A note from the trenches.
March 15, 2011


First of all, on the blogging front, there are two things that I should probably mention.  Number one: the book for this week is the timeless awesomeness of The Growing Story by Ruth Krauss, but I will not be posting the review until Thursday.  I pushed it back so that I could write this.  Number two: many of you have asked me over the past few months about enjoyable kid-friendly tunes.  Several others have asked about parenting books and activity books that I recommend.  I promised to begin writing about music and adult-centric books several weeks ago and then life turned into a whirlwind.  I haven’t forgotten, though, and I do have a few posts in the works.

THAT SAID, let’s talk about yesterday’s post, shall we?

As of this moment, just shy of one hundred and forty individuals have responded to yesterday’s post through the comment field or e-mail.  That is many fewer people than respond when I write about parenting landmines like breastfeeding or circumcision – and many more than when I write about my gardening black thumb of death.

Most people responded favorably.  They would do the same thing.  Bravo.  Good for you.  Go, Momma.  They hope they have the gall to do that.  Better I overreacted standing up for the two of us than slunk away and fumed silently.  Stuff like that.

But a few people responded unfavorably.

When you blog, you become accustomed to a certain level of vitriol in your daily life.  People are endlessly creative when they are cruel.  Sometimes I go for weeks without looking at my inbox because reading the insults takes a physical toll.  When I read something truly hurtful, I toss and turn at night.  I grind my teeth so hard that I wake up with a sore jaw.  As a result, I never respond to hate-mail anymore.

On the other hand, I have not stopped responding to critical mail.  I know that sometimes it may feel like I have no idea who you are or what you say here, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I would not be the mother I am today without the community here stepping in and helping me out.  Sometimes you help by patting me on the back and cheering me on.  Sometimes you help by making me think, by asking me difficult questions that compel me to figure out what I believe.  And sometimes you help by digging your feet in the ground and saying, um, NO.

There is a huge difference between writing to me saying you wish whores like me would die…and writing to me saying that you disagree, that you’re disappointed, that you are offended, etc.  It is important to me to make this distinction.

It would have been very easy for me to not write the post I wrote yesterday.  It would have been very easy for me to edit it to make myself look cool or to make the other woman involved look evil.  It would have been very easy for me to fabricate my response.  And although this blog is not a strictly honest blog – I exaggerate and I simplify and I omit ALL THE TIME – I do believe in fairly representing actual events as they pertain to my parenthood.

Before you cheer me on, before you say bravo and before you say go, momma, I want to tell you about the criticism because I believe that these voices are making a very valid point.

The criticism is (mostly) as follows:
    1.  I am no better than the other woman.  I incited a young child to repeat swear words and then I insulted another mother about it.
    2.  I yelled at a playground.  This scared my child and may have scared other children.  Certainly it introduced other children to language their parents probably didn’t want them to hear.
    3.  I should not teach my daughter to respond to physical assault by verbal abuse.  I should teach her to be the bigger person and walk away.  What if she screamed at me and my daughter first because she was unstable?  My reaction could have put my child and me in more danger than keeping my cool would have.
    4.  I am intelligent enough not to stoop to name-calling.
    5.  I owe that woman an apology.
    6.  I could have stood up for myself and my child by asking the other woman to step aside with me.  By removing ourselves from the play area and keeping our children in the play area, we could have worked out our problem without such heightened emotions.
    7.  Most of all, my choice of words was unacceptable.

I am not going to defend myself.  That’s not what this post is about.  If you want a defense, you can refer to my responses in the comments yesterday or you can ask me directly.  What I am going to do is open this topic up for discussion.  If I were handed this situation over again, what would I do?  If I see this woman again, how will I handle that situation?  If this comes up again one day, how will I behave?  If this comes up a generation down the line, how would I want my daughter to behave in the same circumstance?

I’m not perfect.  I believe that I’m a damned fine mother and a pretty reasonable overall person, but I know that I made a mistake.  The exhausting, sincerely exhausting, work of parenthood is in acknowledging a mistake, finding ways to improve, and striving to be a better person the next day.  That other woman should not have touched my child, she should not have yelled at her, she should not have insulted both of us, but that doesn’t mean that my outburst was warranted.  And if it was warranted, that doesn’t mean that the way I handled that opportunity was appropriate.  My challenge to you now is this: think over your initial reaction and think over the criticism too.  You know that Dr. Seuss quote about how a person is a person no matter how small?  Well an idea is an idea no matter how unpopular.  Think over how you would react in my shoes…and how you would want to react.  Think over what you would want your kid to do in that situation.

What do you think now?

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  1. By on March 15, 2011

    I read your post yesterday, and I honestly didn’t know how to respond. I decided it might be better not to. I really appreciate your honesty about dealing with this incident. I don’t swear very often, it was just never a part of my childhood/life. That said, I do think there is a time and a place for it. Had I been in your situation, I wouldn’t have (at least I don’t think I would have) swore at the woman. I think I would have told her to keep her hands off my child, and ask her made her the playground police. That said, I may have just grabbed my child and walked away - hard to say until one is actually in that sort of situation.

  2. By on March 15, 2011

    Dear Sarah,
    I follow your blog in my reader and so I rarely take the chance to comment. Your post yesterday made me cheer. I am somewhat of a push over, but when the pushing is against my babies, I am totally mama-bear. I am not sure I would have responded that way - but the heroics aren’t in what you DID in that situation (which I am totally fine with, even though I tend to not swear at strangers or around kids), but in that you were willing to share with us, warts and all. To publicly say, in that post and this, “I did this. I won’t make excuses. Maybe I’ll respond differently last time, but this is how it went down and I won’t apologize for it.“

    I just want to encourage you, despite what anyone says. This, your blog, is YOUR PLACE, your family and your life. Screw the haters; don’t even respond. There will always be haters on the Internet. And if you try to cater to everyone, your blog won’t be yours anymore. It will be a blog for push overs and jerks, and I wouldn’t read it. :)

    I hope you see that mother again, and I hope Charlotte decides she feels like being loud and having fun again. And I hope you get to see the silent look of fury on that woman’s face, because I know she won’t DARE talk to you or touch your precious girl again. (Although, who knows? Maybe it will be like guys who get in a fist fight after school and end up best friends for life? Haha.)

