So after Isabelle's graduation, a bunch of us moms decided to head over to the local park. It was supposed to be warm, but unfortunately, it was not only warm, it was as hot as blazes. There wasn't a breeze to be found, and by the time we left the park, we all felt, and probably smelled like hot garbage.
My friend, Liz, suggested that she and I take our kids to the pool that we both belong to for a cool down and an outdoor dinner. We agreed to meet after we both picked up the older kids at three thirty.
The pool that we belong to is a small pool and it is often heavily populated by other kids from our kids small school. Basically, our world is very small. A lot like smurf village, except none of us are blue. In any case, we arrive at the pool to find many familiar faces, which is not a bad thing, because it means the kids will have plenty of playmates, and will perhaps leave us alone for a few minutes. Except, I still have the baby, who is almost 18 months old, so my summer at the pool will basically be an aerobic workout. What can I say, at least, I can continue to convince myself that I don't need to join the gym.
Liz and I, and two other moms we are friends with, were sitting poolside when Kelly, a tall blond mom, who is mother to two girls who are in class with both Liz' s kids and my kids, screams across the concrete to Liz, calling her by the plural form of her last name. "Smith's", she yells out, apparently attempting to address the entire family- Liz is a mom of four- Do you know what Carson just said? Liz is looking at her blankly at this point, and none of us really know where she is going with this. She shakes her head no. Carson, she announces, from across the baby pool, just asked me what the F word meant, and she said that your daughter just said it to her.
Immediately, Liz jumped up from her chair. The other moms and I sort of stared, open mouthed as Liz scrambled to remedy the situation. Well which F word did she say? Liz asked. Was it possible that Kelly meant Fart, or even Freakin. No, it was not. Kelly made it clear, it was the F word.
The two walked towards the swing set, and Liz's oldest daughter, Caroline, who is eight, was promptly reprimanded.
Liz returned to her chair, clearly embarrassed, and making excuses for why Caroline said what she said. It's my fault, Liz said. She has, no doubt, heard me saying it.
I told her there was absolutely no reason for her to explain it to me, and that if I was horrified by any one's behavior, it was Kelly's and not hers, or her daughter's, who likely, did not even know what she was saying.
If there is anything that I have learned in my nearly fourteen years of being a parent, it is that your kids will do anything and everything they can to embarrass you. Most of the time, it won't even be on purpose, but nevertheless, they will make you look like the worst parent possible, whenever possible. Like the time that I took my son to the pediatrician last summer, and he told them that when we went to the pool, we didn't use sunscreen. He neglected to mention that we usually only went to the pool after five, because I didn't want the baby, who was very little last summer, out in the summer sun. Of course, I tried to explain myself, but at that point, what's the use? The mom who tries to explain herself always looks like a liar.
Knowing this fact about our children, and also knowing how tough a job being a mom is, we really have stick together as moms, and not call each other out in an attempt at public humiliation. Liz has had a really tough year. Her husband spent Christmas in rehab, and ever since he has been back, the two have been going to counseling trying to make things work, while raising four children. I'm not saying that what Caroline said was acceptable, or that Kelly shouldn't have told Liz, but really what was the reason for screaming it across the pool?
My grandfather, an Italian immigrant and father of seven, had a saying that pertained to raising children. "Don't spit in the sky", he used to say when someone would talk about someone else's child doing wrong. Of course, the implication is that when you spit in the sky, that spit is bound to come back down to earth and land in your face. You know the whole what goes up must come down theory. And take it from me, I have seen, first hand, so many times that this saying is true.
None of us wants our kids to curse, or do other embarrassing things that make us look like inadequate parents, but the truth is, at some point in time, most kids will do something to embarrass their parents. I've seen this happen to parents who are super strict as many times as I've seen it happen to parents who are more lax disciplinarians. Don't be fooled by supernanny. A chore chart and a routine do not cure all the evils of kiddom. Even the "best" of kids are sometimes to blame for bad behavior, and where two or three are gathered, such as in school or sports or at your local pool, trouble will often find them.
So the next time you witness somebody else's kid misbehaving, take a deep breath before you approach the parent, and put yourself in their shoes. Remember, you don't know what's going on the family, or why the child is misbehaving, or where they learned the bad behavior.
I'll never forget when my oldest was in second grade, the most prim and proper mother from school called me to tell me that my daughter had pushed her son. " We teach Mark not to hit girls, but we did tell him to defend himself."
I can remember feeling shock waves go through my body as she said these words to me.The incident happened at school, was handled at school, and I didn't think that she needed to call me on the phone and threaten me that my daughter would be injured, if she pushed her son again. I was so upset by the call, however, that naturally, I confronted my daughter when she came home from school. Why did you push Mark? I asked. I pushed him because he was digging his fork into my arm at lunch, she told me.
I am not the type of mother that believes every word my kids say. It's not that I think that my kids are liars, it's just that I know kids- they all lie. It's part of being kid and learning right from wrong. I decided I would go in and talk to the teacher. She verified my daughter's account of the incident. It took every ounce of self control for me not to call the mother back and say, hey by the way.
A few weeks later, however, when she came to my door to get some girl scout cookies, I said casually, as if it were no big deal, by the way remember how you told me that Sierra pushed Mark... I then told her how I'd spoken to the teacher, because no way would she believe my kid over hers. She was mortified. Her face turned bright red. Smugly, I said, well you know kids often don't tell the whole story.
So remember, the next time you are outraged by some other kids behavior, understand that it is simply a matter of time before your own kids will outrage some other mom. Treat the offenders as you would have the offenders treat you, if the shoe was on the other foot (and trust me, one day it will be on the other foot). Don't spit in the sky, because the law of gravity is one rule that can't be bent.