Dec 3, 2009

Misplaced Stewardship

My 5-year-old throws a fit at the store parking lot because I won't give her something she wants. She refuses to come with us, standing and yelling outside the store, watching us move away from her. I ignore her, traversing the parking lot (not too far from the entrance) looking for the car. Just about the time I find it, she runs toward me to join the other kids, still yelling at the top of her lungs. We've been thru this before; I know the routine and don't let it bother me. Until grandpa-aged man comes up to me and scolds me for "scaring her so bad."

Ok, now I'm a little ticked. No, more than ticked, I'm mad.

How come I'm not allowed to put random stranger grandpas in their rooms for time outs for being nosy and interfering?

It reminds me of another time. A more difficult time in my life, just after some ridiculous events that left me an emotional wasteland, and my parenting a tired, automatic, draining-me-of-my-lifeblood process for about 6 months.

During that time, Loli became ill with a flu that left her returning violently anything I put in her stomach. It lasted for about a day-and-a-half, and,per pediatrician reccomendation I had her on a liquid diet: pedialyte and water, two tablespoons every half-hour, because it was all she could keep down. She wanted other things; bread, cereal, etc, as most tiny kids do when they're sick and don't understand the association: solid foods=throw up violently, including emptying the system of all fluids that mommy has painstakingly gotten into thier poor, tiny, potentially dehydrated systems.

I took her to a bishop's interview (I had a lot of them at the time, there was a lot of ridiculous aftermath to deal with.) The bishop was tired of me, tired of dealing with my situation... probably as weary and drained as I felt, dealing with it.

Loli reached for a bag of cereal he had on his desk, I told her "no." The bishop gave me a look, handed her the cereal, watched her down the thing frantically, and said I wasn't feeding her enough.

Thanks, bishop. Good thing you don't have to deal with the messy aftermath. Or the emotional wasteland, 24-7. I know there were some people who (maybe rightfully) thought my parenting somewhat lacking during that time. But you know what? I did a pretty good job, considering. I maybe wasn't as present emotionally as a woman in normal circumstances would have been, but I took care of her. I loved her, and held her, and felt fiercely protective of her, and found the very best childcare for her that I could, and worried about her every second I was away from her.

Why can't I put an interfering, nosy bishop on some kind of probation? Just, like, maybe a no-hugging-any-cute-toddlers-or-babies restriction, for like a couple weeks?

Just two examples that have nothing to do with each other, but somehow are emotionally linked to me and my perception of men, (sometimes women, too, I guess) and misplaced stewardship.

I feel like parents are judged much more harshly by people who forget (or simply do not know) what it is like to be in a particular situation, parenting a particular child. The comments I love are, "wow. You're brave, bringing 5 kids to the supermarket." "looks like you've got your hands full! Good job." And the knowing looks from others as they glance at my obviously non-nuclear family, and see one of my adopted kids needing a little quiet talk in the middle of the store.

People who know, don't interfere.

Thanks for letting me vent.


Anthony D said...

What I'm wondering is why didn't you put these men in their place by at least telling them the real issue at hand instead of letting them think their misconceived perception was correct?

merrilykaroly said...

Oh man do I hate that. Even if I WAS inwardly judging someone because of the way they were disciplining their child, I don't think I would ever say something about it to them (unless the child was being physically abused?). That is soooo annoying. It sounds to me like her fit in the parking lot was pretty obviously a fit.

One time I had jr. in the foyer during church when he was just an infant and he was crying nonstop, like he usually did. This man walks by and says "sounds like he's hungry!" I told him no, he wasn't hungry, I had already tried feeding him and he had refused. The man tells me matter-of-factly "No, he sounds like he's hungry." Excuse me, but when did you become an expert on MY child? Do you want to come hold him while I go and enjoy Sacrament Meeting for once? Hmmm?

Steve said...

Seriously, five kids?!? You are brave just to wake up every morning! :)

Heather said...

Wow you are brave bringing 5 kids to the grocery store! Even with just the 2 I do everything possible to avoid taking them - for us they've become predictably horrendous situations. And your vent has very much illustrated one of my main issues with taking them there. I've come to the conclusion that many folks who no longer have young kids at home really must have just forgotten what it was like. I'm sure if they remembered, they'd do everything possible to make life easy for us instead of automatically assuming we are doing something wrong because our children misbehave. But I realize also that none of us are perfect and I've probably made my share of misjudgments in life too. I guess we just move on and hope we can remember how we felt in these situations and try to lift up people around us instead of judging them. I've had plenty of people around me do that also and it makes such a difference.