    Take care. much love, and lots and lots of sunshine and ladybugs for miss Charlotte.

  3. By on March 15, 2011

    ...Respond differently NEXT time…not last. :)

  4. By on March 15, 2011

    My Mom has always told me that anything she did raising us was out of the passion she felt for my brother and myself. Maybe you didn’t respond in the most mature way, sure, but you were defending your child and that’s the bottom line. If anything I would tell the woman sorry for swearing in front of her child but also tell her she crossed a line by touching yours IN ANGER. You do not owe her an apology, she is an adult and has heard swear words before, her kid yes. I think you are doing a great job as a mom and before people say you are bad they should think Of what they would have done in the same situation.

  5. By Sarah on March 15, 2011

    Yesterday’s post made me laugh. 
    No, swearing in front of the children probably wasn’t appropriate - but standing up for your daughter was completely right.

    Last year my son ran into a little girl (on accident) at his school and she bumped her head.  Very much a non-incident according to the teachers, (he wasn’t watching where he was running on the playground), so I didn’t find out about it until a day and half later.
    Long story short, she kept asking how “the little problem” was doing.
    On day three of this question I finally responded with “I don’t know, how is she?“, scooped my son up and left.
    Turning her daughter into the villain was probably not the best idea, since both kids were innocent.  But I felt better. 
    It happens.  Go with your gut - if you see her again and feel like apologizing, do it.  If not, rest easy.  Charlotte knows you love her.

  6. By Christy on March 15, 2011

    While I still firmly rally behind your decision to stand up to this woman, I would have eliminated the swearing, only because I wouldn’t want my daughter using that kind of language. If you were alone with that woman, swearing is more than acceptable because that woman was a fuckhead. Those of us that are nice, stable humans torture ourselves by antaganizing over the “right” way to handle these kinds of situations, while the unstable and innappropriate people out there (i.e…that other woman) probably don’t give these kinds of situations a second thought. She was clearly in the wrong. You’re teaching your daughter not to be a shrinking violet.  I commend your bravery for standing up to her…truly.

  7. By Momiss on March 15, 2011

    A) I think people need to mind their own business and I completely support you in what you did.  The uni-minds have practically taken over this world and it’s time for sanity to prevail.  You are a warrior for sanity.  Don’t let anybody tell you different.
    B) Do not discount how secure it makes a child to feel beyond a doubt that her parent is strong, protective, and in charge.  This has been poo poo’d in recent generations in favor of everybody being exactly the same, standing in line and being told what to do.  Oh, and everybody getting some kind of cheap “prize” for that. 
    I will stop here, because I could go on and on.  F bombs or not, I still support what you did.  The only other thing I can think of that you could have done would have been to take your child back, laugh in her face and tell her to Get Real(!) with love shining out of your eyes.  Which would still be ridiculing her, but something tells me her little brain would not have registered this in her quest to make everyone into the cookie cutter image she is convinced is real.

  8. By on March 15, 2011

    Thank you for posting today’s follow-up. Honestly, I was disappointed in how you handled the situation and in how many readers cheered you on. (I was in the camp that agreed you should have been royally ticked but was totally turned off by the yelling and obscenities.) However, now that you have steered the conversation to one of reflection and consideration, I think the discussion becomes MUCH more meaningful for everyone, regardless of their original stance. Thinking about how I would react has made me determined to be bolder and more vociferous when the time comes to defend my son against a wrong. I think that this can be combined with respectfulness, though. I’ve actually “practiced” my responses out loud a few times now (feels pretty silly, but also empowering!).  Now it just remains to be seen if I buckle or explode in the heat of the moment!

  9. By Jill on March 15, 2011

    I commented yesterday that I am “afraid that I will someday have a conversation like that”... because it’s not one that I necessarily would be proud of (though I would have it and share it and laugh at it because what else can you do?).  But I also wrote that I was glad someone I RESPECTED had that conversation first - because I do respect you.  Even though I can see many alternative responses, I also know what it’s like to feel a primal rage, especially when loved ones are involved.  We all lose our tempers, and maybe we should be proud of that, or maybe we shouldn’t - who knows?  But if you follow that up with thoughtful reflection… Well, that’s why I respect you.

    I certainly can’t judge you, because I think my neighbors all (children included) heard me yelling the same vocabulary at my car yesterday morning when it wasn’t cooperating and I was late to work…

  10. By on March 15, 2011

    My reaction yesterday was less about how offensive the language was, and more about how ineffective it was.

    Yes, you let the other mother know that she shouldn’t touch your child. But because of the obscenity instead of realizing that she was way out of line, she probably is thinking “No wonder that child was running wild, look at her mother.“

    I don’t know how I would react and I don’t blame you for losing your cool. But if presented with that situation I *hope* I could get my message across with a quiet but deadly “Get. Your. Hands. Off. My. Child.“ followed up with “If you want quiet, go to the library, we’re at the park and she is allowed to yell and run.“

  11. By on March 15, 2011

    PS: Last night I didn’t want the baby to have a cupcake for dessert so I asked my step-sons to wait to have theirs until after she went to bed. They immediately started complaining and I said “Do you want to not have one at all? Then quit bitching.“

    So I’m not perfect either. :)

  12. By missjoules on March 15, 2011

    I’m not positive how I would react. I’m pretty sure that I would have snatched up my baby and cried, which is really a less effective way of dealing with this situation. But then, my mom never taught me to stand up for myself, never stood up for me, actively discouraged it when my kid-shrink said I needed to learn, etc. So yeah. I still would have had a reaction that I wouldn’t want my son to have. And I’m pretty sure that in the middle of the night I would be wishing that I had reacted more along the lines that you did.

