I'm a fun stealer. A stealer of fun. Does that make me a bad mom? This is what I was accused of the other day by a scuzzy man I ran into on a street corner.
Let's back up.
It was the first day of preschool and my son and a couple of his buddies (and their moms) were getting pre-preschool doughnuts to celebrate. After the sugar infusion the boys were on the sidewalk banging on the newspaper machines and having general excitement overload. I was watching from the corner of my eye while trying to listen to my friends when a man came up to the boys and started chatting. They were out of earshot so I sidled over and jokingly said, "careful boys, don't break anything now." Or something innocuous (or so I thought) like that. Basically, I just wanted to inject myself into the conversation since I didn't know this man.
Later, I asked myself if it was because he was unwashed with wild hair, clutching a lot of bags . . . but that is just middle-class guilt clouding my vision. I know that I'd have done the same thing if he'd been in a suit.
After my comment, he wheeled around and said with complete disgust, "oh GREAT! You've just completely ruined their fun. You're just the kind of mom I'd want! They were exploring their world and you had to go and ruin it! What a horrible mother!!!" He continued to yell at me as he walked away down the sidewalk. I was taken aback of course. Confrontation always makes me sweat - and in this case, I had nowhere to place my emotions. I couldn't scream back at him (as I so wanted to do) because the kids were right there. So my fight or flight response just made me shake - good times! I even questioned myself for a minute - did I take away their fun? Am I a horrible mother? And then I really wanted to slap myself - because really that's what it comes down to. That is the mother experience in a nutshell. Constant questioning from external and internal sources - am I doing a number on my kid?
So here I was on a street corner being yelled at by a man with obvious issues and it was affecting me. This crazy guy was making me question myself and my parenting. Visibly flustered, I walked back over to my friends (they missed the whole exchange) and recounted the whole fun confrontation. One friend said something like, "Well, maybe if his mom had taken away a little more of his fun he'd be in a better place right now." We all laughed and my tension eased a bit. But later when I was reflecting on the whole experience, I couldn't stop thinking about that guy's poor mom. She was still being judged! I mean at some point can we be absolved? Or it it always going to be our (collective mom) fault?
Well, I for one will continue to be a proud stealer of fun.