When it comes to other people’s kids- strangers especially- there are a plethora of unspoken rules. Don’t put your hands on them (unless they are falling or have fallen), don’t scold or attempt to punish them, and don’t do whatever else any parent has cooked up in their head that is off-limits. Really, you just never know. All you can do is be nice, but not too nice. Confusing enough for you?
My mom fully implanted the idea of “stranger danger” in me at a young age. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it has something to do with almost being mowed down by a shoplifter’s full cart while checking out. She didn’t let me get farther than an arm’s length after that. I know she was just trying to keep me safe and shit like that can make you paranoid, but too much stranger danger caused me to grow up VERY shy. Yes. Me. The poop story girl. Yep. I sure was. Horribly. Even now, at 30 years of age (UGH!) I dread talking to people on the phone, and I avoid making phonecalls like the PLAGUE. Stranger danger sticks with you!
Of course I want my kids to be safe, but I didn’t want to spook them away from being confident no matter their setting by terrifying them of strangers. If I am VERY nearby, and the person isn’t a total kid hating asshole, I allow my kids to chat people up. They love people, and people love them. I truly believe that lessening my “STRANGER DANGER” grip on Holden is why he transitioned so well into school.
Parker isn’t quite as sociable as Holden off the bat. He takes a little bit of time to warm up to some people; the fellow parents/grandparents/etc. sitting in the cafeteria of Holden’s elementary school waiting to pick up their kids, for instance. Thanks goodness it’s not clique-ish this year, but we all tend to gravitate toward the same seats- which means we chat with the same people each day. Parker always tags along, so he’s had plenty of time to warm up to these people- even though we don’t really know each other’s names. Oops. I guess in that cafeteria, we leave our names at the door and become “So and So’s Mom/Dad”- that’s okay. I suppose you don’t need to know someone’s name for them to move out of the STRANGER-DANGER zone.
Parker chats with them, brings in his toys to show them, and they occasionally bring him gifts. The kids a charmer, that’s for sure.
What’s NOT charming? His behavior this week. Someone has been waking up from nap time on the wrong side of the couch!
For some people, it takes a lot of time to really be able to understand what Parker was saying, but Monday in particular, as he was talking to an older gentleman we chat with every day, not even I could figure it out. Parker went from 0 – batshit crazy in 2 seconds. He LOST IT. He wasn’t just upset and crying, he was being downright ugly. Yelling at me, shaking his fist at me, coming over and body checking me. Mama don’t play that game. I warned and I warned again, and the bad behavior only continued, so he lost the jelly doughnut he’d been begging for all day. If you can’t be good, you can’t have a damn doughnut! Did this make him calm down and get his shit under control so he could earn back the beloved doughnut? Oh HELL no. He lost it even MORE. This was the face-melting, howler monkey, out of control, people staring, epic kind of meltdown. He has NEVER had one of those during school pick-up before.
The older gentleman looked SHOCKED. Parker is always so happy when he sees him, so this must have just blown him away. I sat there calmly, issuing Parker warnings, and he continued to ignore them and would lose even more things, like dessert, story time, you name it! The situation quickly declined into “bratty a-hole kid fit” territory. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t slightly embarrassing. All the while, this poor guy is sitting there, absolutely awestruck, apologizing profusely for causing this epic meltdown. Over the cries of lost doughnut agony, I tried to explain that this is just how Parker gets sometimes and it really has nothing to do with him, my explanation fell on deaf ears. The doting grandfather got the best of him and that was when I heard him say “awww mom, just give him the doughnut!”
Jaw, meet floor- you haven’t yet become properly acquainted.
Parker perked up slightly for a second, thinking that this man was his savior and HOLY SHIT JELLY DOUGHNUT HEAVEN AT LAST (and proving that this tantrum was nothing more than crocodile tears and theatrics) would be bestowed upon him, but I wasn’t backing down.
“No. You lost your doughnut today. And tomorrow. And honestly I’m not sure if you’re ever going to get a doughnut again at this point”
I looked through a furrowed brow at the older gentleman, who now sat there silently. “He has to earn it back. He knows that.” What I really wanted to say was WHY DID YOU TAKE HIS SIDE?! WHY WOULD YOU DO SUCH A TERRIBLE THING??!? DO YOU HATE ME THAT MUCH?! DO YOU WISH TO SEE ME SUFFER?!
It was obvious he felt bad for Parker for assholing himself out of a delicious jelly doughnut, but… WHAT ABOUT ME?!
Along with the no touching, no scolding, no judging unspoken rules of children, I think “no siding with the kid” should be added to the list! I know there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, the parent is just trying to PARENT and establish boundaries, and any interjection siding with the kid who is being a turdface is undermining the parent’s authority and is NEVER as helpful or sympathetic as it seems.
Side with the parent! SIDE WITH THE PARENT! How many times do I have to say it?
If a little kid is running in the hallway of a school and their parent tells them NOT to run and the kid just start freaking the fuck out and the parent turns to me and asks “Is running allowed in school?” with that desperate “please, for the love of the sweet baby Jesus help me make this stop” look in their eyes, am I going to respond “Oh of course it is, little sweetie! No need to cry!” UHHHH NO! I wouldn’t dream of it! I would say “Your mommy/daddy is right, running isn’t allowed! There’s no need to cry, though!”
By not siding with the parent, you make their job TWENTY times harder. Parents need more support and back up instead of judgy looks, undermining comments, and whispering ridicule.
I want to raise leaders and not followers, but in order to learn when to bend the rules, you must first learn where the boundaries are. In order to learn boundaries, there have to BE boundaries. If it’s over a jelly doughnut, SO BE IT; just let us parent! We aren’t doing that bad of a job, promise.
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