5 Types of Parents It’s OK to Judge

If you’re one of those people with no kids of your own who’s constantly judging everyone’s parenting skills, then please stop.  Trust me, all the other parents and I had a meeting, we put it to a vote, and it was unanimous: we hate you.  You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re rude and you should keep your stupid opinions to yourself.

On the other hand, if you are a parent, then judging other parents can be one of the most fun and satisfying ways to spend your time, so have at it!  It’s open season for you!

OK, that might still get you in some trouble with the people you’re judging, so I can understand if you want to be careful. But I can’t imagine any of the lamest moms and dads would do something so informative as to read a parenting blog, so just between us, I’m going to let them have it.

Here are 5 types of parents who, in my opinion, it’s perfectly OK for you to judge…

1. The “What’s Bedtime?” and “What’s a Sitter?” Parents.

saw 6_edited-1Look, I’m sure you really needed the six pack of Corona Light, but was it really worth dragging your toddler out to Stop & Shop at 10pm?  Some of us call that “bedtime”.  We look forward to it as a relaxing break at the end of our hectic day, and what’s more, the kids need it.  It’s win-win.

At least Stop & Shop is an age-appropriate activity for young children.  We’ve all seen those morons who were so psyched for “World War Z” that they dragged their 2-year-old out to the midnight showing at Mann’s Chinese rather than wait the two months it’d take for that movie to be on DVD.  How are they selling these people tickets instead of calling child protective services on them?

It’s insane that some places have laws against gay parents adopting or fostering kids when there are clowns like this raising children.  Look, not every gay couple is Ozzy and Harriet, but if you want to root out the truly unfit parents, I suggest starting at the multiplexes.

2. Parents Who Helicopter Other People’s Children. 

booboo_edited-1Say what you will about helicopter parents. At least the only kids they’re messing up are their own… that is, except for this subset of helicopter parents who are determined to overparent everyone’s kids.

When my kids fall down at the playground, I don’t usually make a big deal about it, and because of that, they don’t make a big deal about it either. They get up, limp for a second or two and then run around like maniacs again… unless some other grownup runs over and screams, “OH MY GOD! ARE YOU OKAY?”

Odds are, my kid was fine until the crazy lady ran up and started screaming hysterically in his face. Now he’s not crying because he’s hurt. It’s because you freaked him the eff out. If not for you, he’d be back swinging upside-down from the jungle gym by now.

Oh, and while you’re at it, spare me your evil eye. When my kid really does get hurt, I will swoop in faster than you could imagine and do all the things that need to be done. I just want him to know that there are some ouchies he’s perfectly capable of handling on his own.

By the way, this is a park. I’m not sure what that green spongy material under our feet is, but I suspect it’s at least 70% marshmallow. No one’s going to get beheaded here. Relax.

3. The Only-Engage-With-The-Kids Parents.

gamelastnight_edited-1These ones are just weird. I take my kids to the same places over and over, and we see a lot of the same people.  Some of them are friendly, some of them are not, and a lot of them fall in this weird middle ground where they’re very friendly… but only to the kids.  They talk to them, hand them toys, introduce them to their kids, but even when I’m standing right there, they won’t address me directly or look me in the eye.

Instead, they’ll direct all their questions to my children.  “Does your Daddy mind if you play with that?”  “What a pretty shirt your Daddy dressed you in!”  I imagine they’re just socially intimidated by other adults, but it’s hard not to feel like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense.  Her Daddy is standing right here! Talk to him, please! He’s starved for adult conversation!

Seriously, if there are other people out there who can’t see me, please let me know, because I’m starting to worry that I’ve crossed over to another plane of existence or something.

4. The Insufficiently Apologetic.

hairpull_edited-1One day at the kiddie gym, a little boy smacked my daughter in the face because she was on the trampoline he wanted to use.  His mother was appropriately horrified, but she didn’t say a word to me or Sutton.  No “Sorry”, no “Please don’t sue”, no “Bobby, give that girl a hug.”  She just grabbed the kid and ran away to lecture him.

