Monday, December 31, 2007

What kind of mom?

Picture this:

We are on the lower level of the Lawrence Hall of Science for the New Year's party balloon drop and science craft fair. There are little ones and their parents everywhere. I pass the stairs and see a 10-11 mo old baby on the stairs, the *cement* stairs which lead down to the *cement* floor. The wee one is at that phase where he has just discovered what stairs are, can't get down yet, and probably doesn't realize that falling = pain. He's really tipsy.

To make it worse, he has a little balloon under his belly that is bouncing, bouncing, bouncing. He's mouthing it a bit and each bounce builds momentum. I put my hands behind the baby just in case he tips. A mom sees me; I ask her if the baby is hers and she brushes me off with the, "Phft, what a worry-wart."

My worry was well-justified, a baby much bigger and more stable had fallen not 10 minutes earlier and would have been seriously injured if his mom's hands hadn't been inches away to break his tumble. This little boy's mom was six, maybe seven feet away. The baby was, for all intents and purposes, unattended.

So, no biggie, but it did make me think -- how do I react when people comment on my parenting? Do I brush it off or do I hear the comment? Do I allow the blind stranger feedback to seep into how I parent?

You betcha I do.

Strangers have a unique perspective that neither me or my friends can see. I remember one lady, a generation senior to me, commented on one of my children and while her comment was made without the benefit of "the rest of the story", it contained some great insights. I mentioned to my husband who replied, "Hum. She's right. I can't believe we missed that." It was one of those Big Issues that was completed hidden in our blind spot.

So, how to hear these comments, almost always unpleasant and potentially offensive? Sunday before last, I saw it role-modeled. The teacher brought up the issue of using sarcasm with children to let off steam in a safe, unhurtful way. In direct contrast, one lady commented that sarcasm with children is a harmful, awful thing to do to a child who has no defense against it, ie the child isn't cognitively able to grasp it or reply to it properly. The comment was made as a clearly and as directly as possible, no mincing words, no softening the message.

I didn't hear the message as much as I watched the teacher's response. She didn't run away from the criticism; she didn't embrace it either. She considered it. She respected it. It was so awesome!

So, if you want to win your way to my heart, don't give me chocolate, give me a comment or two that will help me be a better mom.

I would rather be the mom who is --grateful-- when someone points out that one of my kids is about to hit the cement.