  13. By debthaxton@gmail.com on March 15, 2011

    —>I take my kid to the public park in our neighborhood. If there are ever some unruly children that are not being disciplined, I shuffle my son along to a different part of the park. At the same time if my 4-year old son is acting “too wild” I am on top of things. Usually. I try my best.

    I think if you see this mother again I’d offer an apology and appeal to her maternal instincts of protecting your child. However, I wouldn’t apologize for defending your daughter so much as say, I’m sorry I responded so strongly.

  14. By on March 15, 2011

    I remember a few months ago I was eating at a restaurant. I had Jude in his highchair, had wiped the table off in front of him and scattered his meal on the table. We were eating… minding our own business when someone at a table behind me tried to get my attention. I’m accustomed to “I just wanted to say your son is so cute!“ type of meal interruptions, but this particular woman said “you need to put your kids food on a plate”.

    I was floored. Who the fuck was this woman to tell me how to parent my child? How his food should be served, etc?

    I responded in what is probably the ‘right’ way and said “If I put it on a plate he’ll throw it on the ground” (as he had done a THOUSAND times before). She made a very “whatever” face and turned to her own meal and threw dirty looks my way the rest of the meal.

    For weeks (and clearly even months) later I was burned by that conversation. Why should I have explained myself to this woman? Who is she to deserve some sort of explanation about how my chid eats or why his meal isn’t served on a plate?

    I still wish I would have given her a piece of my mind. Told her to F-off - or at least just turned around without justifying her with a response at all. Sure I might have felt just as remorseful about doing it vs. responding appropriately, but at least I would have stood up for myself.

    I still say kudos to you. I still say maybe it’s not the best response… but every now and then we need those moments to prove that we still have some gusto. That we’re not doormats. that we are proud of how we parent/how our children behave and that even if someone from the outside attacks us for it and disagrees… oh well.

  15. By Jessika on March 15, 2011

    I think you’re not perfect. Then again, anyone who professes to be perfect has just admitted their biggest flaw (blind stupidity in believing their perfection).

    You reacted as you did. You learned something from it. That’s the most that we can expect from any situation.

    The blog is titled “Becoming Sarah,“ not “I am perfect and therefore everything I do shall be emulated Sarah.“ Being a mother is some tough shootkie stuff. You, essentially, had a mother critique your mothering, as well as bring Charlotte over, thus involving her (and criticizing you with your child present). That should incite people. However, when critiquing you, they have the luxury of retrospect and not being in the heat of the moment. If you add those things into their minds AND factor in not being able to think about it, I bet those people who are so judgmental would have not handled things quite so well.

    I guess I just don’t understand. You’ve admitted you have evaluated how you responded. That’s the best people can expect. I doubt Becoming Sarah has mastered perfection and developed a time machine to request doovers for bitchy mothers grabbing daughters in the park. :)

  16. By Jessika on March 15, 2011

    PS: I would have been livid. I’d like to think I would have blurted out something semi-eloquent, like “You’re telling me about my daughter. You’re critiquing the behavior of a 2-year old. Let me critique the behavior of a much-older woman: you’re being inappropriate. Get your fucking hands off my daughter and quit being critical of behavior from her that, if a boy was doing the same thing, you’d think was cute.“

    But, I doubt I could have put that out there. I probably would have uttered something inappropriate, and then spent the next four hours going over things that were either far nastier, or far more clever.

  17. By on March 15, 2011

    honestly, I don’t think anyone would have NOT freaked out.  anyone can look back with the ‘shoulda coulda woulda” but when a stranger not only touches, but CARRIES your child off - that’s a problem that should cause anyone to freak out.

    the only issue I had with the way you handled it was your language.

  18. By Meagan on March 15, 2011

    Hi, I’m a 27yr old avid reader. I am not a parent but I enjoy reading about your adventures & your sense of humor cracks me up. I almost never comment because who am I to tell you anything about parenting? This post however was different!

    The sign of true maturity is being able AND willing to evaluate one’s own actions, beliefs, reasons etc. and accept criticism from those who’s opinions one values. In this case you spread the net far wider by allowing the Internet & its myriad of opinions in. I commend you for being willing to no only reveal your ‘warts & all’ but also honestly listening to the coherent, level-headed opinions of those who have perhaps been down this road & even those who haven’t. That takes true strength & maturity.

    I wish I’d had a mother who had ‘mama-bear’ tendencies instead of always assuming I was in the wrong. I might have turned out a little bit stronger. So even though the words could have been different, the point is infallible. Your actions afterwards, in regards to this blog, show something rare & unique.


  19. By Sarah on March 15, 2011

    Your response was how I secretly wish I could react (maybe minus a few f-bombs) in these types of situations.

    I am crippled by “politeness” and generally resort to some mumble of thanks or nodding, when inside I am seething and end up thinking about my reaction for days. Like when an old lady at an electronics store tells me that I should be more careful with my son because his feet are blue and the Ergo carrier is cutting off his circulation or simply when some stranger touches my son’s face with their filthy hands. I just stand there and smile.

    In your situation I would have been “steam coming out the ears” furious with that woman. But because I teach in the town that I live in, I would have had to control myself. I likely would have taken my child, said thank-you and have left. Then I would have replayed the scene over and over thinking of the best response I could have given. I also would have thought a lot about what would have prompted that woman to having that ridiculous reaction at a playground. It’s likely there is something going on in her life: maybe she had a migraine, her marriage is breaking up or she lost her job (none of which make her response ok).