I’d lump into this category any parent who offers their own apology for the kid’s behavior but doesn’t make their kid apologize himself — and worse, doesn’t do anything to reprimand him. One day at a playground, a perfectly polite nanny assured me that her kid didn’t normally pin kids to the ground and pull their hair until they screamed, the way he had just done to Sutton.  She even gave him an ultimatum: apologize or they were going home.  He didn’t apologize, but half an hour later, they were still there, and he was pulling some other kid’s hair.

I thought we were all in the same boat, trying to teach our kids to own up to their actions and say they’re sorry when they screw up. But now the next time my kid misbehaves, she’s going to whine, “But that kid at the park didn’t apologize!” And suddenly my teachable moment turns into me teaching her that some people are just assholes.

5. The Overly Apologetic.

misbehave_edited-1Look, everyone’s kid throws a fit in public sometimes.  It sucks.  But you don’t need to run around telling everyone how sorry you are and swearing, “He never does this!”  Try to forget about all the annoyed jerks glaring at you and focus on your kid instead.  Calm him down, get him out, do whatever your parenting instinct tells you the situation demands.  Trust me, no one’s going to hand you a report card on the way out, with an “F” in tantrums. Well, I’m not, at least. I’ll be one of the parents passing you glares of sympathy and encouragement. In almost any case of tantrummy kid vs. beleaguered parent, I take the parent’s side, because I’ve been there myself many times.

Sometimes the best way to handle an outburst is to ignore the behavior, and that can be tough.  I know I look like a horrible parent because my kid’s screaming their head off in a shopping cart and I’m trying to decide which brownie mix to buy.  But you know what?  I’m not going to give into him just to calm him down, and it’s not that I think this is acceptable behavior.  I’m just halfway through my shopping, and I’m really in the mood for brownies, so we’re riding this one out together, everybody.  You don’t like it?  Kindly move to Aisle 6.  Thanks.

Besides, don’t be so self-centered.  You think everyone’s judging you?  Pfft, who would do that?

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9 Unwritten Rules of the Playground

Nobody ever tells you the Rules of the Playground.  I’m not talking about “No littering” or “No loitering after dusk, teenagers!”  Not the kinds of rules you might actually find posted in a public park.

I mean the unspoken code among parents that governs everything that occurs on surfaces made of asphalt, spongeturf or wood chips.  A trip to the playground is like having a playdate with whoever shows up.  Unless everyone agrees to a few ground rules, things can quickly devolve into a shrunken simulation of the Stanford Prison Experiment.

I’ve decided to take it upon myself to write down these implied rules, as best as I understand them.  Granted, there may be a bit of wishful thinking thrown in.  Here goes:

1.  Everything you bring is communal property.

It’s not just polite to share, it’s the only practical way to do things.  I’m not going to check every toy my kid picks up to make sure it belongs to us.  I’m also not going to shout at them, “Don’t touch that dump truck until we track down its owner and ask permission!”  You brought it, you share it.  If it’s not being used, my kids and I are going to assume it’s up for grabs.  The same goes for the junk we brought.  When my kids get bored with it five seconds into our trip, it’s all yours.  Enjoy.

2.  It’s your responsibility to round up all your toys when you leave.

Yes, my kids played with your toys, but they’re your toys, so when you’re ready to leave, good luck finding them.

If you don’t like having to round up a hundred things, don’t bring a hundred things.  Kids really don’t need that much stuff anyway.  How many hands do your kids have?  Mine have two.  That’s two toys each, and maybe a ball for their feet.  If they get bored with those, then thankfully, they’re at a park so there’s a good chance they can find something else to do.

And don’t be a dick if some kid is playing with your stuff when you’re leaving.  Bend over and say, “Hey, thanks for taking such good care of our lobster sand mold.  It’s time for us to go now, so we need to pack that in our stroller.  Do you want to play with that shovel over there instead?”  When the kid turns to look, grab the lobster and make a break for it.

3.  If you bring it, label it.

You know that bucket of sand toys you got at Target for $3.99?  Yeah, we all have that exact same set, and it gets confusing.  Put your initials or your kid’s name on it so we know whose is whose.  Think of it like branding cattle.  Come up with a family logo if you want.  Have a blast.

4.  If you can’t bear to share it, leave it at home.

Some parents and kids think their toys are exempt from the communal property rule.  “But it’s Madison’s special Pocahontas doll — it’s like her daughter!”  Sure, I get it, but try explaining that to my two-year-old.  There’s nothing I hate more than when my kid throws a fit because they want to play with some other kid’s toy.  I don’t want them playing with that toy anyway.  I brought them to the park so they could run around and get some exercise.

