I read a quote recently, but I can’t remember where it was from, “There are no bad kids, just bad behavior…” and I think this is true. Kids will be kids. It’s their nature to be curious, loud, expressive and strong willed. As their parents, we have to teach them the appropriate ways to handle certain situations and people. No parent is perfect, no parenting style always works the same for all, and kids are still — kids. I am no perfect parent (if there is such a thing), my heart hurts for the mom in the check out line with the inconsolable toddler. Or I give the dad in the aisle putting a shoe back on his little girls foot for the third time a sympathetic smile or a “knowing nod”. Or to the mother pulling one cart while pushing another with at least one kid in each buried under the groceries singing at the top of their lungs. Sometimes you want to crawl in a hole when your kid is being “that kid”. There is no judgement, no frustration from this side because I know what it’s like. I once abandoned an entire cart full of stuff, in the middle of the baby aisle. I grabbed the car seat with my screaming baby (E was about 3 or 4 months old at the time) and just walked out of the store. I didn’t look back. On two occasions, once with E and another with H (I should have learned the first time), I had to summon a customer service member to clean up an entire venti non-fat chai tea latte that was dumped on the floor by a then two-year-old H while E laughed because, “it looked like a waterfall mommy!”. F*ck my life was the only thought I had in those moments.
A few times, at the library, before H got the hand of sharing (which we are still working on daily) she would take toys from other kids (mind you, she already had arms full of random toys) because “I need dis mommy and he just wouldn’t give it to me when I say pease.” Logical, at least she said please, but we apologize and give it back and find something else to play with until that toy is free. Sharing just is not an easy concept to grasp for little people; everything is “mine” and if I want it, I am going to take it. Again, as parents it is our job to teach our children to share, to give, to behave, to apologize, to say “pease” and thank you. All these things in the appropriate manner and situation. But sometimes you will come across those children that don’t have the proper guidance. The kids that do what they want, when they want and you will look around for their parent and find no one to vouch for this kid.
Rewind about seven years. At a small, indoor play yard at the mall, before I had kids of my own, I ran across “that kid”. It was crowded, I was watching my niece – A, who was only about one at the time, play in an area close by when I noticed a little boy, probably five or so, across this indoor play yard spitting on the floor. Gross I thought, but okay, he’s over there. A few minutes later, he makes his way over near where A was playing. He climbs up and around another little girl, almost knocking her down, and then proceeds to spit on the equipment he’s climbing on. I immediately look around for someone that may be watching him, wait a moment, but there is no one. I think to myself, “please let his parent notice him, please someone guide him,” and as he spits again, and again, no one comes to this child’s aide. I make a decision. Very gently, but in a tone from deep down in my gut, with laser eyes, I ask this boy to please stop spitting. The little girl he almost knocked over looks up at me because she must recognize this tone and then looks to the boy that I am aiming for and freezes. This little boy, looks at me and spits — again. I almost lost my mind. The next few seconds happened at lightning speed. I pointed my finger at this lost boy and almost spat my words at him: “That is inappropriate behavior and disgusting. I watched you spit five times, that spreads germs and someone can get sick. And you almost knocked a little girl down. You say excuse me when you want to get around someone. Please go find your parents.” I must have been convincing because he ran away. I summoned an employee of the place and let them know of the spitting boy and they disinfected the spots that I saw him spit on. I was angry at this little boys parents – where were they, what were they doing that was so important they could not be there for their child at a time like this? I was angry that I had to reprimand another child, but make no mistake, I would do it again. I wasn’t a parent yet, but I felt the need to step up and fill the role, even if for a moment.
As parents, we take an unspoken oath to help guide our children down the right paths to make good decisions so they have a chance to be successful. To me, this little boy was lost. He had no one to guide him that day, except for a motherless auntie that wasn’t going to stand by and let that inappropriate behavior continue. Some may disagree that it wasn’t my place to say anything, I ask you – what would you have done? There was no one else around to do it, I knew some day I wanted to be a parent and I was protecting my niece. But mostly, I felt bad for this boy that had no one to help him make the right decision. It was a defining moment in my life because I vowed that when I had kids one day, I would always be there for them to help them choose their path. Now I know, realistically, I can’t be there for every decision they have to make. I just hope to equip them with the right tools for those times, that when they have to do it themselves – at school, at a play date, at an indoor play area with a thousand other kids and parents around – they will use what I have taught them and be good and kind and act appropriately. That they will say, “excuse me” to the other kids on the playground, or wait patiently for their turn on the slide, or help clean up their friend’s play room after a three-hour dress-up session.
Kids are still going to be kids – whatever version of themselves they feel like being at the time, with whatever feelings they have at the moment. And if I come across your kid, acting like a little a**hole on the monkey bars, I’m going to call them out on it and tell them to go find you…;)