That fine parenting line...do you cross it?

It's been rainy, gloomy, and gross here the past couple of days. Making less than ideal conditions for us to be outside playing, or to be outside in general. We've been cooped up in the house together going crazy and one can only go to Target so many times with kids before losing ones mind (trust me, I know firsthand). So needless to say, I jumped at the chance to visit a "friend" and her children for a playdate/lunch date to get the hell out of the house. We should have stayed home...


Everything started off just fine, we were all glad for the distraction of other people and for a while the kids were getting along great and having a grand old time (all of our kids are very close in age...but she had an extra monopolizing most of her attention and her right breast most of the afternoon). The four kids were playing in the toy room together while she and I chatted in an adjacent room (which turned out to be a very good thing...someone needed to keep those little demons within their direct line of sight). The older boys played relatively well together for a while and the toddlers did the typical I'm-going-to-play-with-this-toy-until-I-see-which-toy-you-pick-up-and-then-I'm-going-to-rip-it-mercilessly-from-your-hands thing. My toddler tired of that pretty quickly and walked over to a bin of cars and trucks. She went straight for the Lightning McQueen cars. Well, this went over like a shit in a punch bowl with the owner of said cars. He gave her an elbow to the gut and grabbed as many as he get into his chubby little fists and began beating her over the head with them as he growled "MYCARSMYCARSMYCARSMYCARS". (think "REDRUM" creepy voice...you know the one) Of course she started to cry as I'm sure those things are made of titanium or lead or some other trauma inducing metal so I scurried over to her and asked "what happened?" as if I hadn't seen that little shit just beat my child with his Pixar weapons of mass destruction. My son instantly jumped to his sister's defense and told me what that demon had done. I wiped her tears, plucked a dislodged car tire from her pigtail, held back enormous restraint from shoving him bodily into the toy bin, and distracted my child with something I was hopeful would not incite another unwanted attack and returned to the other room (but scooted my chair surreptitiously a bit closer to the toy room...for proximity and to use as a weapon against him if necessary). Through it all the other mother didn't even bat an eyelash. She never moved. Never once did she intervene to deal with her child. She just looked at me as if to say "hee hee...boys" REALLY???? Hmmmm. Ok. Can I get you more coffee?  Right... Is the baby EVER going to detach? Just curious. No? Ok. Did you happen to see what just transpired in there? No again? So that's normal then? Uh huh...So we continue chatting, the kids continue playing (my toddler made the wise decision to keep her distance from Beelzebub...but don't ask about the Legos, fruit snacks, or the sippy cup incident) and we move on to lunch....

Beelzebub threw his cup at my child when he decided he didn't want her to sit on the complete opposite side of the table...lovely. Again, no reaction from mom. I bit my tongue. Beelzebub's older brother then showed his less than pleasant side when he began sticking his fingers into my son's sandwich. Really? Clearly this "strong" personality gene runs in the family. Awesome...good luck to the little milk hound. His mom gave him "the look" but he gave her his own look back as if to say "yeah right mom, nice try...I know you aren't going to do shit about it...watch as I do it again" Beelzebub jumped on the bandwagon and started throwing pretzels. I shouldn't have been surprised at the lack of reaction from mom as I dodged Rold Golds. But my kids were clearly horrified...they both kept staring at me like "holy shit mom, are you watching this? and no one is kicking their asses for it!" And then Beelzebub's brother started dipping his pretzel's into my son's chocolate milk, apparently my son politely asking him to stop just spurred him on because then he decided to stab pretzels into his sandwich. At that point I quietly picked his plate up and moved it for him. All the while mom sat idly by with babe to breast with not a word to say to either of her spawn but a multitude of half assed "come on guys...." or "that's not nice" or "we don't do that" HOLY SHIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????  I was unable to speak.  Had I opened my mouth not only would I have suffered enormous blood loss from biting my tongue I would have unleashed a torrent of bad parenting juju... So here is my question... Where is that fine parenting line? Are we allowed to "parent" other people's kids? That is a sticky business right there....

Obviously I need to do what's best for my kids, I did what I could to remove them from the situations (and believe me, I've only told you a few of the situations my kids found themselves in at the hands of these two) But where do you step in? Do you just deal with YOUR kids and move on? Obviously there are always extenuating circumstances (if the parents aren't around, if the kids are in obvious danger...etc) but that is always a tough one for me. So I just gritted my teeth, swallowed the blood from biting my tongue, and packed it in earlier than intended (with audible sighs of relief from my son). Needless to say, it'll be a good, long while before we have a rainy day playdate with them again...or a sunny day playdate, or a blizzardy playdate...maybe a nuclear holocaust? Yep, I'll call her tomorrow and get that scheduled...

11 comments:

Jen said...
May 19, 2010 at 9:06 AM

This post really hits home. I have been on several playdates where the kids from the other mom act up and the other mom pretends she doesn't even notice. I mean come on. When it has come to them hitting my kid I ever so nice say, "No,No, we do not hit" when secretly I would love to do some hitting of my own...real mature i know, but when it comes to your children there are no rules there.