Other than sand toys or things that can only be enjoyed at the park, I suggest you don’t bring any toys from home.  I don’t get why some parents let their kids bring their favorite Princess Jasmine or Lightning McQueen thingamajig to the park.  It’s a park.  The park is the toy.

If your kid brings her entire Disney Princess collection, then suddenly my kids don’t want to go on the slide or play hide and seek.  They want to sit on their tushies and play with a bunch of crap they could’ve played with at home.  If your kid won’t share, that just adds insult to injury.  Now I have a kid who isn’t getting any exercise and who’s screaming her head off because she can’t play with your kid’s lousy toy.  Screw you.

5.  If you can’t bear to lose it, then definitely leave it at home.

Last winter, a woman came up to me as we were leaving an indoor playground.  “We can’t find the purple car,” she said.  “The one she was playing with.”  She pointed to my daughter.  I already had the kids’ shoes on, and they were zipped up in their coats and most importantly, I’m not the idiot who brought a bunch of toys to a room full of toys.  (Toys which we were paying to play with, no less.)  I took a quick, half-assed look around for the stupid car, but honestly, I really didn’t care if she never saw it again.  I know, she and her kid were very courteous about sharing with my daughter, but like I said, if you bring it, it’s your responsibility. Take a look around.  It’ll turn up.  Or not.  Screw you.

When I go to the park, I bring a couple of plastic buckets and shovels, and maybe a playground ball.  Grand total: less than $10.  Even in this economy, I can afford to take that kind of hit.  If something breaks or someone walks off with one of our toys by mistake, I can easily replace it.  This is another reason not to bring your kid’s favorite thing.

6.  Your kids are your own responsibility, so don’t look to me for help.

Everyone has different rules for their kids.  Maybe you let your two-year-old scale the ten-foot-high rock wall.  Hey, you must have better medical insurance than me.  It’s not my business.  Just because your kid is doing something dangerous, I’m not going to step in, especially when I have two kids of my own to keep out of the emergency room.

It’s not that I don’t care about your kid’s well-being.  I’m going to make sure I don’t hit him with a swing, but it’s not my job to protect him from all booboos in my vicinity while you chat it up with your friends or play Angry Birds or whatever people do on their cell phones for hours at a stretch — seriously, what’s with you people?  If your kid is teetering off the edge of something and my kid is about to eat a bug, sorry, but my kid comes first.  I’ll save your kid’s life if I have a second left over.

By the way, it’s a public park.  You ever watch the news?  Ever heard about the things that happen to kids whose parents aren’t watching them every freaking second?  Yeah, it sucks that you never get a second to sit down and rest, but having your kid end up as an Amber Alert sucks worse.

I’m not saying you can’t ever check your email, but do it quickly.  You want to relax?  Stay home and lock your doors.  If you’re in an open area full of strangers, you’re on duty.  Look alive.

7.  Down the slide has the right-of-way.

Sure, going up the slide is fun.  It’s rebellious.  It’s a challenge.  If I see your kid going up a slide, I’m probably gonna think he’s pretty cool.  But if some other kid decides he wants to come down that slide, your kid better move his ass, fast.  In the war of up versus down, gravity wins, every time.

Oh, and those covered twisty slides are one-way only.  If your kid dares to climb up one and mine flies down like a torpedo, careening around a bend completely unexpectedly and laying your kid out on the asphalt, so be it.

8.  You are the policeman for your child.  I am the bodyguard for mine.

I’ve written about this topic before.  If your kid is being a menace, it’s time to take him or her home.  Yeah, I know, you packed a picnic and planned to stay for two hours.  Well, too bad.  If he can’t stop punching or pushing or pulling hair, he’s not welcome here anymore.  Teach him a lesson — or not, just get your lunatic away from my kid, pronto.

You don’t have to be embarrassed.  Even the best behaved kids can go nutso sometimes.  Maybe they’re tired or pumped up on sugar or trying to get somebody’s attention.  We’ve all been there.  It’s only if you ignore the situation that the rest of us will think you’re a terrible parent.

