Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If I Wanted Your Opinion I Would Have Asked For It, But I Didn't So Butt Out!

It infuriates me when people I don't know feel they have the right to step in and say something to my kids, however kind or well-intentioned. My husband and I pride ourselves on having well-behaved children. Of course, they are children and they act up but they are disciplined accordingly and for the most part act exceptionally well in public. They know the consequences of misbehavior and usually we don't have a problem. When it has come to behavior I have actually never had anyone say anything negative to us and many have actually commented on what well-behaved children we have. That always makes me happy and proud of them.

So, the type of "stepping in" I am referring to is more "butting in" and it's always from the 50+ crowd. I guess I don't know why they feel they have such liberty when it comes to input into my family. I'll give you an example. Today we were at Target with my mom. Both kids were in the basket part of the cart. I was in front of the cart, paying for my portion. My mother was pushing the cart so therefore standing behind it. My 4 1/2 year old daughter stood up in the cart to point out a pack of gum she wanted to my mom. She wasn't horsing around, she wasn't leaning out, she wasn't doing anything she wasn't supposed to be. The cashier instantly says, "Oh, sit down honey. The cart could shoot out and you could fall and smack your face and then you'd be hurt....blah, blah, blah." She goes into an entire series of events that would be unlikely to happen in the way she said, especially considering my mom and I were both holding onto the cart and it was pushed against the wall of the conveyor. Further, even if it did happen IT'S NOT HER BUSINESS! She didn't say it rudely and she wasn't being unkind, but I just resent the intrusion and undermining of my parenting.

My daughter's feelings were hurt so I said, "You are fine. You did nothing wrong." The cashier said, "Yeah, you're not in trouble. I just didn't want you to get hurt." This further aggravated me because it's not like she has the "power" to get my daughter in "trouble." I didn't want to be an ass, but I was also clearly pissed so I just said, "Yes, but that's what she has parents for. If I felt she was in danger I would have done something myself. I don't appreciate the interference." She was silent. I then said to my daughter, and loudly for the benefit of the cashier, "Sweetie, you are fine. You just worry about listening to your mommy, daddy, grandparents, and teachers. She is none of those things." It really bothered me and it really upset my daughter and it angers me still that she felt she had the right to say anything to a child that wasn't hers. I don't care how well intentioned, it simply wasn't her place.

I witnessed a similar occurrence with an older lady at the mall telling another mother with children close in age to my own that she should take the elevator with the kids because it's safer than the escalator they were riding on. While that may be, why does that lady think she gets to make a decision about the safety of another woman's children? It just floors me.

I can feel myself having to totally restrain myself from verbally berating the "butt-in-skies" and I hate that feeling. I hate feeling like I have to justify decisions I make when it comes to MY children and I don't know what it is about certain people that makes them feel like they're the expert and know what is in my family's best interest more than I do.

Rant over!


Robyn said...

Someone did the same thing to me at a home-improvement store. She INSISTED that I take Bear out of the cart (I had Monkey in the front part), saying it was unsafe for him to be in the cart.

Apparently, having him run rampant in a store filled with chain saws and people pushing big carts that couldn't see him was MUCH safer! (read: sarcasm)

Mark said...

Definitely super annoying! I'm not sure if this is related or not, but when I was a waiter at OG we were trained to ask children to move from areas where they weren't safe (or to ask the parents to get them to move). So many kids get into places where they are not supposed to be in a restaurant and can get hurt. OG is a big corporation and they have all sorts of guidelines on where kids can/can't be and what they can do as they financial motivation to minimize injuries, bad PR, lawsuits, etc. Parents would often react negatively to us saying anything, no matter how nice we tried to be. But our managers made us do it anyway - it only takes one injury, lawsuit, or bad PR incident for a corporation or chain to make a blanket rule (ex/Ask children not to stand up in carts) for all of their staff to enforce. These rules are often not completely logical and sometimes make little sense when other, more dangerous things are not addressed.

Anyway, all of this to say that often these kind of directives are the result of a policy that an employee is required to enforce, not the employee's personal views. Robyn's comment makes me wonder if this could be standard procedure in many large chains. I could see insurance companies requiring some large chains to train their employees to minimize risk with these things. These rules are incredibly annoying for parents who are alert and aware of their children, but for them to work (and who knows if they do are not, they might just be an overreaction to a single event) they have to be applied evenly and not left to the employee's discretion. Apparently over 20,000 American children under 5 are injured in shopping carts every year.