The “You’re a Bad Parent” Lecture

Have you ever been approached by someone or overhead comments on your parenting?

My family and I went away for Memorial Day weekend. We decided it would be fun to ride bikes where we were. We picked our bikes from the local bike shop and got ready to go. My youngest son was struggling to keep his balance on his bike. He’s outgrown his smaller bike, but doesn’t feel confident on an adult bike. We had the kids practice in a parking lot to build their confidence. After a while we decided we were ready for our ride, which would take us through a small town and back to where we were staying. We had driven our car to pick up the bikes we were renting. My husband was going to drive back to where we were staying and we’d meet him there later.

I should have known the ride might not go as planned when my oldest son refused to lead the way. He was adamant that I had to lead. I think he thought he would get too far ahead, go the wrong way, and get lost. “Easy,” I told him, “just don’t go too fast, and stop periodically to make sure I’m still behind you.” “No,” he insisted, “you have to go first.” I expressed my concern about being able to keep an eye on his younger brother, who was doing better on his bike, but still not out of the woods (I had just watched him narrowly miss hitting a parked Tesla – gulp). My husband was gone with the car, and we had a several miles ahead of us.

I went first, reluctantly. I didn’t make it a block before I heard my oldest yelling, “Mom! Mom!” I turned around thinking my youngest was having a hard time getting started. Instead I saw what happened. He’d hit a parked car. Thankfully he hit it at an incredibly slow speed, but it scared him — and the driver who was sitting inside. ūüė¶ I made my way back to the car. My son was sobbing — hitting the car had scared him but then having the driver approach him sent him over the edge. I told my son it was okay and that this can happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my car sideswiped by a cyclist, (accidentally of course), in my downtown area. The driver realized my son was young so quickly redirected their anger at me. I started by asking if they were okay. I asked if they thought any damage had been done to their car and what I could do to help. I don’t think the driver was hoping I was to try to remedy the situation, because after doing so, and apologizing profusely, she started down the path of questioning my ability to parent. I don’t think she said ‘what kind of mother let’s her child ride his bike where he can hit a parked car’ but it was close enough. She clearly was upset about what happened and didn’t seem content on letting me leave until she’d said what she wanted. I listened. She wasn’t going to give me any wisdom or insights into how to better parent. But she could get me to review my actions, take accountability for my role, and I could let her feel heard. When she was done with her lecture I asked if there was anything else I could do to make this right and that prompted another tongue lashing. I learned my lesson and when she finished next I just said, “Okay.” And walked back to where my kids were. I called my husband to come back and pick up his bike since he was too upset to go on, and once he did, my older son and I went on our bike ride.

Having a stranger be genuinely upset with you is a terrible feeling. Have a stranger upset with you over your parenting is a whole other level of awful — they can strike a nerve and call you on some truth (I had already been concerned about my younger son on his bike — I should have stood firm(er) on my oldest son leading), or just try to public shame you revealing how little about the situation and your parenting they actually understand.

I was grateful the exchange was behind us and everyone was okay. We were able to work with my youngest son the remainder of the weekend to build his confidence with the bigger bike. We still have a ways to go, but are making good progress.

How do you handle situations where people judge your parenting choices?

 

 

Re-present-ing

Has your child ever asked for a gift that didn’t seem to “fit” their gender, and if so, how did you respond?

My boys have recently celebrated birthdays. One son was very interested in Minecraft, Pok√©mon, Yo-kai, and other popular games for kids his age. My other son wanted the Anki Overdrive starter kit *and* the Barbie Dream House. My first thought was, wow, my kid has expensive taste. My second was, hmmm, I loved the Barbie Dream House when I was a kid. I literally begged my parents, I wrote what I¬†thought was¬†a compelling letter to Santa, and¬†prayed to God and anyone else who would listen to my plea¬†until it arrived one year, but was I okay getting this (or¬†another Barbie product that¬†was actually within our budget)¬†for my son? As open-minded as I’d like to think I am, his request gave me pause. Personally, I could care less if he has the Barbie Dream House and all the Barbie’s he wants (though I have no idea where it would fit in our house), but what would people say?¬† Would they make fun of him?¬† I felt really conflicted. I want to support him and his interests and don’t want to try to steer him away from something he wants towards something I’m more comfortable with. It’s not right or fair to him.

