No Misunderstandings

Thursday, June 10, 2010

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".

12 Baleful Regards:

Nancy said...


I especially like this statement: "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."

That's how I feel about these things, absolutely. We're not enemies of one another, we're fellow parents.

Anonymous said...

Well played teacher girl, well played.

Karen Sugarpants said...

You and I are alike, Dawn. It takes a villiage and all that. Great post.

Oscar said...

I'd have to agree with you. But (not being a parent) this is the same to me as telling anyone else that they shouldn't be doing something, e.g. someone smacking around their spouse. I'm not the kind of guy to pretend it isn't happening. I see things similar from a non-parent point of view. Its a community and we all gotta do something to maintain it. But there's also a fine boundary regarding when you should speak up and when you shouldn't. I think it was appropriate in your case.

jess; [the bottle chronicles] said...

LOVED this post; loved it. Well said! If I'm not around and my son is misbehaving, I fully expect any adults there to correct that behavior. I also 'dicipline' kids that I see misbehaving if their parents aren't around, or if they're even having trouble. Sometimes our kids don't listen to us for whatever reason, and it's good to have someone help out. It takes a villiage to raise a child!

I also don't mean it as an "omg she can't disipline her child so I will have to do it" kind of dig.

Poppy said...

I was made fun of by parents for firmly telling their kids to not do something while the parents watched it happened and do nothing.

I don't have human kids, but it really irks me that I'm not "supposed to" discipline other people's children, yet the parents of said children don't do it either and prefer to stinkeye you if you do it.

I normally try to stay out of stuff, but in this particular situation it was resulting in a negative impact on me directly so I said something.

And now I have two less people who like me in the world.

Thank you for posting this so I could vent. :) heh. And thank you for being one of those people who doesn't just sit around while kids act out of control as their parents allow it.

Gurukarm (@karma_musings) said...

I think that WAS a great ending to the story:
"Ok - can I sit with you and watch?"

"Sure - no problem. Have a seat."

Just worlds and worlds are said in those few words. She GOT that you weren't trying to be mean; you showed her that bygones (and lessons learned!) could be bygones. It was all good, sounds like. :-)

Go you, mom! (I live in a community where, when my kids were little, the one or two parents who got upset if another adult - an "auntie" or "uncle" - spoke to their kids, were the parents who everyone else saw as being in the wrong and out of step.)

Everyday Me said...

I truly agree with you. At least you said something to them. I do understand what you are saying about the mother. If she was there or seen what they was doing then maybe they would have stopped. Also talking to her after that showing you was trying to make her understand was very great of you that shows alot of respect for the situation

Anonymous said...

Well-played, indeed. The older I get, the more I realize there is no "us versus them." There is only "us," and it includes everybody.

roo said...

I like that in the end Girl X wanted to sit with you. You're a Jedi master of children.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a story from the other neighborhood (not this one, thank God!)
The next door neighbor's youngest daugher, I think the girl was about 12 or 13 at the time, was sunbathing in their front yard with her CD player blasting. Not sure who the rap artist was but the main theme of the song was "Mother F----- Mother F----- Mother F-----..." you get the drift. And this was BLASTING! Her mother finally approached her and, I kid you not, said, in an apologetic voice, "Kim, I'm not trying to me mean but do you think you could turn down your music a little bit?" THE MOTHER WAS APOLOGIZING TO HER KID FOR BLASTING OUT A RAP SONG FILLED WITH PROFANITY! It's like parents are afraid to discipline their kids nowadays, trying to be the cool parent, the friend parent instead of a PARENT! Did I approach this kid about her music? No way. After tolerating their rotten bratty behavior for several years, and being the "mean neighbor" the times I did intervene, it would have made no difference. If my parents had heard that song, that CD would have been broken into a million pieces!

nonlineargirl said...

Sounds reasonable to me. My kids are younger, but I hope (and with some friends) expect that they'll help guide my kids (and tell them to cut it out when the kids are being insane) just as I would with theirs. My friends and I often tell one another when we've been stern with each others kids, so that we know what's up and what the context is. I imagine it is harder with people you don't really know.

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