into the community center (where a Christmas market was taking place). One mom was running out trying to find her son. The other mom we had to track down--she had not even noticed her 4yo was missing and was completely unconcerned that I found him without a coat on the playground which was a good distance away. I still can't get over that second mom!

Stimey said...

It's tough. If their misbehavior directly affects my kids, I will say something. If it's safety, I'll step up too. It can be infuriating.