Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun Stealer

Looking for fun

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.


Teacher Tom said...

Was it up on Greenwood or Phinney Ridge? If it was anywhere around that neighborhood, I know exactly who you're talking about.

If it's not him, there's a similar guy who used to stop by the preschool as I was getting ready for the kids and claim to be the teacher, then tell me how disappointed the children would be if I was there instead of him.

You're not a "fun stealer!"

ksjjpalmer said...

You are a wonderful Mom! And I'm thinking it may always be our fault. Oh well, it is always done with good intentions. Hopefully, our kids will realize that someday.

Stacey said...

Sorry Jess- you ARE a fun mama! My own children have lots of fun with you! (Way more than with your own mom...)

As for the fight or flight response- don't you hate that? I always think of a great comeback at night when I am rehashing over and over and over again.

kristi @ sproutsinthekitchen said...

I know you were shaken, and that this guy is, if not a whack job, at least someone who had a very tough time growing up (sounds more to me like he didn't have enough fun). But honestly, I think I'd feel better being (wrongly) criticized for "stealing [kids'] fun" than being criticized for not keeping my kid "in line," since that's the message most strangers send to those of us with small kids. And regardless of the comment, your intention (and your relationship) those kids, is more important than any outside observers' interpretation of it.

Amber said...

Jessica, his behavior just confirmed that you took the correct action. Sounds totally unstable. Such confrontations are always hard. Early this year I was out on a very rare trip to the movies with a friend when a seemingly homeless woman screamed at me for two blocks, calling me a bitch and worse. I was in tears by the time I got to my car--I just couldn't believe it had happened. It was really unnerving. Anyway, it would probably be even harder to hear taunts about my parenting! By the way, where did you find your writers' group?

Punkernoodle said...

Yes, you are indeed an evil stealer of fun - getting in the way just as creepy dirty pedofiles are getting to know your child. Bad bad mommy - don't you know that attempted kidnapping by a wild-haired street person is just the kind of thing your boy needs to shape his character? Really, how do you live with yourself? :)

Rachel said...

I wonder if it's the same guy near Cafe Fiore that yelled at me across the street while running with Eli in a jog stroller with the rain shield, "Look at that bubble baby! He probably lives in a bubble.." and he went on and on. I cracked up! :)

aforestfrolic said...

Oh my goodness, what a crazy experience. So glad you kept your composure ;-) And you seem like a wonderful mother, so don't let others bring you down! Even, though easier said than done...I know.

'Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest.'

Jamie :)