Yesterday we spent the afternoon at a local hockey rink watching my older nephew's travel team play some games here in the city. The Jude? He thinks hockey is pretty damn awesome. He watched the big kids skate and pounded on the glass and yelled at the refs (in true hockey fashion).
At one point we were just hanging out between games and Jon took our younger nephew over to play some air hockey while I chased the Jude around the room in circles. Did you know there are lockers there, and you can TOUCH THEM?! ALL OF THEM?! EACH ONE?! I NEED TO TOUCH EVERY SINGLE ONE, MAMA. Needless to say, both boys were having a blast. While our nephew played air hockey he set his coins and tickets down on the edge of the table and BOOM– it was on.
At one point I corralled the Jude back over to where the boys were, lugging him up over my shoulder, and when I walked up a girl of around 7 or 8 was hovering near our table with her brother/friend. Right when I walked up she put her hand over my nephew's money, looked meaningfully at her companion, and mouthed, "Should I?" I stepped up and said, "Uh-Uh." (as in, NO). She looked dutifully shocked and surprised that an adultish person had caught her and scampered off. No harm no foul.
...Until a few seconds later when an old lady in a poncho and a leopard-print hat marched up to me on the war-path. Looks like little miss sticky-hands was also a tattle-tale. Great.
(stomp stomp stomp)
"WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER?"
"WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER?!"
"I said, 'Uh-uh,' because she had her hand over my nephew's money."
"Well SHE WASN'T GOING TO TAKE IT."
"Good, then I guess we don't have a problem."
(Commence her angry storming off and much glaring for the rest of the afternoon under her giant khaki poncho, yay!)
I know, I know. Do you dare step in when it's someone else's kid? Do you only step in if there's physical danger? Or... never? I had heard rumors of these type of people at the playgrounds, people who take offense if you dare chastise their Precious Little Darling, even when Precious is being an asshole. In retrospect I probably shouldn't have said anything, but at the same time what was I going to do, just watch her take it?
So Poncho Grandma was mad. Really mad. The thing is, I didn't do it with any crazy malice against Precious McPretty, kids are... kids. They goof off, they do stupid stuff, they make mistakes. I just wanted to reminder her that Hey man, that's not cool. With that done to me the issue was over. Go play.
If I imagine a 7 or 8 year old Jude running around at an arcade/skate rink... I KNOW what kind of trouble kids get into. I would be happy to have another adult step in and say something like that. And if Jude ran up and told me about it? Teaching/talking moment 101.
I don't think it's every adult's responsibility to keep an eye on every kid, nor would I want other people butting in on my parenting, so there's a fine line to tread. While I have confidence that most adults would only use this superpower for good I can certainly think of situations where I would NOT like someone telling Jude what to do. At a friend's house or family gathering? Sure, feel free to step in for safety and politeness. Out in public it gets so much more complicated. What is ok to one family isn't in other, and so on and so on. So... ugh. I don't know. It's so tricky.
It disappoints me that parents can't count on each other anymore to help gently direct our small people while still being respectful. Instead of viewing all the youth as our collective responsibility parents are super territorial about anyone even speaking to their little darlings. I can see both sides of it, but in general I think it would do us more good to work together instead of against each other.
That old woman TOTALLY wanted to stab me to death with her eyeballs. So, there's that. It left me with the crazy upset adrenaline feeling that confrontations leave behind. Speak up for the good of the children at your own risk.