Anonymous said...
May 19, 2010 at 9:43 AM

I hate that! The fastest way to kill a good friendship is lack of parenting. There should be a rule, you get one chance to stop your demon child after that I have the right to stop the kid:) Sounds good, but for now I just make sure to be unavailable for playdates....

Leslie Burleson said...
May 19, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Oh my God! ...went over like shit in a punchbowl! ha ha ha! I'm so stealing that :) Also, here's my opinion...I personally lack a spine. Lacking said spine I don't discipline anybody else's kids or ask them to. I however have a friend who I highly admire who would have shouted a big old "Hell no you didn't just hit my kid!" Then told the Mom where to go packed up her kids and left. I was on the recieveing end of that a few times...it made for some interesting fights, but I did come to realize she was right. It's not acceptable for somebody else's kids to do that to your kids. While hitting can be a pretty typical behavior, if the parent doesn't adress it...you should either ask them if they'd prefer to adress it or have you adress it. I mean, if the nuclear holocaust rolls around do you think little Lucifer will be sharing oxygen masks with your little angel? Love you for brightening my day all the time with your humor

MamaBear said...
May 19, 2010 at 12:11 PM

i have 3 kids, oldest 13 in 3 weeks, and we have NEVER done a "playdate." we went to visit someone once who had termed it a playdate to her son but the age difference meant i didn't consider it such.

i've always felt bad that this just hasn't happened for them. thanks for making me feel like a good parent for my slacking off on this! because seriously, that's freaking nuts.

some parents just don't get into trying to make their kids behave, and the kids can turn out well - amazingly - in spite of it. but they're really not fun to be around while they're turning their heads around figuring out who they're going to be eventually, without guidance.

(thanks REEM for sending me here!)

Trish H. said...
May 19, 2010 at 12:16 PM

I ran daycare for 5 years...with my own to girls in the mix. I got to be the "parent" and scolding and benching just comes natural to me. The kids no right and wrong and there are consequences. Now I would have for sure spoke up to the mom in your situation. I'm sorry but my kids come above any friendship and if my friends don't like me simply telling their kids to stop or what they did was unacceptable, when obviously they are behaving incorrectly, then I don't need to be their friend. I'd want to know if my kid hit, or was horrible to another child, so I could deal with the situation.

Meg said...
May 19, 2010 at 12:58 PM

ugh, what a nightmare!!

Rae said...
May 19, 2010 at 1:05 PM

I feel for you! It hasn't happened often, but it sucks when it does! Now that my kids are older, they often ask, "Why do they get to do that and we don't?" I would definitely be unavailable for future playdates and if the mom ever asks why, I'd be honest and tell her my children didn't enjoy themselves. If she's a friend, we should be able to be honest and if she decides that she no longer doesn't want to be a friend because of honesty, then she's not a friend we need anyway. Man, I've lived with my brutally honest hubby for too long, I'm harsh! LOL

K.W. said...
May 19, 2010 at 1:18 PM

Nope,I've crossed the fine line many times. I've learned if I have to "parent" the other kid to keep from my kids being victimized then so be it. Usually the "out the lunch" parent thanks me since most times the kids will listen to any adult but their own mother(we all know this selective hearing trait). I give the parent one chance to step in but if their kid continues I'll take over. I'm not gonna play nice if her kid won't, that's my motto. If its a continueing problem, then we decline future invites and "blacklist" them ;)

Allison said...
May 19, 2010 at 10:51 PM

My vision isn't so good, I have big problems seeing fine lines. And after stints working in the office of a daycare service and in classrooms... I have no restraint. If a kid needs telling off and the parent is ignoring it, I tell first and worry about opinions later. Bad luck to them. If they don't agree with my discipline they don't need to waste their time visiting with my children, do they? Nobody is forcing them to spend time with me!

Ann said...
May 20, 2010 at 4:07 AM

I totally understand what you are talking about. I take my son to an indoor play area designed for kids under 4 feet tall. However parents let their 12 year old run wild in this play area and they tend to mow over the little guys. However, I do have issues when mom's are not watching there little tikes at this play area. Sometimes they are rude and hit or push my son who is not yet two. He does not have any siblings so he is not used to being pushed around and he has gotten so timid at that play area he will climb down the slide stairs and let others go ahead of him and will only go up the slide when no one else is nearby. I have stepped in when a child is being overly aggressive or has taken my son's toy and won't return it. Only once did I have a woman get mad at me for disciplining her child I told her what happened and I said if you were watching your child and disciplining her I wouldn't have to. She shut right up. I do try to give the other parent a full chance to respond to their child's actions but will step in if I need to. This being said I don't step in every time a child pushes, hits or takes my son's toy as I DO want him to learn how to stand up for himself.

Lauren said...
May 20, 2010 at 9:28 AM

wow...sounds like fun ;o)
I did cringe a little bit about the Cars, though. My happy little toddler is a little possessive about his cars! I do encourage him to share, though, and if he lodged a car in someone's pigtail, I promise I would intervene.
I don't think McQueen and Mater would appreciate demon type behavior, do you?

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