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Enough with the "Dear Mom on iPhone" Open Letters, or Three Parents

It's so annoying. The first letter, while likely well-intentioned, came off as sanctimonious and judgmental, and ended up working the mommy war-mongers even further into a frenzy. The latest one, which is basically a big group hug/high-five/"atta girl" affirmation and hall pass for all mommies on iPhones at the park, was received with wide open arms, save for the few brave or foolish souls that dared defend the first author's position. Again, there has been a massive division and ugly debate between those who agree with the author, and those who oppose.

Frankly, neither author is totally right. Or maybe both of them are sort of right. I imagine that, like most things, to paint with broad strokes is a mistake. Yes, of course we need to pay attention to our children and keep them safe and help them feel loved and significant and noticed. Yes, of course we also need to cultivate some measure of independence in our kids, and not let them think that they're the center of the universe.  We do need to have breaks, especially if we are good mothers doing our best and giving our kids our all most of the day. We do also need to keep our neurotic tendency to check our FB/email/IG/Twitter/Pinterest/whatever-other-distraction-or-addiction every 10 minutes under control. Are there exceptions? Of course. Are there extenuating circumstances? Undoubtedly.

To be honest, as far as I'm concerned, whether it's the iPhone or a book or one's nails or whatever, you can do whatever the hell you want inside the four walls of your home. Spend all friggin' day on your iPhone, or lock the thing up in a safe and only turn it on after 10:00 pm. I honestly don't give a rip how much time you spend on your devices or in a book or however you choose to use your time; in the end, that's your business and it has nothing to do with me. You will answer for your choices one day, and it won't be to me!

However, if you bring your kids to the park or playground or other public area, you're in charge of them. As a parent, you have a responsibility to look after your children, and it is both unfair and unreasonable to assume that other parents will pick up the slack for you if you don't. If you are engaged in any activity that prevents you from being able to do your job as a parent, then you need to stop that activity and parent your kids. I will judge you for being a sh!tty parent if you're not around and my kid (and yours) is affected by your negligence. If you are engaged in an activity and can also simultaneously attend to your kid such that nobody gets hurt, then hey, by all means continue doing what you're doing: you've got it handled.

Let's play a game called Good Parent/Bad Parent. Which ones below took responsibility for their kids, and ensured both their safety and well-being? Which ones failed?

Scenario: we were at the playground the other day. There was a *huge* puddle in the middle of the play area, ankle-deep and more than 5 meters from end to end. Little L was there with Hubbs and I, and she was dressed in boots and a raincoat because we had gone out explicitly to go "puddle hunting." Here were the three parents we encountered:

Parent 1: Dad was there with his 4-5 year old boy, who was biking back and forth in the puddle. Dad was standing on the dry ground beside the puddle, watching and talking with the son; he checked his phone on occasion but mostly, he was interacting with his kid. When he noticed that his son was starting to splash Little L with his bike, the dad reminded him to be careful around others not to splash them. Eventually, he took his boy to the swings to play.

Parent 2: Mom was sitting on a bench on the outer perimeter of the playground, reading a book. A few times I saw her kids run up to her and she interacted with them, but when they were playing, she was reading. However, she looked up with some frequency, because at one point we caught each other's eye and smiled at one another.

Parent 3: Little girl (maybe just a bit older than Little L) was running up and down the stairs to the slides. We noticed her when she started approaching the puddle. She was wearing sneakers, which we saw her kick off so that she could wade in the muddy puddle, barefoot. She picked up an empty Starbucks cup that was floating in the water, and started pouring it. At one point, she began throwing the contents of the cup upwards, splashing herself and those within her vicinity. Then she left to climb the stairs to the slide (barefoot) again, and returned to the middle of the puddle once more. When Hubbs and Little L tried to pass her, she yelled, "STOP!" Then she splashed water at them and filled the Starbucks cup again, raising it above her head, ready to launch it at them. At this point I intervened, and told this little girl in my stern teacher voice that it was not okay to splash others. I asked her where her parents were; she ignored me, but thankfully, she stopped splashing. She ran off to play elsewhere, but by now we were paying attention and wondering where her guardians were. She continued to play on her own for a while, going back and forth between the puddle and the slides. After we had made our way to the swings, Hubbs and I noted the continuing absence of an adult to supervise this little kid.

Then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, this woman came running up to yell at the little girl for (what I think was) playing in the puddles. She yanked her kid out of the water and hauled her away to put her shoes on. That was when I finally saw where the mom had come from. She had been sitting with 3 other women, with their backs to the playground, about 30m away from where her kid had been playing. There was no way that these women could have seen or heard the girl, since I can barely hear Hubbs when he's standing at the slides and I'm at the swing, and that's only like 5 m away. Eventually the little girl returned to play in the puddle and the sandbox, while her mom remained with her group of women. When we left the park, the girl was still playing without supervision.

In this last case, the book wasn't a distraction. The phone wasn't, either. But the lady who decided to picnic far far away from where her girl played, and whose back was turned to the playground likely the entire time that her child was splashing muddy water at others? She failed in parenting her kid, a negligence made only worse by the fact that she blamed her toddler child for misbehaviour that she wasn't there to prevent or manage!

These silly open letters aren't going to change anything, because the moms who are good moms are going to continue to be good moms, whether they spend time with a book, a device, or just their kids. A distracted mom is still going to be a horrible parent, regardless of whether they have an external distraction or not.

I'm just saying, stop bombarding my social media with these open letters, and for the love of all that is good, make sure your kids aren't hurting others (or themselves) when they're on the playground. Seriously, I don't think it's that hard.


Sharon said…
LOL :)

I finally had a playground incident involving my child being intentionally pushed down by an older child.

I leapt across the splash pad (it was a small, circular one), touched the boy (probably young 3) on the arm to keep him there and said in that same teacher voice, "No! It's not okay to push others. You need to say sorry." Whilst my own is screaming beside us.

I repeated my command with no response from the perp. I quickly decided that I can't force another child to apologize since I don't know ANYTHING about said child. And there weren't ANY adults of his coming to investigate.

I took my child away to console him (he was totally fine. barely a scratch) as I watched the little boy go hunt for his party... ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PARK. NOT IN VIEW.

The party that I originally thought was his continued sitting on their blanket. After about 5 minutes (give/take) a woman got up and started to walk away.

Said woman MET halfway another woman who was carrying the little boy perp, returning him to the safety of his mother's arms.

I was befuddled.

No joke, I was probably 4 metres in their direct sight line when I was reprimanding their child.

I thought to myself, if you didn't notice your young child gone for about 5 minutes, I guess you wouldn't notice someone speaking to him whilst a toddler cries in front of him.

Again, befuddled.
Mrs. Loquacious said…
Wow. Befuddling indeed. Good parents are good, distraction or no. Bad parents are bad, distraction or no. So glad K was ok!

As for this perp's mom - wouldn't you think she might be concerned that a stranger was holding her son?! Or worse, that said stranger could have just taken him and disappeared forever?! Seriously, sometimes it is just baffling!

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