A letter to a judgy stranger
I was reading the Metro on the bus recently and came across this gem in the letters section:
What is it with those mothers who are permanently nagging and bawling out their small children? In what way do they think this will help in either the long or short term, compared with, say, interacting with them? Do they enjoy it?
– Puzzled Seagull, Leith
This is how I would respond:
Dear Puzzled Seagull,
I’m going to assume that you’re not a parent. If you were, you would know that no parent enjoys nagging their small children. We would love to be simply ‘interacting’ with them – telling silly jokes, playing peek-a-boo, enjoying a relaxing family meal – but sometimes we can’t. Because sometimes our kids act like a***holes.
When you overhear us shout things like, “Stop licking the bus window!” or “Shoes are for your feet, not for your mouth!”, what you don’t know is that we’ve probably already shouted those phrases a dozen times that day.
Before shouting, we tried gentle coaxing. Then pleading. Then bribery.
“I’ll give you a biscuit if you stop trying to eat your filthy shoe,” we said. Our small child took that biscuit, ate it, then pulled off her shoe and stuffed it in her gob. Hence the yelling.
We are frustrated. We are tired. We don’t understand why our child insists on putting things in their mouth that don’t belong there. We are worried – correctly, it seems – that people like you are judging us.
So the next time you see a frustrated parent bawling out their small child, instead passing judgement, give them a smile instead. Sometimes that’s all we need – a look that says, “Hey, I know this whole parenting thing isn’t going too well for you right now, but it’s okay. You’re doing your best.”