“But wait!” you say.  “My other kid is playing nicely!  It’s not fair to punish them both!”  Well, why not find another way to reward the good kid?  “We need to go home now, guys.  Everyone who doesn’t have another kid’s flesh wedged under his fingernails gets ice cream.  Sorry, Johnny!”

If you’re going to keep your psycho at the park, you’d better be all up in his business from now on.  My kid’s blood is on your hands.

Yes, per Rule #6, you don’t have to protect other people’s kids from falling off a slide or getting carried off by a predatory hawk, but you do have to protect them from your own kid.

9.  Unless somebody’s crying or bleeding, it’s not a fight.

Knowing when to step in is only half of it.  You also have to know when not to.  You’ve heard the saying about picking on someone your own size?  Well, that goes for you, too.  When you try to mediate a dispute between kids, you’re not an impartial judge, more like a lawyer for your offspring.  So whenever possible, let them work it out.

So you just saw a kid push a smaller kid out of his way and cut in front of him for the weird flying fish bobble contraption?  Your instinct tells you to jump into the fray and teach everyone right from wrong.  But hey, if the kids are cool with what went down, why rock the boat?

Kids don’t always realize when another kid is being an asshole.  If you step in and tell your kid to stand up for himself, then you’re introducing shame to the situation, or showing him that he needs Mommy or Daddy to solve his problems for him.

Besides, injustices occur on the average playground at the rate of about a ten per second.  You can’t possibly police them all, so wait until there’s a safety issue or a really serious offense, then lay the smack down.

I know, your kid pushed mine, and you’re mortified.  But if my kid’s willing to let it go, then so am I.

Go finish your Angry Birds game.

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What do you think?  Anything I missed?  Leave me a comment below, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook to share your thoughts.

Just Your Typical Morning Meltdowns

I. Breakfast

Bennett: “No, Daddy, that’s not enough cereal!”

Me: “Well, eat that, and then I’ll give you more.”

Bennett: “No!  I want more NOW!”

Me: “You need to eat that first.”

Bennett: “No!  I’m not eating it!  It’s not enough!”

Me: “That’s more than you usually eat.  If you finish it, I’ll give you more, but I’m not putting more in the bowl until you eat what’s there.”

Bennett: “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!”

 

II. Getting Dressed

Sutton: “Daddy, I want to wear my blue dress today.”

Me: “You can wear it this afternoon, but this morning I thought we’d go to the Burger King with the play area.  Does that sound like fun?”

Sutton: “Yay!”

Me: “Great, so let’s wear your Little Mermaid shirt.”

Sutton: “No!  I want to wear my blue dress!”

Me: “You always have problems climbing in your dress, so just for the morning, let’s wear your Little Mermaid shirt and shorts.  C’mon, that’s your favorite shirt.”

Sutton: “NO!  I WANT TO WEAR MY BLUE DRESS!”

She grabs the Little Mermaid shirt out of my hand and runs away.  A minute later, she comes back.

Sutton: “I THREW MY LITTLE MERMAID SHIRT IN THE TRASH!!!”

Me: “You did what?  That’s it.  You’re getting a time out!”

Sutton: “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!”

III. Lunch

Bennett: “Daddy, I want to go to the Burger King in Mount Kisco!”

Me: “No, that one’s half an hour away.  I looked online, and there’s one in Port Chester fifteen minutes closer.”

Bennett: “NO!  I WANT TO GO TO THE MOUNT KISCO BURGER KING!”

Me: “Don’t worry.  It said this one had a play area, too.  I wouldn’t take you to a Burger King without a play area.”

Bennett: “NO!  I WANT TO GO TO THE MOUNT KISCO BURGER KING!”

Me: “Just because we’ve been there before, it doesn’t make it the best one.  Maybe this new one is even better.  It’s good to try new things.”

Bennett: “I WANT TO GO TO THE MT. KISCO BURGER KING!”

Me: “Too bad.  We’re going to Port Chester.”

Fifteen minutes later…

Me: “Here we are, guys!  Woohoo!  Burger King!”

Bennett and Sutton: “YAY!!!!”

Sutton: “Daddy, I don’t see a play place.  Daddy…?”

Me: “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!”

Half an hour later…

At Mount Kisco. Notice what she’s wearing.