Last month a group of friends gathered with their children at the pool. But before I go on, you should know that this story doesn’t end with “…and one of them drowned.” Promise. Anyway, the kids were in the pool — nine of them — and the parents were talking, happy to have finally gotten all of their kids together. They were all bloggers and at one point I remarked that it looked like Instagram had thrown up in the pool. So, we’re out there enjoying the sun when my friend Stacy asks me why I was sitting rigidly at the edge of my seat with my eyes darting from one area of the pool to the other.
“I can’t do this,” I replied.
“Watch them. I’m freaking out that something is going to happen.”
Stacy, who is the mother of a child who wasn’t present, laughed at me, the non-parent in the group being hyper vigilant. They’ll be fine, she said. Then ordered me another drink.
Of course they ended up being fine but I’m the paranoid type who looks warily at mall play structures not only because of the germs… ALL OF THE GERMS…but because I don’t want to bear witness to some child bashing their head in after toppling from the top.
I am totally THAT person but — possibly even worse — I’m that non-parent friend who worries and frets and might tell your child not to use a television stand as a jungle gym. I have been in restaurants with friends as they have allowed their children to run around the place and spent the entire meal cringing. Just the other night I openly judged two parents for bringing their one year old out to a bar at midnight.
I’ve read two posts recently as to how parents would like for their children to be approached which started me on this long path of over-thinking my relationship with children. One parent said that she doesn’t want people to assist her children on the playground. Another mother gave instructions as to how she would like for the wait staff to approach her young children. Both posts left me wondering whether or not I’ve been wrong this whole time in my interactions with children: Have my parent friends been judging me or secretly hating me for having the gall to tell their children not to kick each other? Or how about when I hold their five year old’s hand to cross the street because it’s safe?
Am I overstepping my boundaries with my friend’s children or am I being a responsible adult?
Right now I’m feeling like I want to keep all children at arm’s length for fear that I’m doing it all wrong but I also would expect parents — who are also my friends – to tell me what they do and don’t like but also to understand that I’m not trying to be a jerk by preventing their child from running out into traffic.
There has to be some sort of middle place, right? Where there is a reasonable expectation of how to treat and respect children because they are people after all and also to respect the wishes of parents. I don’t want to piss parents off but I also want for them to know that I’m trying to be helpful. Because While I do not have children of my own I do know that perhaps it’s not the best idea for a four year old to be climbing on top of a table at a restaurant while the adults sit idly by enjoying the micro-brews* because little Joey is “just playing”.
So, what’s the proper etiquette when dealing with other people’s children?
*Yes. That did happen once. I was mortified and the servers were pissed. But hey! Not my kid!
Photo Credit: D. Sharon Pruitt