    Sometimes when I am able to think through the anger I like to use the “killing with kindness” approach. Its all about saying your piece in the kindest and most reasonable way possible, while making the other person look and feel ridiculous for their behaviour. You feel better because you say what you need to say, and because you haven’ stooped to the other person’s level (it works great with rude salespeople and co-workers too). I would have tried to say something like this (with a giant smile on my face):

    She is rather wild this morning, isn’t she? I’m terribly sorry if my daughter has disturbed you, she’s blowing off some energy after being cooped up for several days. We’ll only be here a bit longer. (Insert some delightful comment about her kids).

    Depending on how that went I may then try to educate the woman on parent playground etiquette with respect to not touching other people’s children.

  20. By Kristin on March 15, 2011

    And this is why I read your blog.  I hope that I would not respond with the f-bombs, but I really hope MORE that I would not apologize for my child or accept her behavior as OK.  My precious child is only six months old and I do not know how I will respond to such situations.  I just had my first experience with someone questioning something about my parenting…co-sleeping…and it sucked. I think I did OK, but I was certainly defensive.  I want to protect my child FIRST while teaching all the other stuff as well. Tending towards people pleasing as I do, I fear I would somehow accept her behavior. But then I do have a super strong mama bear streak and am not at all afraid to speak my mind, but that’s when I have time to really THINK about what I want to say.  In an instant…that’s where I really just don’t know what I would do. I’m GRATEFUL for the example and I will discuss it with my husband tonight. What would we do????  No one is perfect. You are clearly pretty awesome and a mistake is a mistake.  It’s Charlotte that should get the apology…use it as a teaching moment.  The woman…whatever.  Thank you.

  21. By Ashley on March 15, 2011

    I was one of the people who rallied behind you yesterday. I think my support was less about what you actually said, and more about your decision to stand up for yourself and for your daughter. I can’t say exactly what I would have done in that situation. I’ve always been the type of person who thinks of the perfect way to handle a situation exactly 35 minutes after my opportunity to handle it correctly has already passed. I think if I cussed the woman out, I’d regret it. But, I also think if I slinked away and did nothing, I’d regret it. At the end of the day, I know that whether I expressed myself appropriately or not, I would feel better just for having done so and for not giving away all of my power to this out-of-line stranger. And, that’s what I applaud: your power as a mother, your power as a person, and the fact that you defended it, f-bombs or not. I would agree an apology for your words/tone may be appropriate, but you were in no way out of line for standing up for your daughter’s right to be a child and her right to personal space (aka not being picked up by a total stranger. How scary would that be for you if you were a little girl??).

  22. By on March 15, 2011

    I love you!! Without a doubt I would have reacted the same exact way you did. With the multiple F-bombs and everything. And all day I would have thought about how I could have responded better because of all the reasons you listed above. I’d probably turn beat red the next time I saw her at the park and I would apologize for cussing and explain to her the reason for my reaction just so she knows that it is not ok to treat somebody’s child that way. And I’d hope that the next time I am in a similar situation I learn from my mistakes.

    I think that this situation is a lot easier to look back on and say you would respond this way, but when actually in the situation it would be a whole lot different. I was in a similar situation and I reacted almost the same exact way. I know that I have a temper when it comes to things and people I care deeply about about.

  23. By Laura on March 15, 2011

    Like Lauren S, your post also made me cheer. I’m a fairly conservative person but I like to hope that I’ll be a good mamma-bear at the right moments when I have kids.

  24. By erin on March 15, 2011

    I’m glad you posted this follow-up because I was thinking about this all day yesterday, wondering if I’d have the balls to say something if I was in that kind of situation or if I’d just slink away.  I stand behind applauding you for saying something, because not only does it say something to your daughter about how much you love her and want to protect her, but it also demonstrates to that woman that HER behavior was not acceptable, and hopefully she will think twice about touching another person’s child in the future.

    That said, I also stand by that I’d hope in the future (and if I were confronted with this situation) that I’d not swear so much.  Your choice to swear in front of Charlotte and not make it a big deal is your choice in how you raise her, but others may not be making those same choices to expose their children to those kinds of words.  Of course they are out there, and you can’t protect your kids from everything or control what comes out of others’ mouths - but one would hope that they could avoid that kind of language at a park where children play.

    It’s regrettable that Charlotte was frightened after you went off.  On the other hand - she’ll get over it, and maybe it’s not such a bad thing anyway.  Maybe it’s another step in teaching her that strangers - even if they are at the park, a “safe” place - can be scary.  It reminds me of when you posted about how she ran into the street - Hannah has done similar idiotic kid things that have scared the crap out of me.  When I grab her and hold her to tight or scream at her NOOO!!! or whatever, it freaks the fuck out of her, and although she is scared I always try to explain that she is safe and Mama was scared because she could be hurt and I love her so much - and maybe she will remember my reaction, and the next time she thinks about running in the street she will remember how scary Mama was and not do it.  I don’t know if that is making any sense, but good Lord, she could have been kidnapping Charlotte.

    I’d hope in my reaction would have been to grab my kid, visibly bite my lip and take a deep breath so that woman could see me attempting to hold everything in, and calmly but sternly tell that woman not to touch my child without my permission, and calmly but sternly remind her that we outside at a park where it is completely appropriate for my kid to be acting the way she was and if she didn’t like it, maybe she should take her kid to a library instead.

  25. By on March 15, 2011

    I just want to say that I know you aren’t perfect, even though sometimes I feel less than the perfect mother when comparing myself to you. (My issue, not yours!)  But this kinda makes me feel like I should look in the mirror more often than I do (and not to fix my crazy hair!).

    I really, really appreciate your ability to look back at the situation and ask those questions of yourself and us. 

    Kudos to you for being so honest here.  Thanks for sharing the good and the bad.

    I’ve got a lot of respect for you for the way you’ve shared and responded to all the comments. 

