was a lovely day at the strawberry farm. We’d picked three baskets
full of juicy red berries and now my 3-year-old daughter was
playing on the grass around some hay bales with a few other kids. I
looked away for a moment and then I heard a cry, not my daughter’s, but
that of another little girl. My eyes darted toward the scene to see
if my kid was involved and, sure enough, she was. As I walked over, the girl's' mom began
yelling at my kid for—get this—having destroyed her
daughter’s leaf. My 3-year-old had plucked the leaf from the
girl, who looked at least a year older than my daughter, and the girl
was in tears.
"You have to say 'Sorry!'" she yelled at my kid. The mom held up a tattered leaf for me to see.
not one to excuse bad behavior just because it's minor, but I think it's fair to say this was an overreaction on mom's part. Even so, I knelt down
to explain to my daughter why we don’t snatch anything, not toys or leaves, from anyone.
that wasn't enough for this mom. She continued to yell at my kid
I also think it's more important that kids learn about why we do or don't do certain things, not just uttering 'I'm sorry' without understanding why.
this point, time slowed and I thought: I'm in one of those awful
social situations, the kind I read about in a blog post. Do I force
my now-frightened kid to apologize to appease the mom? Do I tell the
mom to back off because she's being unreasonable? Do I run away with
my child? What will my actions teach my daughter?
With the child still in tears, I
tried one more time by having my daughter pick up a new—and certainly equal
quality—leaf from the ground and hand it to the little girl. Again,
the mom yelled, “You have to say sorry to her!” My daughter was huddled against me and wasn't uttering a peep, clearly frightened by this other mom. At that point I said, “We're
sorry.” I gave the mom a look indicating that would have to
do. We got up and left.
Removing my kid from the situation felt like
the best thing I could do.
I tried to
reassure my daughter, 'Sometimes people get unreasonably
upset, and it's more about them than us.'
raised to have thick skin. I'd rather adults not intervene in situations
that kids can resolve themselves. I think it's an essential part of growing
up and figuring life out for yourself. I also think it's more important that kids learn about why we do or don't do certain things, not just uttering "I'm sorry" without understanding why. We're talking about little kids. Leaves will be crushed. But we don't have to
be crushed by inconsequential transgressions.
It was my first time dealing with an overreacting parent. There
was a lesson learned that day out at the strawberry farm, and I was
the one who learned it. Sometimes we moms are mediators, but
we're always caretakers first. In this case, I had to set a limit when
dealing with an unruly adult. Just because your kid has messed up in
some way doesn't mean you have to endure another parent's unreasonable behavior. You
don't have to suddenly impose a harsh punishment on your kid just
because some other mom would like to see you do so.
was with my mom that day, and she witnessed everything.
“It makes no
sense,” she said.
I felt reassured by my
mom in all her non-helicopter-mom wisdom. In turn, I tried to
reassure my daughter, “Sometimes people get unreasonably
upset, and it's more about them than us.” I don't think she
understood (being 3 and all), but I said it more for myself.