I hope everyone is doing as well as possible, and that all of you are taking the opportunity to unplug and disconnect for a bit.
To that end, this week’s column will be free of the current topic at the forefront of everyone’s mind. So enjoy a quick break to enjoy some times when other people thought my wife and/or I were horrible parents.
For the record, I think we fall slightly north of horrible parents. Our kids are 19 and 17, and are, for the most part, good kids. Yes, they do not know how to turn off a light. True, they haven’t not figured how to take shoes upstairs. And of course, they are both masters of the “My parents are soooo lame” eye roll when we do such things as suggest maybe dirty socks don’t need to be in the middle of the den, or recommend against cutting one’s own bangs.
But other than that, I’d say we’ve done an OK job at this thing. But there have been a few times when other folks have viewed our parenting as suspect at best, straight up bad at worst.
When our daughter was about three, we went to Disney World. As we were walking along, with her in a stroller, we passed a woman who stared down at our daughter, and then gave us a glare and shook her head, in obvious disgust at what awful parents we were. My wife and I exchanged, “What was that all about?” questions, but just kept on going. A while later, we stopped and came around to the front of the stroller, to extract Allie. And then we saw where the judgment came in. There she was, holding the costume head of Mickey Mouse. Ha! I kid. No, she was green. Like, almost completely green. And not nauseous green. I mean bright green. Because she had gotten hold of a green crayon and began chewing it, and then rubbing it all over her face. And in her hair. And on her arms. Everywhere. Now, I am not sure if that woman is a parent, but if she is, and this act mortified her – congratulations on having perfect children who don’t eat crayons and paste.
A few years back, my son was at one of our favorite places to go and chill, a fishing pier near our house. At low tide, there is a nice sandbar that reveals itself. The water is only about calf deep. My son would often walk onto the sandbar and fish. He even developed a system where he would put a clam shell at a particular spot on the sandbar, and when the water reached the clam shell when the tide was coming in, it was time to walk back to the pier. I was sitting on a bench at the pier watching him fish that day, and a couple strolled past and began commenting on the awful parents who would let their kid just wander out onto a sandbar because the tide is coming in and blah blah blah. They were about 10 feet from me. I chimed in. “He’s mine. And don’t worry – he’s got a clam marker.” They turned and walked away, but I hope to this day they are still trying to figure out what a clam marker is.
I am sure there are other times when judgmental folks decided to have opinions that were either lacking in critical substance or lacking in a full story. But like I said, I think we’ve done OK. Allie clearly made it through the crayon slathering. And obviously Parker made it off the sandbar.
Of course, I will also acknowledge that sometimes I get on the defensive too quickly about things like this. For example, one time when Parker was out on the sandbar, an older woman happened by, walking very slowly and with a cane. She stared at Parker, out on the sandbar. She called out to me. “Is he yours?” Here we go, I thought. “Yes, ma’am,” I said.
She simply responded, “Well he’s living his best life,” and turned and walked away.
I guess the takeaway from this is to make sure you don’t form opinions too quickly or too strongly. Because sometimes, folks are just enjoying a little fishing and a lot of crayon. And that’s not really hurting anyone.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.