Monday, September 2, 2013

I'm Not the Mean Mommy

I don't consider myself to be a judgmental mommy.  Unless we're talking about something that would be considered abuse or negligence, there are very few things that I will cause me to look at another parent and think, Perhaps you should have not reproduced.  Seriously, the list is pretty short.  I may shake my head when I see a mom pour Mountain Dew in her toddler's sippy cup.  I may roll my eyes when I hear a dad threaten to spank his son for the 37th time without ever actually getting up from his table and putting his phone down.  But as far as actually judging, I try to keep that in check.  I takes becoming a parent to fully grasp and appreciate what a challenge it is.  I never know when a parent is just having a really rotten day and doing whatever it takes to survive. Lord knows there are days I've broken 99% of my own parenting rules in a desperate attempt to avoid a melt down (Peanuts and/or my own).  

I do, however, get mad as hell at parents who make my kid think I'm a mean, awful mommy.

I'm not talking about parents who spoil their kids, the ones who buy every toy, every trinket, every random piece of plastic that their offspring desires.  

I'm not talking about the parents who indulge their kids, the ones who always buy them ice cream or candy bars or donuts or Red Bull.

I'm not even talking about parents who let their kids run wild or scream at the top of their lungs or talk back.  

I'm talking about parents who blatantly ignore the rules that all of the other parents--including me--are following, whether it be at the playground, the library, the zoo, wherever.  Rules such as:

  • No Climbing 
  • No Running
  • No Food or Drink
  • No Entrance
  • Do Not Feed the Animals
  • Children Must Be Accompanied by an Adult
  • Keep Out of Water
  • Do Not Touch
  • Line Starts Here
  • Please Keep Volume to a Minimum
  • No Children Over [insert age/size]
  • No Children Under [insert age/size]

This post is for THOSE parents.

Seriously, folks, these are rules that the establishment has posted in an effort to keep our children safe and to keep things orderly so that everyone can have fun.  It's not like this is about me pushing my morals or beliefs about parenting on to you.  I have no moral standpoint on running or feeding animals or whether or not a ten year old should be allowed in the area designated for toddlers.  I'm just trying to follow the guidelines laid out by the manages or administration.  Call me a sheep, but rules are just a necessary part of life.  

So when I've told my child she can't take her chocolate milk into the playground area or that she has to stay with me at the library or that she can't play in the water fountain because it's AGAINST the rules, it makes me look like a big, stinky meanie when she sees YOUR kids doing the completely opposite.  

"Pssshhh," you say, "those rules are arbitrary.  They're kids.  It's not hurting anything."  

What are you teaching your kid?  That they can pick and choose which rules they want to follow?   Can you see that backfiring at all?  

"Yes, Mrs. So-and-so, this is little Timmy's teacher.  I asked him to raise his hand before speaking out in class today since that's a classroom rule, and he told me that he's not hurting anyone by not raising his hand."  

Or it could look more like this:

"Um, hey, this is Timmy's teacher.  Today he informed me that he doesn't have to follow my rules because that's what Mommy said."

You know, it's your kid, so turn him into a little junior anarchist.  Whatever.  But in the meantime, you're making me look like a total dick in front of my kid.  She's three now and is already pointing out the injustice of having me as a mother.  She's paying more attention and noticing that there are kids who don't have to follow the so-called "rules" Mommy has been touting.  

And she doesn't like it.  

And when a toddler doesn't like something, they don't just dislike it a little.  Oh no, it can escalate into Defcon 2 1/2 in about 62 seconds.  

But it isn't just the written, established rules that some of you insist on crapping on repeatedly.  I will never understand parents who deliberately (at least it seems that way) allow or encourage their kids to do stuff that they hear other parents telling their children not to do.  

"Don't climb up the tube slide when other kids are trying to come down."
"Don't throw your snack into the animal's cage."
"Don't run beside the pool."
"Don't break in line to ride on the train."
"Don't climb up the outside of the playground equipment."
"Don't touch the statue."
"Don't fling your food across the table."
"Don't push that kid."
"Don't snatch toys from your friends."
"Don't take your shoes off."
"Don't take your clothes off."
"Don't open/go through that door."

Sometimes rules don't have to be posted.  They're common sense.  And when you as a parent hear me (and others) telling our children not to do these things, it's completely unfair for you to stand and watch your child doing them, especially if the child is old enough to know better or old enough to be setting an example for the little ones.  If I had a dollar for every time I've had to listen to my child say, "But she's doing it" or "But he did it," then I would just build my own playground and not put up with a lot of this mess.  

I know we all parent differently.  I know some of us are more laid back and others are more anal about things. Unfortunately, I tend to fall into the second category, especially when we're in public.  Regardless, parents should be united as much as possible.  We shouldn't undermine each other, even if we don't know each other.   We can't always know what every parent in the room expects from his or her child, but just use some common sense.  This is so important when kids of different ages are mixed together.  If there is an area designated for toddlers, please don't let you pack of middle schoolers run amok while the little ones are trying to play.  If the sign says that children must be under adult supervision, please don't leave them to their own devices while your Facebook from your phone.  If your kid is "hogging" a toy or activity, please make her share if she isn't inclined to do so.  Don't let your kid bogart the swing or a ride at Chuck E. Cheese for half an hour just because you are afraid of a confrontation.  
I'm tired of being the "bad mommy."  I'm tired of expecting my child to "do right" when half the kids around her are doing whatever floats their boat without any consequences.  Right not it just produces pouting and hurt feelings.  But what happens when these kids grow up?  What about when they hit high school?

"But his mom doesn't care if he drinks."

"But her parents don't care if doesn't make good grades."

"But so-and-so has a... [insert whatever expensive gadget is popular in 10-12 years]"

"But what's her name doesn't have a curfew."

"But everyone else's parents are letting them do it.?

Oftentimes, these pleas are total BS.  But there are many times when parents are more interested in being friends than in being parents.  And chances are they'll want to be friends with your kid, too.  

So if you've read any of this and it seems a bit too familiar, you're not a bad parent.  But you're making me a bad parent in the eyes of my child.  I'm okay with being the "bad cop."  I'm okay with enforcing rules.  But don't make me look like I'm just being an a-hole or keeping my daughter from having fun.  Let's help each other out and hold all of our kids to some sort of standards that are reasonable.  

There will always be days that we just "survive," the days when we're just happy that our kids aren't killing each other or maiming themselves.  But lets save those days for when they're necessary and actually raise our kids to follow the rules that are set to keep them safe and to allow all the kids to have fun.  

Even though I'm not in this to be my kid's "friend," I at least don't always want to be her nemesis.  

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