There are things I do which I simply can not help.
Discipline other people's children being one of many.
Perhaps it was all the years I have collectively felt responsible for other people's children. Perhaps it is some intrinsic bossy gene which can not be helped. Perhaps I can not take off the teacher persona that has ingrained itself into my consciousness. The bottom line is that if I see a child doing something that I - and they - know they shouldn't be doing, I am going to say something.
Last week, Emily had to go to the clinic for her physical. She was tired and cranky as it was a 4 p.m. appointment and she was already hot and tired from being at school. Fair enough. However, as she wants to go to Horse camp this summer she HAS to have a physical. No other choice.
The clinic we use is on the main street of our section of town. We arrived and sat in the waiting room with our books. The waiting room is glassed in and faces the street. Two of Em's school acquaintances walked by and began tapping on the glass to get Em's attention. Emily waved and returned to reading her book.
The two other girls were not satisfied with that acknowledgement. They knocked Louder. Emily ignored them under the heavy and hairy eyeball of her mother. When that didn't work, the two girls began to run in and out of the clinic under the auspices of getting Em's attention and "visiting a neighbor who worked there".
The first time, I let it slide. The second and third times I spoke to the girls. Telling them to get out. There was no reason for them to be running in and out of a clinic being insanely loud. At the third speaking, I was quite firm. This was a place of business, I explained, and since they did not have appointments, there was no reason for them to be in there. GO HOME.
I imagined the other patients thanking me in their minds: "Thank you mean mother for taking control of the howling 11 year old girls who are barreling in and out of this doctors office for no reason."
The following day, Em came home with this shared news. One mother had been outside on the sidewalk while the girls had been running in and out. She had not stopped them. The other girls mother quote "Didn't like the way I had spoken to her daughter."
Oh, really? REALLY.
For some reason, this irritated me beyond reason. Didn't like the way I had spoken to her daughter? Are you kidding me?
I have now been on the lookout for this child's mother. For I want to speak to her. Clear up any mis-understanding there may be. As last night was the school picnic, I thought my chance was upon me.
Now, I know most of the kids at Emily's school. Since I volunteer in the library once a week, I imprint their names and rooms. It's that kind of school. A majority of the kids live within easy walking distance, so parents become known by sight and vice versa.
When I saw Girl X last night I waved her over. I was sitting on our blanket, working on my hooked rug.
"Hi", I said.
"Hi", said Girl X.
"Your mom here?", I asked.
"No", said Girl X.
"Oh. I heard she had some concerns with the way I spoke with you the other day at the clinic."
Girl X looks a little like a deer in the headlights. Crap. Emily told her mother what she had said.
"Because I would be happy to give your mom a call or discuss the situation if she has concerns.."
"No", stammered Girl X, "She didn't have concerns...well maybe a little."
"Well, you do know it was a doctors office that you were running in and out of, right?" I waited.
"Yeah but we were trying to visit a neighbor who works there...", Girl X trails off, eyes looking down.
"Maybe the first time you ran in - but the second and third time? With the yelling?"
I continue to stare at the Girl. "It is a place of business and there were people who weren't feeling well waiting to be seen...."
"Yeah, we were being kind of loud..." Girl X makes this admission somewhat softly, her eyes still downcast.
"Well, if your mom has anything she'd like to discuss, you let her know that I am always happy to chat, OK?"
"Ok - can I sit with you and watch?"
"Sure - no problem. Have a seat."
I don't have a great ending to the story. I don't think it needs anything else. Kids need Adults. Not just for encouragement or empathy - but boundaries too. I worry when adults become afraid to discipline not only their own children, but other children in their community. Parenting is never a single player game, and it should never be seen as such. If I was able to speak to Girl X's mother, I would want to emphasize that I was acting in HER stead. In tandem WITH her, not in judgement Of her. We can't be everywhere - especially when our children are in this transitional age of 12 and starting to appropriately move into a more social sphere.
The root of the word "discipline" remains "to teach".