When I pulled up to my mom’s house the other day, I noticed a minivan parked on the side of the road. Our neighbors were having a garage sale, so I assumed that the owner of the car was just popping in to see the sale. But then I noticed that the car was idling, so I took a closer look through the tinted windows. That’s when I discovered that an infant was inside, buckled into a car seat, while a toddler bounced freely around the back seat. Alone.
“Mom, there are two kids in that car and it’s running,” I said as she came out to greet me.
We looked around. The sale was inside a garage about 50-yards away. There was no one in sight.
I Said Nothing
I’m in the habit of minding my own business when it comes to parenting, but that’s not to say that I don’t judge. I once watched this woman humiliate her 6-year-old daughter for having an “accident” at the mall, as if the accident wasn’t embarrassing enough. She repeatedly asked her daughter the pointless why-did-you-do-that question. Then she topped it off by adding that the little girl was such a baby that she should wear diapers. I was so angry that I was shaking. I got all sweaty and sick in the pit of my stomach. But I thought that if I spoke up the woman wouldn’t suddenly think, “Gee, she’s right. It really is wrong of me to publicly humiliate my child. I’m going to be a better parent.” Best case scenario, she’d throw me a few choice words. Worst case, she was packing heat. So I said nothing.
So Much for Appropriate
But the path of least resistance is rarely the best one to take. I’m not suggesting that we lose perspective. It’s not my place to give the hairy eyeball to strangers whose children may seem too old for diapers, or point out—however politely—that “someone’s a little tired” (most annoying comment EVER). However, when it comes to a child’s safety and well being, all bets are off. Or at least they should be.
Without hesitation, my mom switched into Mother Grizzly Mode. Mom is not an aggressive person. She’s more Emily Post than Sue Sylvester. Competitive sports give her a bleeding ulcer and she gives away her properties in Monopoly to keep the game going. But that day, she hauled up the alley like a steam engine about to bust while I stood by the car, mulling over the most appropriate way to handle the situation. I decided to give the driver a good stink eye. That’ll show ‘em. Then, in the distance, I heard my mother scream, “Are you crazy?!”
So much for appropriate.
Parents Make Mistakes
A woman in her late twenties hustled toward the car, looking as if she’d just swallowed thumbtacks. Mom matched her stride and barked in her ear, “You left two babies locked in a car while you went to a garage sale? And you left it running? People get arrested for that! Are you stupid?”
Mom’s eyes were darting as she spoke. Her arms flailed. She may have even hissed. I imagined that I saw her hair turn into serpents. Mom let up only when the woman jumped into her car and closed the door. To her credit, she did not respond to my mother’s rant. And to my relief, she didn’t whip out a gun.
“Damn fool,” Mom muttered as she walked over to me, straightening herself up like she just came from the UFC ring. I though she might even hawk a loogie in disgust.
The woman, clearly shaken, sat at the wheel for a moment to collect herself. I thought she might cry. I would’ve. And then I felt sorry for her. As parents, we all make mistakes from time to time.
It’s All About The Kids
But later, after replaying the incident in my head, I started to feel different. My Mom didn’t think; she reacted. Maybe 34 years of parenting puts it all in perspective. As a newish mom (my daughter is 4), I compulsively give parents the benefit of the doubt. But Mom had her priorities straight. She didn’t worry about being polite; she thought only of those two little kids.
After Mom settled down, she chuckled and said, “I bet she won’t do that again.” I’d bet my life on it. A feeble little stink eye wouldn’t have had the same effect. It would’ve gone unnoticed and no one would be any worse for it…except for those kids.
I guess sometimes my mother still knows best.
About the Author
Andrea Goto writes The Culinary Coward, a monthly humor column for PaulaDeen.com about her struggle to become a domestic goddess, or more simply, to cook an edible meal. She writes her own Blog, Mom Without Makeup, which discusses the messy art of modern mothering. Andrea lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia, with her 4-year old daughter (who thinks she’s a superhero), her husband (who is a superhero) and one geriatric cat.