    Thank you.

  26. By on March 15, 2011

    Dear Sarah, so you lost it at the playground.  Who hasn’t?  What I found profoundly disturbing about that post and the comments people made was that there was (virtually) no regret. As if it is OK to be totally out of control because you are protecting your child.  “Go ahead, send me hate mail, I slept like a baby last night.”  “Are you horrified because of the “inappropriate” language or because she yelled? If it’s about the words she used, get over it. They’re just words. If it’s because she yelled, get over it”. 
    So many posts cheered you on for being a “mamma bear”.  A momma bear lives in the wild, with only her cubs for company. She doesn’t have the benefit of a frontal cortex that helps her think instead of just reacting.  Her only focus is protecting her cubs, the collateral damage be damned. Every perceived danger gets a full out frontal assault. It takes a different skill set to live in society.  Yes, protect your cubs but mind the collateral damage. 
    As the mother of a child with behavior problems I was often at the receiving end of such comments.  I often felt hurt or angry. Hey people, can’t you see I am trying here? Cut me some slack. I learned to keep some phrases handy.  The one I found most useful was “ No, I can’t control my child. Why don’t you take him home and see how well you can do?”  When I did lose it, I learned to apologize.  Not because I was wrong in protecting him, but because I over-reacted.  “ I’m sorry, I could have handled that better” was a phrase I used often .  It was important that I behave in a cool manner because my child was learning to model on my behavior.  There is such a lack of civility in society today, it is important for us to teach the young ones how to get along. And for all those who posted that words are just words and it doesn’t matter where/how you use them…. Use Fuckerbitch at your next job interview and see how that goes.
      I was sorry to see one post that said. “I am done with this blog”.  Your blog has brought me hours of enjoyment, many smiles and has made me think.  I would hate to give that up even if I occasionally found a post upsetting.  I am glad you posted this follow up. In trying to make a point yesterday, I was fairly sarcastic. If I hurt your feelings, please forgive me.

  27. By on March 15, 2011

    Once a man threatened my husband in a restaurant, and I responded basically in the same manner you did with the woman. While I have always contended I was right to defend against this horrible, racist, cruel person I have also always been horribly embarrassed by my response. I wish, and would hope, in the future when confronted with either of these kinds of situations, I would remain calm but firm. You will not touch my child, my child’s behavior is mine to govern, goodbye. But I wouldn’t do that, because that is not me. Adrenaline would flow and I would start to shake and then yell and curse and become emotional. Maybe, though thinking it through in advance will help with next time.

  28. By gretchen from lifenut on March 15, 2011

    Yeah, I wasn’t really sure what to make of what happened at the playground. First, I was appalled by the other mom’s actions and her notion that a young child could be too crazy and loud AT A PLAYGROUND.

    But, I do think it’s possible to defend your child AND put another person in her place without name-calling or yelling. It’s certainly more effective to be the cool and collected one. In fact, it speaks volumes to be reasonable in the face of craziness.

    The heat of the moment makes it easy for the ideal response to slip through our fingers. It’s not like anyone anticipates meeting such a person like that woman, so having a snappy, calm retort ready to roll isn’t easy.

    I guarantee you will encounter more Playground Police in the future. It’s good to have experiences like this because you build on them over time.

    Take care. You are an excellent, passionate mom and Charlotte is a lucky little girl.

  29. By Sarah S on March 15, 2011

    This is a tough situation. The other lady was WAY out of line - I can’t imagine EVER picking up someone else’s kid and carrying them over to the parent, let alone telling someone else how to parent. Yelling profanities though, is also a bit much, both for your kid and the others around (as you said). It’s so hard to instantly know the correct reaction. I think most people react on a gut level and then think later about what the “right” reaction would be.

    I might have put it back on her “is she bothering you?“ “why?“ and let the kids continue playing. It’s a park for Christ sake. As for the kids, Charlotte is a bit young for this maybe, but I would use it as a teaching moment that they can and should yell “put me down” if someone ever picks them up that they don’t want.

    Honestly, there are always going to be people out there that think you are a shitty parent or that you are doing it wrong. Always. There is a value in being able to let that roll off. They don’t know you, they don’t know your kid, they don’t know your values and just because someone oversteps the boundaries of decency doesn’t mean you should as well.  (and I’m using “you” as in “all of us moms” not you personally)

  30. By on March 15, 2011

    Hmmm. I read yesterday’s and today’s blogs and comments. It’s kind of fascinating for me because I don’t have children. But I sit in my home office, trying to get my work done, and listen to shrieking children playing outside on the street. Maybe you don’t believe it, but I have been tempted to find their mother and yell at her the way you’ve yelled at this woman. I wouldn’t touch these children, but I don’t really think it’s necessary to shriek and scream to let steam off as a child when it is sometimes just obnoxious behavior. Again, I’m not a mom. But I am a teacher and I encounter teenagers five days a week with tons of patience. So, it’s not that I am a complete grinch or something. But I’m surprised none of the comments address the idea that some people (even those with kids on a playground) don’t want to encounter wild children (I’m using your use of the term “wild” here).
    I feel like a lot of people will be upset with this idea, but I think you have to respect that some parents may not want their children to behave wildly and I think that is the right of those parents. That said, Of Course, she should have never touched your child or really even spoken to you in such a condescending way.
    Also, a genuine kudos to you for all the introspection.

  31. By Meg on March 15, 2011

    I dont think I would have responded any differently and it is so easy for people to say they would have. Maybe, like you though, I would have felt a little bad afterward. But I doubt, unless you make this a habit, your daughter will follow in your footsteps. To say that a child will forever be scared by this one incident is a little over dramatic

  32. By Sarah Christensen on March 15, 2011

    First of all, to clarify: people were not only offended by my swearing.  Several were disappointed by my use of the word ‘fucktard.‘  I looked it up at the urban dictionary (which isn’t the greatest resource, I realize, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t figure out why people were so upset by looking it up in a webster’s standard) aaaaaaaaaand it turns out that some people use the term ‘fucktard’ as a contraction for ‘fucking retard.‘  Which, I mean, if you look at the word it seems incredibly obvious, but I had no idea.  To me, at the time, it was just a word.  If I’d known, we would be having a different conversation right now, I’m sure.  The other main complaint about my choice of words was that it must have been ineffective.

