Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fighting the urge

At what point do you step in?

The First Cardinal Unbreakable Rule of Parenting Forever and Ever is "Do not judge other parents." Not on their disciplining methods, not on their vaccine theories, not on the way they dress their kids, nothing. Because we're all under a yachtload of pressure and stress here, trying to do right by our families in an age where you can't even trust the baby bottles, and it would be unkind and hypocritical to critique other parents, since no one is perfect and etc. And of course everyone breaks this law with impunity: they're too permissive, they're giving their kids mumps, they're dressing their kids like hobos, what's wrong with them? I would never do that to my kids. And etc.

But snarking on people behind their back (heh) is one thing; taking direct, public action is something else. I was waiting on line at Trader Joe's when I noticed a little girl sitting in the cart one register line over. And by sitting I mean squirming all over the place. Up, down, over, back, legs up there, legs down here. She looked about the age of my kid, which means she wasn't old enough to understand that cracking her skull on the floor would be a bad thing. I looked for a seat belt and realized the cart didn't have one; the two frayed ends of it hung off the back of the basket.

The parents were both at the other end of the register, dealing with the groceries. Neither one was watching. I kept an eye on her with increasing distress as she contorted ever further outward: Should I say something? Tell her to sit down? Run over to catch her if she falls?

Then her daddy finally clued in and walked up to scoop her out of the cart. Which was good, because I was leaning toward option C, and I don't think I would've been quick enough to catch her. Picked last in gym class and all that.

In retrospect, what were the parents thinking, letting the kid sit in a cart with no belt? We were out at dinner last night and received yet another Highchair of Death, in that it also had no belt. I made the waitress get another chair. Just because these places won't shell out the money to replace shoddy equipment doesn't mean I have to put up with it. But not only did these parents put up with it, they then left their kid effectively unsupervised, because bad accidents only happen to other people's kids, I guess.

Still I'm relieved I said nothing and nothing happened. Because by the time that girl's dad trotted over, he'd clearly figured out there was a problem. Anything I said would've just embarrassed him. And, possibly, me.

But he did see me watching, I'm fairly sure. That may have been what prompted him to move. Which means that whether I meant to or not, I was being ... judgmental. And there you have it.

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