My son helped me with the issue. We were riding to a car museum for his birthday party (he also loves old-fashioned cars and has recently taken a real liking to NASCAR),¬†and had his two best friends in the car, Carly and Dan. My son had found the Target holiday magazine (darn you, Target, and your¬†compelling marketing devices!) and brought it to share with his friends on the ride down. As they flipped the pages they each called out what they hoped to get. “I want this robot,” one shared. “Look at the Paw Patroller, how cool,” said the other. My son got to the Barbie section and confidently said, “I want the Barbie Dream House. I know it’s a lot of money, but I really, really, really want it.” Dan broke out into innocent laughter thinking my son was kidding, and said, “but that’s a girl toy!” His reaction was exactly what I had feared. My son turned to Dan and quickly and confidently responded, “Don’t make fun of me. I like it. There’s nothing funny about it.” Dan stopped, and within seconds it was like the entire conversation had never happened. They just flipped the page and kept going. My son brought up the Dream House again later and there were no giggles or additional words. My son seems to know who he is and what he likes, and he’s not going to let anyone tell him otherwise. I was impressed. I don’t think I had that level of self-confidence when I was his age.

My hesitancy to get my son a ‘girl’ gift is fading. I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable, but I’ll continue to work to be so over time. My son deserves that. After all, he’s representing himself very well, and I owe him my support and encouragement to help him continue to be comfortable with who he is.

How do handle situations when your child asks for something you’re not comfortable getting them?¬† How do you help them be comfortable with who they are?

The Waiting Game

Most of us have been on family vacations that include a long period of time in the car. It never fails at some point during the trip, the kids get restless, the distractions no longer distract, and the noise volume increases. It was this way when I was a kid, and it’s the way it is now with my own kids. When we reach this point, whoever notices it first will call for “The Quiet Game.” I think many of us have invoked the Quiet Game in this situation–where everyone gets quiet, and the last person to speak (or in some cases make any kind of sound) wins the game.

We were recently on a road trip that required us to get on a ferry with our car. We left the house early in hopes that we’d make it in time to get on the earlier ferry. After waiting in line for almost two hours, we learned that we were seven cars too late and we’d have to wait another five hours for the next ferry. It was a bit deflating, but we were prepared to wait it out. We were also preparing ourselves for playing the Quiet Game…we feared we might have to play it multiple times throughout our wait.

We went to a nearby cafe to get some food and drinks to help us get through the long hours, and noticed there was a beach just down the hill from where we were parked. We ventured down to take a closer look, thinking we could kill 30 minutes to an hour down there. Instead, we found there was a beach trail, that included a broad walk and separate paved path for several miles. Since we had such a long wait, we had plenty of time to explore.

My youngest son and I went first, we took our time on the path, noticing the sea life, the way the boardwalk turned and curved, and other wonders of nature along the way (a caterpillar eating a leaf, a large stump washed up on the shore, little pinecones on the ground). I was very present in the moment with my son. It was relaxing and we enjoyed each others company. When we got back to the car, we still had a few more hours to get through. My husband and our older son decided they would check out the path based on our experience. My younger son wanted to work on an activity book, and then when my older son returned they decided to watch a movie on the DVD player we had brought “just in case.”

When we got onto the ferry, my husband and I discussed how pleasant the long wait had been. No Quiet Game, no fussing, nothing negative. It had been time well spent. We had found ways to occupy ourselves and created some new memories at a ferry terminal. Not something I expected to do.

I will look a waiting differently in the future. It may include the Quiet Game, but it also provides me with the opportunity to be present with my kids and to find the joy in our surroundings whatever they might be.

What is your favorite game to play on road trips? What helps make the time pass more quickly or pleasantly?