    Many people mentioned this, but it is MUCH much easier to look at a situation a day or two later and come up with alternatives.  I have a very clear memory of telling someone recently that I wouldn’t mind so much if a stranger touched my kid if I knew they were not harming her.  I was wrong.  Ordinarily I am a very patient person.  Lol, a couple years ago an old roomie told me that they used to book bets with friends over how patient I could be.  They would spend days and weeks needling me and whoever annoyed the crap out of me enough to get a rise out of me first would win the pot.  They gave up seven months in.  I do have some buttons that are surefire ways to upset me, but I’m not ordinarily the lashing-out sort.  I do not feel that this one incident of going against my grain is an indication that I am a frightening beast of a person who cannot keep her temper; I think it’s further evidence that I am but a human.  I could never have predicted that sort of reaction from myself, but when you are playing with your kid and someone picks them up from behind and screams and shoves them at you and then has their finger pointed at them screaming some more, you go from surprised to calm to annoyed to struggling-to-be-civil to pissed to furious in a split second.  There isn’t much forethought - it’s just a bundle of emotions and angry words.  I do not say this as an excuse or a defense, just as a fact.  If this sort of thing should happen again, I hope that I just as readily defend my child and myself - I just also hope that I improve my means of doing so now that I’ve had time to think it through and consider the myriad of alternatives.

    Kathy - I have since practiced my retorts as well.  My only hope is that I never find a use for them!

    Mitzie - You didn’t hurt my feelings!  I appreciate your idea of keeping a few phrases handy for dealing with other parents.  I wish I’d thought of that before.  As far as regret goes, I think that it’s a split in my mind.  I regret that I screamed obscenities, but not that I screamed, for example.  I honestly do not think that there was any other way to grab her attention; she kept poking my kid after I told her not to touch her, she kept screaming at us while I was struggling to be civil, she was lobbing obscenities before I was even completely sure what was going on - I just don’t know that I could have ever kept the screaming in check.  I also regret that I allowed myself to become so upset that it scared my daughter, but I do not regret that my daughter saw me so angry.  I think she benefits from understanding how that anger works.  I regret that I used such an offensive word, but I do not regret taking a stand and refusing to bend.  I regret that I contributed to making the park a hostile play area, but I do not regret that I spoke up when someone touched my child in anger.  I regret that I did not live up to my own standards, but I do not regret that I made a mistake with my child watching.  I regretted the incident more after having slept on it and considered the alternatives, what I would like Charlotte to do in the same boat, tried to give the other woman the benefit of the doubt, etc.

    Eliza - I personally feel that children need to be given opportunities to express themselves freely and explore and enjoy their world at will.  Sometimes Charlotte is quiet and calm and still.  Other times she is wild and noisy and active.  I have no problem with that mid-day at a park.  Although I can see where you’re coming from (I lived backed up to a school-yard for a year), at the same time I disagree.  Where are children supposed to go to run free and play on their own terms and determine their own volume if not at an outdoors jungle gym or on the street outside their home?  Where else is there?

  33. By Sarah S on March 15, 2011

    Yikes.  You didn’t mention earlier about her yelling at you and continuing to poke at Charlotte. That sounds crazy and definitely calls for a less civil response. If she brought the crazy, then I think you are justified in answering the crazy. What a nutter. Poor Charlotte.

  34. By on March 15, 2011

    In response to what someone else said. I fully understand how incredibly irritating screaming children can be. That being said a park is there for kids to run wild and as long as they aren’t hurting or bothering each other it shouldn’t matter. Children will always be encountering other children and people who behave in ways their parents might consider inappropriate. It’s the job of each parent to teach their child that the behavior in question is not appropriate. If that means taking on the difficult task of telling your child not to scream while another child is doing so without rebuke then that’s life. It’s every persons right to parent how they like and sometimes that right means others who are parenting differently have to work harder.I don’t think the same thing applies when there’s a potential for harm but screaming on a playground never hurt anyone.
    I think it’s more important to respect and accept that some people will parent their children in a way you disagree with than it is to respect another parents wish that your child not engage in a behavior that isn’t putting anyone in danger. If that makes sense…

  35. By on March 15, 2011

    How come you removed my comment from yesterday??

  36. By Sarah Christensen on March 15, 2011

    Lynn - I didn’t remove your comment?!  I haven’t removed any comments from yesterday or today.  Let me check the back end and see if I can find it!

  37. By on March 15, 2011

    Lynn - Okay, I can still see your comment on both the front end (what you see) and the back end.  I only see one comment - the one that starts with “Sarah, I think you said it all in #58.“  Was there a second comment?  My spam filter didn’t catch anything else, so if there was a second comment then I have no idea what happened to it.

  38. By Mandy on March 15, 2011

    Hi Sarah -

    This is the first time I’ve commented, although I’ve been a longtime reader.  I’d just like to say THANK YOU for being brave enough to blog honestly and truthfully about your life as a parent, even in the face of hate mail and criticism.  Reading about your successes and mistakes help me become a better parent to my son. And standing up for what is right (using an “outdoor voice” outside, for goodness’ sakes!) is never a wrong thing!

