Thoughtful Thursday: It Takes a Village
June 14, 2012
I had my first real instance of a stranger trying to parent my child. Burrito took a toy out of a 4-year-old girl’s hand, and she burst into tears. As the girl sobbed, her mother stepped in and told Burrito that he needed to ask before taking something.
On the surface, the content of what she said was reasonable, except for a couple of things:
- Her tone. Because of her cultural background, it came across much, much more harshly than it could have. No one has ever spoken to Burrito with that tone before.
- Her expectations. I flashed back to a blog post that Dresden did a year ago about her then not-quite-2-year-old looking like an asshole because he’s so big for his age and therefore looked like he was 3. Burrito and Tamale are the same height as an average kid a full year older. It’s reasonable to expect that they have the capacities of 3 1/2 year olds, but they don’t.
Burrito looked at the woman, then looked at me, then burst into tears. He was inconsolable for a long, long time.
Into his 4th minute of sobbing, she looked sorrowfully at me and said, “I just told him that he should ask before he takes things.”
I replied, “He’s only 2. He doesn’t have the language to say that.”
Her eyes got big and she said, “Oh. Sorry.” And then she wandered off. Several minutes later, after a lot of processing the event, Burrito calmed down.
I have plenty of opinions about what other people’s children should be doing, but I rarely intervene. If I do speak up, I tend to do one of two things: either I give gentle reminders as a bigger kid is endangering my child, like “Be careful, there’s a little kid coming down the stairs,” or I passive-aggressively talk about the child to my kids, such as “I know you were having a turn with that, but that boy is choosing not to share.” I have little, or more likely no, influence over anyone else’s children, so all I try to do is keep my children safe and teach them how the world works.
What’s your stance on “guiding” other people’s children?