If you’re a person who has some thoughts on parenting that you would just love to let out on a non-suspecting stranger at the park, let me say one thing first: keep your parenting judgments to yourself. This may sound a little ranty because I’m feeling a little aggravated the day after witnessing a parental shame-down. Here’s the story. I’m at a park filled with parents and kids doing some community outreach for my daughter’s school. The other moms who are volunteering with me have all brought their kids and everyone is happily running around eating snow cones off the ice cream truck and basically looking like a bunch of Instagrams begging to happen. It’s cute is what I’m getting at.
One of the moms, I’ll call her Sandy, had a kindergartner and an almost two-year-old toddler with her and at one point while we were standing at our folding table chatting with interested families about our awesome school, a woman came walking up carrying Sandy’s toddler saying, “Isn’t this your son? He was down by the duck pond!” Well it was her son and she was mortified. Sandy said, “Oh my God! I didn’t even see him wander down there!” and “Thank you so so much!” and then a few more “Oh my Gods” because we can’t say OhMyGod enough times when every scenario of bad-things-that-could-have-happened plays out through our neurotic brains all ending with us on trial for neglect because we took our eyes off our kid for one pivotal moment.
I know this because only twenty minutes earlier I had left Matilda playing on a see saw while I took Sadie a few yards off to the bathroom. I tried to get Matilda to come with us but she was happily playing so I said stay where you are and I’ll be back in a flash. Well there was a line to the bathroom and a flash ended up being more like five minutes so when I came back I didn’t see Matilda right away and I had about four mini heart attacks looking for her red Angry Birds tee shirt in the sea of kids. I thought about how I told her I’d be right back and then wondered if someone could’ve overheard me and thought that would be a great opportunity to steal her. I suddenly remembered that Adam Walsh’s son was only five when he was taken from a department store thirty years ago. Then I spotted Mattie happy as a clam and came back to normal person land.
Sandy turns to me still horrified, “Mom of the year right? I can’t believe that just happened. I just don’t even…can’t even…” It turned out that she had walked her two kids down to the man made lake about 20 feet away to feed the duckies for a little bit and then brought them both back up to the playground where she thought her kindergartner was happily playing with her toddler behind us on the playground. But I guess the ducks had been a little too exciting and the little dude wandered back over where the other lady grabbed him and brought him back.
This story could’ve ended right here. I mean everything was fine. It takes a village right?
A lady in a bad floppy hat walked up and all confrontational says, “Do you know that your son was down by the lake? He could have fallen in! What were you thinking?” I couldn’t believe my ears. Suddenly my scrappy upbringing took over and I said, “She knows! She doesn’t need you to tell her that since she already feels bad!” But floppy hat wasn’t done. “You need to keep your eye on your child! What if he fell in the lake and drowned? Seriously!”
And that’s when I almost punched her. Who does that? Sure we’ve all had moments where we thought we knew better than another parents and we may all have a judgy thought now and again. But who lets those thoughts actually leave their mouth where they could hurt a person?
Every single parent out there has made a mistake that could have had dire consequences. It happens to the best of us and the worst of us. It happens to nannies, teachers, friends, aunts, uncles and grandparents. So if you ever witness a parenting mistake that has already happened and feel the need to lay down a parenting lecture, think about this: You probably don’t know better and your helpful lecture is only going to make the lectured feel horrible -it will not prevent it from happening again because sh*t happens. And if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. Yeah, Floppy Hat, I’m looking at you.
Okay, that’s the end of my lecture. Now I need to go figure out where my kids are.
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