It was whiny kid day at Target and I had sent mine off with his father to look for a present for his cousin’s birthday while I perused the clearance rack for some new summer duds. Yes, I heard the boy in the red wagon crying a few aisles over and yes, it was annoying, mostly because it was that “I’m not getting my way” cry I’ve been hearing so much of myself since my son hit toddlerhood. But it wasn’t my kid and it wasn’t my problem, so I ignored it the best I could.
That’s when Nosy McKnowBetter joined me and mumbled discontentedly in my direction. “Better take care of that kid,” she said, turning her head toward me. I ignored her. “Ugh, tired of ignorant people,” she mumbled a little louder. I moved on to the next rack.
Now I’m a hardcore, people-avoiding introvert who only engages with strangers when I feel the outcome is almost definitely positive. I respond to people who say, “Good morning,” and “How are you today,” and “Beautiful day!” I absolutely do not engage people who begin conversations with negative statements, even if I agree with them.
In this case, I did not agree. The child was whining because he wasn’t getting his way. Nothing bad was happening. Every once in a while, the boy’s mother would say, “No, you cannot get out. You need to stay where I can see you in your wagon.”
Even so, Ms. McKnowBetter’s grumbling got louder as she addressed me directly. “I’m so sick of these people having kids if they’re not going to care for them.”
Whoa. First of all, “these people”? Do you mean people with skin tones darker than yours or people with accents different than yours because either way, I am not on the “us” side of your “them vs. us” bigotry. Secondly, the woman was very clearly communicating in a firm but not unloving way that her intention was to keep the boy safe. Other than annoying incessant child whining, what was the actual problem here?
The problem is busybodies. It’s overly concerned strangers reacting out of context. It’s neighbors calling the cops on parents who let their children play outside or walk to school. It’s the goddamn parenting police who want you to know that you are one phone call away from losing your children if you don’t keep them under control at all times. And bigots, of course. Because even if the child is behaving appropriately, America can’t be great again until all of “them” leave.
Again, I walked away because no. No, I am not your ally. No, I will not engage in berating the parenting skills of a competent mother. No.
Apparently, she didn’t need my approval. She approached the woman and her child anyway, made a big ole scene about how she was NEGLECTFUL and ABUSIVE and the AUTHORITIES WILL BE CALLED.
The woman, goddess bless her fiery soul, shouted right back at her, “How is this any of your business? My son is whining because he’s not getting what he wants. What, have you never been around kids before? You don’t even KNOW me, you don’t know my son, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And ain’t that a universal truth?
I would very much like to take a poll of the people who comment on the parenting skills of others, especially the ones complaining about normal child behavior. Question 1: Do you know what a child is? Question 2: Were you ever a child yourself? Question 3: What kind of idiot are you exactly?
I don’t know what happened next because I stayed the hellfire away from those shenanigans but I did hear the mother in question talking to her friend as they walked away. “Who does she think she is, coming up to a stranger and saying I abuse my kid because I won’t let him run around the store? You know she’d be complaining even more if I did. Stupid people. You just can’t win, no matter what you do.”