A Step Too Far?
By: Allison Norris
I haven’t been able to watch the news since Baylor was born. Too many stories about bad things happening to children and it keeps me awake at night. My boyfriend Toby recognized a local news broadcaster at an event and I had no idea who he was talking about.
At the MS walk yesterday, I watched two boys who were around 12 years old cry with frustration because their mom was yelling at them. They punched each other, clenched jaw, wiping away tears from the pain of each punch and the disappointment in their mother’s behavior. She was trying to leave them there for some reason, and you could tell they didn’t know what to say. They were just upset. I’ve got a special soft spot for kids like this and can’t stop myself from trying to help. I understand the confusion of feeling anxiety and confusion when you know something is supposed to be good. You can see everyone else around you having fun, but you are standing on the sharpest of eggshells, waiting for another one to crack because you may say the wrong thing, or there was too much traffic getting there, so everything is ruined for the rest of the day. So much stress.
I tapped one of the kids on the shoulder and asked him if he wanted to join our team for the walk. He glared at me and turned back to his brother and punched him in the arm. Ok, maybe he was just a little brat, but either way I wanted him to escape and be happy. Maybe I should have minded my own business. Probably.
I also saw a teenage boy running down the street with a six-month-old baby attached to his chest yesterday. I wanted to turn around and ask if he needed a ride, or help, or both. I kept driving. Minding my own business.
I guess my point is, when should someone step in and try to help? Or at least extend an invite or offer a hand? And when is it offensive and too much?
I know I am offended when people, especially people who are not parents, give advice or criticize me for the way I do things because it isn’t the same way that they do it. So, do I freak out when someone tries to parent me, or my son? Absolutely. My mom just told me that I should let Bay “cry it out” the other night when we were staying with her on Easter. I was exhausted and didn’t want to do anything but make him sleep, so I listened to her even though I told her it wouldn’t work. For 10 minutes I let him scream until I couldn’t take it any longer and picked him up out of his bed. I let him cuddle me on the couch and he was asleep in 30 seconds – like I had suggested doing in the first place. I felt pressure to listen! To prove I am a flexible mom who can pull a little tough love. But why? Didn’t I know what would work?
I have a friend who doesn’t have kids and every time she is around, which isn’t all that much, she insists that Baylor say “please” and “thank you.” She’s absolutely right, he always should, but my kid says “thank you” like it’s his job. After she passes him a kleenex because she saw his nose was running, she will loudly add the “WHAT DO YOU SAY, BAYLOR?” Sure, she’s just trying to help, but it makes me feel like she is judging all of us and trying to step in. My friends who are moms might be able to get away with it, mostly because they see Baylor so often and we are at their house. I know I’m being sensitive, but again, when is it someone’s place to step in? I think it’s a slippery slope. If my child-less friend were around Baylor every single day, then fine, remind him to say “thank you.” But when it’s once or twice per month – leave the Emily Post lessons to me and hang out as a visitor in our home.
Parenting is funny and everyone is a little messed up, it’s just what happens when there isn’t a guide book to follow. It’s beautiful, really, and creates individuality in our world. Maybe the baby strapped to the teenager’s chest will go to Harvard because she wrote an award winning essay on survival skills and overcoming obstacles. Maybe the two kids fighting will be WWF champs. And maybe my friend will have children who refuse to say “please” and “thank you” and she’ll have her own kids to worry about… and probably write a book about kids and manners and be loaded and I’ll still be irritated.