  39. By on March 15, 2011

    Hi Sarah,

    This is the first time I have written to you, but I found myself thinking over and over about your post yesterday.  I kept thinking, what would have been an appropriate response that would set a good example and still allow you to stand up for yourself.  I know why you did what you did, I probably would do that same thing in your situation.  I HATE those judgmental other mothers who think their kids are perfect and can’t understand different people’s situations.  But I also get the criticisms as well, cause, well, the argument is in front of kids, who pick up on this stuff.  So what could you have said instead?

    One idea I had running around in my head was to use the situation as a drill for how your daughter should act if she is ever grabbed in the park by a stranger.  You could have ignored her comments completely, and gotten your daughter to “practice” yelling really loudly “Stranger danger! Call the police!  You’re not my mother!  Stranger danger!  Call the police!  You’re not my mother!“ whilst sitting on the ground kicking and squirming.  (Which incidently, according to Oprah, is a very effective way to avoid being snatched).  Of course, you’re daughter isn’t old enough to do that yet.  Maybe you could have shown her how to?  I reckon it would have scared the old bat away in no time!  And taught your daughter a good lesson?

    Another thing you could have done, is take a deep breath and replied “I agree with you that children need to act in a way that’s appropriate for the situation, which is exactly what my child is doing.  As this is a park, this is the PERFECT place for her to run around.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to run around like a crazy chicken WITH her!“ and then proceed to run around like a crazy chicken, perhaps tickling your daughter to let her know that this is one big game.  This will stop her taking the other lady’s criticisms to heart (as kids otherwise tend to do), and at the same time, give the other lady no opportunity to respond because presumably she’ll be so disgusted / embarrassed to speak to you further.

    The third option, (which is one I fall back on whenever I get random unwelcome parenting advice) is to ask the other lady what her paediatric specialty is.  Inevitably she’ll have some sort of blank look on her face, or say something about how she is a parent / grand parent of 4 or whatever.  In which case you can reply “oh, i just thought you must have some academic knowledge of the area.  If you actually look at the recent studies, you’ll see that children benefit enormously from…“ and you can make up the rest of the sentance to fit whatever your child is doing at the time.  If you really want to top it off, you could finish up with something like “Aren’t you concerned that your child is so quiet?  I hope she learns how to interact well with others.  Of course, if she does turn out to be introverted, at least they make great accountants”


  40. By Alicia S. on March 16, 2011

    I like to think of what I teach my children through my actions in terms of what I hope they will do when they’re old enough to experience a similar situation. I know that no matter what I do my children will walk away from a hundred different infuriating scenarios in their lifetime, wishing they would have said this or they could have done that—but that chances are, they won’t find out for themselves how they REALLY want to handle something like that until they actually do dish out a zinger at exactly the “right” moment, and feel that sting of guilt for it afterward.

    If they maul over whether or not it was the right thing to do after the dust has settled even HALF as much as you have, I’ll feel like I’d have done my job as a parent. That’s what’s important here, I think. And that’s what I give you a Momma Bear high five for. The term Momma Bear is used for a reason—An actual Mother Bear doesn’t reason it all out beforehand when something threatens her cub— instinct kicks in and she kicks ass. Obviously we’re capable of thinking things through more rationally, but it would be a shame if we mothers lost that Momma-Bear-ness completely.

    That being said, I’m a firm believer in the notion that we more often regret the things that we don’t do than the things that we DO. At least in expressing yourself, you slept a little easier that night—even if it did give you something to think about the next day. You also have the option (NOT obligation) to work through it with the woman if you ever see her again, and chances are that if the woman is willing to hear you out and speak her mind too - you may even bond over the whole ordeal.

    Also, I think the other Alicia made an important point yesterday. Often times when we do say something addressing a nasty comment with our cool still in tact—which I’ve done before, even with a smile, in hopes that the other person didn’t mean to be so offensive—we end up feeling even more insulted for giving them the benefit of the doubt and then dignifying their rudeness with an explanation… it’s like handing the other person your dignity on a silver platter.

  41. By on March 16, 2011

    Your park post made me laugh and smile - but also feel your passion, frustration, and anger.  Your choice of words wouldn’t have been mine, but I liked the passion and feeling the post gave and the honesty and candidness.

    I really appreciated the introspect and reflection given in this post - it is this one that will having me checking back on your blog.  Enjoy your daughter, they do grow fast!

  42. By on March 16, 2011

    Sarah - I am so glad you posted yesterday and then the followup today, I think both are right on track, you told us what happened, how you are dealing with it and us the readers.  I am in awe of you, I really love your blog and I will happily continue reading no matter what you post.  As a mother of a 13 month old I can only hope to learn from other mothers and think of how I will react when this happens to us.  I do hope you post or share the response phrases you have come up with, as I will need to have some in my pocket for use (My hubby and I have a mouths much worse than yours and we are trying to be better, it is so hard!)

  43. By on March 16, 2011

    Thank you for these two posts. I appreciate your honesty. I haven’t the time to read through all of the comments, etc but I wanted to tell you a really neat quote that I was reminded of when I read the last post.

    “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”.

    Perhaps the other woman was challenged to change after your altercation OR perhaps she just thought you were crazy.  I hope you have an opportunity to meet again.

  44. By on March 16, 2011

    These posts brought me out of the woodwork to comment.

    I don’t think this situation would have triggered that kind of out-of-proportion reaction for me in the same way that it did for you, although it’s hard to say.  Everyone’s triggers are different, and I’ve certainly got mine.

    What I don’t understand is how anyone can stand there and judge you for saying stupid, inappropriate things out of anger.  Have they really never experienced blinding anger?  Have they never lost all sense of proportion, of propriety, of rationality?  I’ve been there, and it’s not a pleasant feeling to be so consumed with rage that I can’t even think rationally.  I don’t understand how someone can judge you for your choice of words in a moment when you were reacting more than thinking.

    P.S. Love the quote in #43 about anger.

  45. By Mary @ Parenthood on March 16, 2011

    As one of the few critical voices, I not only really appreciate your responses but also the grace with which you take criticism.

