Friday, March 15, 2013


I'm back from my quick Desert getaway. 24 hours turned into 36 and I just hope my kids and husband are counting their lucky stars that I came back at all!!!
But I'm all refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to DISH.
So onto the goods.

As a new mom, I'm both curious and nervous about parenting social etiquette. Before I had my baby, I was a preschool teacher and have seen the fangs come out in parents and am not sure how I will approach that. What is appropriate parenting etiquette? 
~Nervous Mama Bear

To broach this convo, I feel the need to share an experience--which made me absolutely LIVID and CRAZY-- but also made me think more deeply about parenting social etiquette. Onto the story......

So this fall Deeter and Kaia were taking swim lessons. Lessons are semi-private, meaning about 3 or 4 kids, at someone's house. The pool was a big rectangular one, with a little square hot tub built right in. 
So on day 1 we were doing our swim lesson when a mom and son showed up. The mom got in with her almost 3 year old son. During the course of the hour, my child tried to play with his swim toys. She started in on a very mature conversation with him, "Adam, is that your fish? Oh do you not want to share it? Dee-ter would love to play with it too..." she calmly explained, while holding a total of six fish. This same idea was stated in many different question forms while yielding the same result- homeboy didn't want to share his fish. With thin patience and no interest in sitting in on this hostage negotiation which have been known to last many hours, I led Deeter to other toys. This scenario repeated itself one more time during the lesson.

Call me judgmental, because that's what people do, but I formed an opinion of her and the "situation" that day.

Fast forward a week later where we all found ourselves at the swimming pool again. Adam was still having attachment issues and did't want to be away from his mom and was slowly "getting comfortable" with the water. Somehow, this "getting comfortable" process led to him and his mom hanging out in the hot tub that was essentially the same 90 degree temperature as the pool and the same depth of the wading area. The big deal of this? There is a "no hot tub til after lesson" rule.
As soon as they entered the hot tub, guess what my 1 and 3 year old started doing?
You got it. They wanted to swim in there too.

So there I was fishing out one kid after another, explaining and re-explaining the rules that the swim instructor had set out- we don't swim in the hot tub. Lo siento.

Meanwhile, this other mom is having a conversation with her son. "Adam, I know that the rules are that there is no swimming in the hot tub. We're just doing it this time to help you get comfortable with the water." She continued in dialogue like that with him for who-knows-how-long. 

My blood pressure was rising with each retrieval of a child and with the rambling conversation that I was convinced was more for the onlookers rather than "Adam".

I'm not fighting off the temptation...I have to ask you, Would you have been completely bugged or what?!! Oh I felt so justified in being ready to snap!

Finally, after yanking my kids out of the hot tub for the fifteenth time, I decided to say something to the lady. I was pretty fired up and thought it was a good time to confront the issue.

I wasn't talking all fired up but I was definitely talking with feeling, which came out something like this, "Look, I hear you talking to Adam and are saying you're just helping him get comfortable but here's the thing-- you know kids. I can tell tell my 1 and 3 year old a thousand times that we shouldn't get in the hot tub and that you're just "helping" Adam. But as long as they see you and your boy in there, they're going to keep trying to get in. Couldn't you help him get comfortable in the water in the pool where the lessons are going to take place anyway and the rest of the kids won't try to break the rules?"

I don't know what she said. Maybe nothing. I do remember she stayed in the hot tub. 

Things were very clear to me on that day, just as they had been on day 1,-- that her and I parent very differently.

I never got in the pool with any of my kids, not even the 1 year old, as I thought that was the point of swim lessons- to learn from an instructor. I throw my kids into the pool and yell, "Sink or swim, baby!" and all those little kids get to swimming. While I first allow my kids the choice to share and try to persuade them to come to that conclusion for themselves, if after a couple tries they don't make the right decision, i.e.:: to share one of their 6 toys, I show them how to share. With their toys. By taking it away and letting the other kid have a short turn. And lastly, I sure as heck am not going to bend the rules for my child at the expense of everyone else suffering. I'm not that type.

Now while it's quite tempting to fall for my biased side of the story, I will say that one thing was very clear from the two lessons I had spent with this lady:

She loved her kid very much. She took her role as a mom very serious. Obviously she had a different style of parenting. And it wasn't a "give your child whatever they want" style. It was a very pointed and deliberate {and dare I say exhausting...} and talk and "feel" your kid through everything style. She was working hard and doing her best to be a good mom.

And that's what was so disturbing and quite possibly made my blood boil for longer than it needed to.
This wasn't a case of right and wrong. More so it was a case of what to do when two good moms completely butt heads in child-raising philosophies in a scenario where both children are involved.
And that was frustrating because it felt like their was no solution.

And thus sparked the "think on a deeper level" need.

So onto parenting social etiquette.

I recently heard a definition of etiquette that I liked. Basically it says doing our best to make others feel comfortable. It's going to be pretty uncomfortable if you're at a ho-down barbecue eating your ribs with a knife and fork while everyone else is gnawing and licking and chomping. Etiquette in that situation has nothing to do with salad forks and entree forks. It's getting down and dirty and gnawing on that meat til you get down to the bone.

