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Stranger Scolds Kids at State Fair for Not Listening to Their Mom

When your kid has a meltdown, it’s rough. When the meltdown happens in public, it’s brutal. Kid meltdowns immediately trigger my fight-or-flight instincts and I know they are just as tough on my 6-year-old.

A “typical” kid meltdown moment happened at this summer’s Iowa State Fair. What makes this instance different from the kid meltdowns we are all familiar with is who intervened and calmed things down.

Jennifer Dockter-Lago, mom of the two boys involved, shared the moment on the State Fair’s Facebook page. She explains:

“After we had a snack beside this toy stand (my fault, poor choice), my kids incessantly began begging for and touching the toys….several warnings & threats later, a gentleman carni came up and sat down on the curb with them!

At first I thought he was trying to sell them some junk and he was creepily close to them!

BUT, here’s what he said ‘hey, you guys need to listen to what your mom is saying! You didn’t come to the fair for some crappy toys, you came for the activities, and fun, and family time.’

‘Trust me,’ he continued, ‘when I was your age I didn’t listen to my parents and now look at me, I’m selling crappy toys at the fair! Is that what you wanna do with your life? Sell junk at the fair? If you want To do something with your life, you need to listen to your parents, respect them, and enjoy what’s important or else you will turn out like this! Now go have a fun day and listen to your mom!’”

Sometimes the best advice our kids will ever get in a situation won’t come from us. We are in our kids’ lives every day and, like the hum of the fridge, I imagine some days we are just tuned out. I’m thankful for all of the other people in my 6-year-old son W’s life who feel invested enough in us, in him, to chime in when needs be.

There’s that fantastic song from Sesame Street, “These Are the People In Your Neighborhood” — remember how it walked us through all of the people we might encounter just walking down the street? As W and I have continued to settle more into our new neighborhood (we recently moved), I have worked to establish connections with everyone we meet. We see the same people at the bank, at the grocery store, at the pharmacy, and so on. These people we encounter often have made a connection with our family. When they chime in with a pearl of wisdom for my W, he listens in a way he doesn’t always do for me. I could take offense or feel bummed that W unlocked a life lesson thanks to a bank teller instead of listening to me, but instead, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I’m not the only person in my son’s life. Hopefully many people will teach and guide him along the way.

Here are some of the unexpected lessons my son learned from someone other than me:

There are nice ways to express you don’t like the food that’s been served to you.

My son’s godfather and his wife, who happen to be major foodies, hosted a BBQ this summer and invited us over to hang out for the afternoon. From across the lawn I saw W’s godfather present him with a small plate of food and then I heard W exclaim, “That’s gross!” I was about to intervene, when I then heard his godfather say, “Let’s talk about a better way for you to get that point across …”

Just because items are on a counter does not mean they are gifts.

My son learned very quickly from a no-nonsense bank teller not to help himself to paper and pens. As I was filling out a deposit slip, W grabbed a stack of forms from a kiosk and started drawing on them. A bank manager walking by stopped and leaned down to tell him those forms were not gifts for children. W immediately apologized, and in return, the woman pulled out a lollipop from her pocket.

When someone says “good morning” — say “good morning” back to them.

We have several favorite cashiers at the grocery store. Most of them like to engage W in conversation, but one of them was a real stickler for her “good mornings.” It’s rubbed off on W and he now initiates a “good morning” to lots of people.

Asking questions is wonderful!

Recently W was diagnosed with a double ear infection and a sinus infection. It was awful. As we waited to fill his prescription at the pharmacist, he had lots of questions. He wanted to know if the medicine was gross, if it would make him sleepy, could he take all of it at once and be done with it, did he have to take it to summer camp … TONS of questions. I told him I would answer his questions when we got home because I didn’t want him to distract or annoy the pharmacist, but she was thrilled. She told W to ALWAYS ask her questions about medicines.

Listen to your instincts.

Over the summer W has become overheated several times while at summer camp. The kids play outside all day, which is great, but when W would feel tired, he wouldn’t slow down. He didn’t want to miss out on any activities. I reminded him every morning to take it easy if he got too hot. To find some shade and drink lots of water. But it was a camp counselor who was able to help W remember to listen to his body.

Offer help whenever you can give it.

W loves to hand out the bulletins at church every Sunday. He stands at the back of the church with the elderly ushers who have taken him under their wings. One of the things they have told W is to pay attention to people when they are walking up and into church. If you see someone who might need help up the stairs, extend your elbow and offer help.

Sure, sometimes I’ve been given unwanted parenting advice — like when my son was a teething toddler or when he still used a pacifier. Strangers volunteered PLENTY of suggestions to “help” us. While I didn’t always need or appreciate the input, I could recognize that people wanted to contribute. Or something like that.

However, it did make me realize, early on, that there is no playbook for parenting, and the more open I am to people being in our lives, the better. I’m sure Jennifer Dockter-Lago didn’t expect her sons would find such a meaningful encounter with a carnival vendor when she took them to the State Fair. Wise voices can be found in serendipitous places and moments. (Under the watchful eye of the frustrated mom, of course.)

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