    I think that being able to gracefully take criticism and learn from it is a skill that is not valued enough in modern society, and it’s just one more thing about you that I respect.  I think you are a fantastic mother (and person), even if I wouldn’t have wanted to handle the situation like that.

    When people scream at me I usually completely ignore them, because I figure they are so upset that anything I might say would not be heard anyway.  The few times this has happened with my daughter around I’ve said something like: “That lady is very mad, isn’t she Elizabeth? When someone yells like that, it’s a bit scary and it’s not very polite.  In fact, Mommy thinks it’s rude. Mommy and Daddy want you to always be polite to others.“ 

    I have no idea if this kind of speech is aggravating to some (could be, I suppose), but it makes me feel better and Elizabeth definitely understands what we expect better as a result.  The last time the woman just wheeled away in a huff after I said that she was rude. 

    I also find that if I’m concentrating on “teachable moment mode”, my anger back at the angry person evaporates almost instantly. If the person is mad because I did something, I’ve acknowledged that to my daughter, but explain that while Mommy shouldn’t have done x, that’s not an excuse for the other person being unable to control their temper.

    I used to work as a helpdesk manager for IT, so I got a lot of practice dealing with very upset and irrational people.  Stock phrases help a lot, as does practice in advance.  My biggest problem is keeping a pleasant tone, especially when I’m upset. 

    Despite hundreds of hours of practice, I’m still not very good at it though. 

    I find it helps to have someone I admire model how to handle conflicts, and also to always think about how I am in turn modelling to Elizabeth (my strongest motivator).

  46. By Meghann (Bringing up Bumble) on March 16, 2011

    I honestly wouldn’t let my blog readers push me into rethinking what I did or if it was wrong or right. People aren’t going to always agree with you, but it’s YOUR blog - they can click away. I hate that ppl are acting like your parental figures in this post and telling you to go sit and think about what you did wrong.
    I think your reaction was great, honest and true to yourself. I don’t see why you wouldn’t want Charlotte to act any way other than what’s true to herself and her beliefs. She should be strong and proud of her opinions and the way she chooses to voice them - which is what you taught her that day.  I truly wish I had your guts.

  47. By QM on March 17, 2011

    I don’t have kids, but I am one of those people who has always wanted them and I almost hope I react the way you did in this situation.

    Why? Because people have this dirty habit of passing judgement on everyone else and how they do things and having been on the receiving end of some positively vile comments, I’ve always chosen to respond the ‘right’ way.

    And then I’d go home, spend sleepless nights brainstorming with myself to come up with some amazing comebacks.

    Too late. The moment was gone and the frustration remained.

    Kudos to you for standing up for your little person. And for yourself. That woman had no right to lay hands on a happy child (especially one who wasn’t spoiling the peace) and that is the bottom line!

    Nice place you have here too, will be sure to visit again!

  48. By on March 17, 2011

    Sarah, I officially withdraw my comment about that not being a mamma bear moment. From your description the other day, it sounded like she was just commenting on your parenting style. She comes off as irrational and threatening and potentially harmful in your comments above.

  49. By Sarah Christensen on March 17, 2011

    Meghann - I don’t think that I’ve let blog readers determine how I feel about my actions.  I think that listening to what other people think about a choice I made and then weighing that and coming to independent conclusions is just as true to myself and my family as my initial reaction was.  I try very hard to ensure that this place is as much a place for me to share memories and reflect on motherhood as it is a place for a community of individuals to interact and learn from one another.  I’m proud to call myself a part of that community, and being a part of any community always entails a certain amount of introspection.  I still do not feel ashamed of my reaction and I still do not feel that I “owe” the woman an apology for my behavior - but I do feel that some of the criticisms are valid and that I could have and should have handled the situation better than I did.

    Mitzie and Sarah S - Both of you have changed your mind based on something I said in a comment.  This was not really my goal, and I wanted to take this opportunity to say that I don’t think that her behavior in any way changes whether or not the criticisms of my own behavior are valid.  I do not feel comfortable going into a play-by-play of the event without her knowledge and I have zero intention of hunting her down, which means that we’re left with a bit of a lop-sided tale.  To be fair, I omitted some of my own behavior to shorten the story just as I omitted some of hers.  The essentials are still there, though.  She behaved inappropriately, she yelled at Charlotte, she yelled at me, she criticized my parenting, and then I blew up.  There wasn’t much forewarning that I was going to explode, it just happened.  To me, the simplified version of events is still reasonably representative of what occurred because regardless of whether or not she was out of line, I did not feel physically threatened by her behavior although it enraged me.  If I had, I would have written that.  I have a feeling there would have been far fewer critics if I had.

  50. By tracey on March 19, 2011

    I think that the information you give in the comments actually clarifies the reaction really well. She didn’t “just” pick up Charlotte and bring her to you; she continued to judge and antagonize and needle you. AND TOUCH CHARLOTTE. That’s insane.

    I never use Fuck as a main swear word, but I can guarantee I’d have said “Keep your hands off of my kid! Who the hell do you think you are?“

    We all still love you. We’ve all had bad reactions.

  51. By DawnC on March 21, 2011

    Sarah, I don’t find fault with your reaction because I can honestly say that I’ve never been in that situation, so I don’t know how I’d react.  My son is raised (he’s 20 and in college) thankfully, so I no longer have ‘well meaning” people telling me how I should act or react.

    However, one time when a friend of mine was babysitting my son and he had an accident in his pants, she spanked him!  AND she told me that she spanked him.  I was so angry, but I kept it together (don’t know how I didn’t go off on her) and said, “We don’t spank if he has an accident and you may NEVER touch my child EVER again.“  That was the last time I ever asked her to babysit him. 

    Keep doing a wonderful job with that precious girl of yours.  Being a mother is the hardest job in the world.





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