Sunday, 7 May 2017

Other Kids' Parents

We flew down to LA this past weekend for a mini Ex-pats reunion. Our friends Barney and Robin served as hosts. I should say from the start, I really didn't like Robin the first time I met her. We ended up going shopping, and I had to watch her try on (yes, pose in front of a mirror) various $800-$1,000 purses; I wrote her off as a pretentious LA bitch. Yes over the years, I would come to learn that she is more down to earth. She was one of the first to whom I disclosed our fertility struggles, and she was surprisingly supportive. We bonded further when we were pregnant and new mothers together, often texting various questions or admitting when aspects are hard. However, outside of motherhood, we have very little in common.

Still, I was looking forward to getting together and meeting their daughter Little Myrtle (who has the same name as the other Little Myrtle and as Robin is again pregnant after another first attempt, so the nickname fits). Yet, I would learn that motherhood can unknowingly change the dynamics of your friendships, especially when it seems like your friends are mothering your kid. I have to acknowledge one rookie parent error; when we visit another kid's house, I have to ask their parents 'what are your house rules?' Where is food allowed? Shoes on or off? I get the no shoes rule, we do the same thing in my house, but are you allowed to walk one foot in the door before you remove the shoes, or do you have to take them off as you pass through the threshold? Also can you also appreciate that my daughter's shoes Velcro in the back so that she can't take them off herself before you scold her for not taking off her shoes? If she tries to climb up on the couch, is that allowed or is it considered 'climbing on furnature'?

I feel that I should have asked these questions, so that I could have done more to teach Kate about how we behave we were are a guest in someone else's house, and maybe I wouldn't have felt that I was walking of eggshells, so afraid I was going to get admonished for doing the wrong thing. But what really getting to me was the way she was interacting with Kate.

"Kate, do you know what colour this is?"
"Kate, can you sing a song?"
"Kate, [after she placed a sticker in the wrong spot of a sticker book] that sticker is improperly placed. Can you say 'improperly placed?'"

I should realise that she was just trying to engage her, but it was annoying the shit out of me. "She knows her colours." I informed Robin, while wanting to add; she's a bit overstimulated in a new environment, and you're a stranger, please don't expect her to perform. Of course, I interpreted her questions to Kate as an interrogation of my parenting skills, where she was checking in to see that Kate was learning appropriately.

At the same time, the visit did serve as a useful learning opportunity. Little Myrtle is about two and a half months older than Kate, which is a significant gap for their ages. Her speech is very progressive, she's speaking in small sentences. She can recognise letters and numbers very well. We probably should do more singing with Kate, although I think she does quite a bit at school, as she knew 'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider' and 'Wheels on the Bus' before Robin tried to take credit for "I got her to sing 'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider!'". We definitely need to work on manners, expecting her to say 'please' and 'thank you'. Maybe I just feel so resentful as I was able to make these observations myself without Robin pointing them out to me. Or rather, I feel that I didn't need her to tell these things to Kate, and make me feel like I'm not doing my job as a parent. In what ways are friends allowed to extend parenting to our kids?

I'm in such an unfamiliar territory; yet I also have to admit that I'm guilty of judging other people's parenting in the way I felt it was done to me. I went through the Denver Development check list with my cousin's sons to make sure they were meeting their milestones, and I actually got down on my hands and knees to show my cousin's nine month old son how to crawl. I've been silently critical of the ways Myrtle is raising her little Myrtle. At the same time, I was acknowledging our deficiencies during this trip, I was scoring the areas where we are ahead. Kate is physicially stronger. Kate is ahead in potty training. We use less screen time. We serve healthier foods. I lost my pregnancy weight (okay, that last one was just me being petty).

Why do we do this? Parenting is really hard. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are better at disclipine. Others are more creative at thinking up games and activities. No one is perfect. We're all really making it up as we go along, just trying to get from one day to the next. We're on the same team. But how do we work at teammates? How do you incorporate your friends who are parents with your kids?


  1. It's folklore now in my department about the student who cheated and was kicked out of school. Her parents helped to develop a scheme of living close to campus so that she could appear to still be attending school. Her mother reminds me exactly of this mother you described here.

    There is nothing wrong with your daughter. Zero, zit, nada. If there was, she would have been identified for intervention. And even then, you should have been supported, not shamed. What this woman is doing is exactly what women shaming is all about. She's doing this because she is threatened by you and feels the need to prove she's superior. As an educator, we fear these parents because they do so much damage. Our hope is either amazing therapists later in life or a mentor that helps them overcome this abuse.

    The beauty of this situation is you don't have to subject your daughter to it again. So don't. And if you are forced, do a public meeting place as her behavior will be held in check. But don't do this again. Because this woman is severely fucked up in the head.

  2. "Can you say 'improperly placed?" Lololol. This lady needs to meet my son. He would just say "no" and continue sticking the sticker wherever he dang pleased (most likely your own back...back of your shirt, your butt, your calf, your hair).

  3. I hadn't even thought about house rules for the kiddos at someone else's house, which means I must be terrible for not taking Bowen to other peoples houses. We just seem to go to family members houses and they understand that Bowen is going destroy the place before he leaves at this age. Definitely something for me to think about. Knock on wood so far I haven't had anyone make me feel inadequate at motherhood just yet. Now my mother would worry about every milestone for no good reason but I just ignore her. haha

  4. My still childless sil loves to point out what she believes are my inadequesies as a parent, isn't it fun? Most if the time I roll my eyes, sometimes I speak up, but I always hate my time spent with her

  5. OMG, people need to lighten up. For sure, tell a visiting family 3-5 house rules (who can remember more then that anyway?). Testing a friends child to see where they are at? That's crazy. Sorry, I'm judgmental of being judgmental LOL. My daughter is very verbal and expressive, but she does. mot. talk. in front of strangers. This does not surprise me at all because - Surprise! - I didn't either as a child. I had to feel comfortable around you. Nobody should make a toddler "perform." Bleah! I am very strict about no shaming. If someone calls AJ shy, I smile sweetly and say "she's just making sure you are not a psychopath." Because it's true. As for "why we do this," I think people are desperate for validation. So why not just give appreciating and validation and screw the comparisons. I don't have a lot of mommy friends, but when I'm at a class or whatever I try to greet the children like they are humans, and smile or say something nice to the parents. If they are having a tough time I either smile or just mind my own business.

  6. Oh my this woman needs to simmer down and take a chill pill. She was clearly testing Kate and that is WEIRD. If I were you, I would stay away from this woman because that is not normal and the behavior will continue. Kate doesn't need to get tested on what she knows or doesn't know by someone she thinks is a stranger. Kids learn different things at different times and if singing happens a lot in your household, then your kid may know more songs. If physical play happens more often in your household then your kid may have more physical abilities. I agree with Cristy though- if there was an issue then Kate would be in early intervention. This is just the case of a weirdo mom who is way too competitive and shouldn't be (at least on this topic).