I think that is something to take into consideration when in a social setting and trying to figure out certain things: where/if to nurse, where to change a diaper, how to discipline your child, what to let your child get away with, etc etc.

Note that this is different from letting the social situation define your standards. It just might be that while at home you are able to employ the ideals you've set for yourselves, when out socially you should probably be open to being somewhat flexible. Ie: If your family rule is no treats til after lunch and you're somewhere where someone's handing out a cookie at 10:30 am, it might be a good time to be flexible on that rule and let your kid chow on a cookie with all his friends.


there are going to be times where flexibility isn't an option and there is a butting of heads of two people doing the best they can. Obvi which is why I picked the above story to share. And the question....

I thought about this story for days after it happened. One, I next to never say anything "confrontational" to people who don't have a reoccurring role in my life. Not worth the drama and I can recognize that we all do things differently, etc etc. Two, I was concerned about whether or not I had done the right thing.

And this is the conclusion I came to, which in my mind plays into the conversation of parenting social etiquette. The conclusion...Of course I did the right thing!!! Hahaha! Sorry, no confessions or apologies on this one. But here's the why and the principle that can be applied in almost all situations:

I am responsible for me.
I am responsible for my kids.

And while it is more than tempting to sit there and correct her ways, and say how wrong she is doing things, and how she needs to do such and such different {to make my life easier!!!}, once again, 

When the sharing issue came up, I was talking to my kids and trying to help them learn how to react when things don't go their way in life. When the boy wasn't sharing, I wasn't telling Deeter, "Well yeah, that kid should totally be sharing. He's just a spoiled brat. I'm sorry." Es posible I was thinking that, but we will never know for sure. Instead I was asking Deeter for suggestions of other options-- should we find other toys? should we swim over there? should we yank the toy and swim away? Kidding, kidding. Point being, I wasn't teaching Deeter what that kid should be doing, I was teaching him ways to deal with what we were currently going through, which was someone not sharing with us. Teaching him that we are responsible for our actions despite the decisions of other people. 

And I think that can help us tons in parenting clashes. As humans, we're pretty quick to point the finger and  say what the other person should be doing differently. But what can we do that is in the realm of our control? Do we walk away? Do we teach our kid to use his words and say, "I don't like when you call me stupid," even when the other mom is listening in on the parroting conversation? What are we going to do with our predicament?

And lastly, when things had "gone too far", as determined by me, I decided to approach the mom in a {mostly!} friendly manner. We as moms can't be afraid to do hard things. Sometimes we have to stick up for ourselves and what we think is right and ask for a little help in what we're trying to achieve. Not saying it was always pan out {as shown in my story} but we can at least say we tried. we can't be afraid of adult conversations where we might disagree.


So that's my two cents. A long two cents but whatever.  
As always, ask any follow-up questions in the comment section, and I will answer in the comment section as well.
I know this is something we all deal with as parents. What input do you have on the subject of social etiquette for parenting?
Do share!

Do you have a question for ASK GAY???
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  1. Ahh Parenting Clashes...would have done what you did even though it's not fun. The first time I decided to throw down at the playground the other mommy had a whole moms group w/ her and I was the lone crazy one. Now before I throwdown I make sure the other mommy is gangless so I'm not out numbered!

  2. "I am responsible for me despite other people's decisions." What a good reminder, even to those of us that are not children. I swear, this was such good advice, and couldn't have come at a better time. I don't even have kids yet, but this is good life advice for anyone. Thanks Gay :)

  3. Love this! I remember when this lady upset you a while back!! Thanks for the advice Gay!! xxx

  4. You are spot on when you say we are responsible for ourselves and our kids. We can only control how we react and patent our own children and not how others decide to parent. I have learned to tread very carefully when it comes to how others choose. First, it's their choice and right to patent how they choose and it's probably the lowest blow to call someone out on their choices. We are all doing the best we can in this mothering gig and even when we aren't we know we aren't but just too beaten down to try and the last thing we need is the added guilt of being called out on it. Clearly this mom handled this poorly and it drives me nuts when they speak through their child. But every child is so different and I've broken my own rules with Mia on more than one occasion and done things I swore with chase I'd never do. But most days I'm doing my best.

    1. i don't think it sounds like disagreeing at all. I think it's the hard truth that most of us are trying our best. in general, i think we should give moms a pass because usually their decisions don't affect us. I think dropping a lot of the judgmental attitude is what will help all of us. And like I said, I was judging so I know I'm the first person I need to work on! And on a side note, how you said you've broken so many rules w Mia. That's what I kind of love about having so many kids and so many different personalities-- I eat my words ALL the time and think it's kind of awesome to have my perspective broadened! xoxo

  5. Reading that comment back it sounds like I'm completely disagreeing.,.i mostly agree with your post, just adding some thoughts.


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