When you see a mom struggling with her kids in public, it is so hard to know what to do. After all, we aren’t all the same. Some people would rather have everyone ignore them, while some would really love a hand. No mom likes the side-eye and the clucking tongue of a stranger being critical. But there is something WORSE than the person passing judgment. I would argue that no matter what you do when you see a mom struggling, this is the ONE thing you don’t say. Ever.
Last week I left the gym with my kids making something of a scene. I had a stroller, three stragglers on foot who were trying (not very successfully) to open doors for me, and about 20 bags. The boys had gotten in trouble while in the gym child care, so they were hassling me about the privileges I said they would lose at home. Quin began screaming in the stroller because it was time for her bottle.
At the car, I parked the stroller on the sidewalk just in front of my car, about three feet from where I stood at the driver’s side, making her bottle. I had the older kids get in their seats and turned on the car because this is Texas and it’s 1000 degrees. I was giving the bottle a few final shakes when a woman walked up to Quin, who was still screaming. The woman stood in front of Quin, shading her body and began to talk kindly to her. How nice, I thought.
“Oh, you poor baby in the hot sun. Your mommy should have shaded you! You’re crying because you’re right in the sun. Tell your mommy not to put you in the sun!”
Y’all. The sun is hot. Fact. Texas is hot in the summer. Fact. But Quin was NOT crying because of the sun. In fact, she had violently ripped the stroller shade out of the way after I cover her. If I didn’t stop her, she would spend every hour of the day in the sun, frying up to a nice crisp. Quin was not hot in the sun. Quin was HUNGRY. The end.
This woman, who may have thought she was somehow doing me or Quin a favor, was actually using passive aggressive baby talk to correct my parenting. She made assumptions, then judgments, and then rather than use direct, adult talk, used a sugary-sweet voice to tell me that I was doing it wrong.
If you see a mom struggling, the one thing you should NOT say to her can be summed up like this:
Don’t pass judgement on a situation you don’t fully understand BY USING PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE TALK WITH THE CHILDREN.
This makes me battier than the lady giving me the side-eye. Because at least that person is being up front. They don’t like my kids or my parenting or think I’m doing a horrible job. I got it. I don’t appreciate it, but I got it. The world is full of Judge-y McJudgertons. But I prefer that honesty to someone who makes assumptions and then speaks in a passive aggressive way about my parenting TO MY KIDS.
I wouldn’t welcome passive aggressive talk to me either, but people should not be trying to teach me a lesson by speaking to my kids. Quin had no clue what this woman was saying. But this has happened with my other kids as well.
“Oh, you must need a nap! Tell mommy you’re tired.”
“Poor baby. Your mom must need to feed you!”
“You must be cold. Does your mommy not have a blanket for you?”
“Your mommy forgot your shoes? This floor is too dirty for bare feet! Remind your mommy to bring you shoes.”
I don’t know if these sound familiar to you, but I’ve heard these kinds of things countless times. All directed toward my kids. All in a fake, baby-talk kind of voice.
It’s very confusing when it happens with my older kids, who know me and know the rules and usually AREN’T tired or cold or hungry at those moments. They look to the adult and then look to me and they aren’t sure what they are supposed to do. They can pick up a sort of tension, but are not sure what it is and do not know how to respond. Also, more often than not, the person speaking into the situation is making incorrect assumptions.
Or maybe they are right on. Even if Quin had been screaming because I got distracted and she was melting in the sun, I would have appreciated some kind, direct talk. Maybe a question like, “Can I help you move her to the car?” or “The sun is really bright; could I pull the stroller shade over your baby?” I know that I don’t know all the parenting things. I know I can use help. A LOT of help. But acting in a passive aggressive way is only a good idea when you’re reading Passive Aggressive Notes.
Help, ignore, give the side-eye if you can’t help yourself (but I might give it back), but please DO NOT talk to another mom’s kids using passive aggressive statements meant for the mom to hear. Maybe try some encouragement for moms instead!
Is this your biggest pet peeve? What do YOU do when you see a mom struggling in public?
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