For example, once I was in the Walmart check-out line after a long shopping trip (I'd avoided it so long that it took forever) with C (who was about 3) and I believe J was a brand new baby. C out of the cart but he was running around so I finally caught him and put him in the front seat of the cart. I had the baby in the car seat asleep and was squishing bags of food all around him. There was no place to put the milk so I set it right by C for a minute while I went to pay for the food. The next thing I knew there was a loud crash and something started soaking my shoes. C had dropped the gallon of milk on the floor and it broke and spilled all over. Of course I was horrified. Then over the loudspeaker the checkout lady announced to the entire store my predicament so she could get some help cleaning it up. I sheepishly hung my face as heads turned and a few people snickered. I just wanted to pay for my food and leave and forget about the fact that I had no milk in the house. Then an angel lady came to my rescue. She kindly offered to get me another gallon of milk and helped clean up the mess. It probably took all of 3 minutes for her but it made the biggest difference to me. Yeah it probably wasn't the smartest thing to leave the milk gallon by a three-year-old boy, but without judging me she saw a need and filled it. I was so grateful. I think as mothers (or as anyone really) we need more angels like this lady and less critics and judges.

Jayne said...

I hear you loud and clear. I used to have a friend who freely gave unsolicited advice to me about raising my children, but unfortunately ALL of her advice was from textbooks because she had no children of her own. Another friend who had one child, a little boy with a calm sweet temperament, frequently told me that I was "spoiling" and "enabling" my little toddler, and if that were her child, she'd handle it another way. Interestingly, she had another child, a little girl who gave her "a run for her money." Strong willed, active, and rebellious, the little girl's personality forced her mother to ask forgiveness (from us) for everything she'd ever said about how we raised our children.

NoSurfGirl said...


That's a tough one. I think I've learned that most people think they know better than I do the situation and my own kids! How ridiculous is that. So no amount of explanation will change grumpy grandpa or weary bishop's mind... I'm a naive, incapable mother.


I wish I had YOU there to put them in their place... lol. I think stories like Heather's, the nice passerby that kind of illustrates the atmosphere sillyness and lack of sympathy that everyone around has cultivated.

Maybe the moral is... be the woman who mops up the milk and gets a new jug for the struggling mom with a toddler? :) A truly christlike act.

Putz said...

thank goodness i am a grandpa, i don't have the PROBLEM...also since i know what the problem was with you and how serious the consequences, i kind of agree with men are so women are the godessess....we the apprentences...i always wanted to spank the kids, but i was wron, i think that is why so many men are anxious to fight in wars, oh dear here i go again

NoSurfGirl said...

BTW Jon, I always forget you might be reading stuff like this. For the record, he was (and is still) a very good bishop, caught in a very difficult situation, and even though some things made my life more difficult, emotionally, at the time, In retrospect I have nothing but respect for him, mixed with a little sympathy, too. Man.

how long was he bishop when all this happened?

And even though I was MARRIED to the guy for 2 whole years, he completely fooled me, too. So, add to that the stewardship aspect, the desire to help the person most in need... I completely understand why things were the way they were. And I had plenty of bishops afterward that really, really helped me, as an individual, without having to deal with the baggage of my failed marriage and also be counseling my ex husband who was in a pretty dire situation, spiritually.

Retrospect is everything, isn't it? I think really, I don't blame the person in that situation so much as the lame SITUATION itself.

Jon said...

I never had an ill thought toward you, even after reading this post. I recognized the *extremely* difficult situation everyone was in (including the situation in this post) and everyone was just trying to do their best with the cards they were dealt and with the sparse information they had.

Bishops are people, too, just trying desperately to do what they can with the job they've been volunteered to do. (I try to remind myself of that any time I start to hold something against the leaders who did not ask to be in that position.)

I know you wouldn't hold anything against him, and I wouldn't hold that against you, either.

I'm sure the bishop would agree. He was such a great guy -- you were one of many whom he was desperately trying to help with his limited experience. That's got to be the toughest job in the world.

The fact that I happened to know someone in your post hopefully won't deter you from writing about the stuff in your past. No need to sanitize your memories for my sake. Again, I think the bishop would agree. I really enjoy your writing (when I occasionally tune in) and I appreciate your openness and honesty about some really tough things.


Lucy Stern said...

Maybe you should have volunteered to let that old grandpa take your little one home for a week and see if he still had the same response..... I think we all make judgments that we shouldn't, it part of human nature.. None of us are perfect.

I wouldn't want to be Bishop for anything in the world...They are the most worked people in the ward..They know the most private things about their members and probably wish they didn't but it is all part of the calling. I am sure your bishop was just trying to keep your little one quiet while he was trying to discuss you private details...

We all need to be reminded not to make quick judgments... And you are brave taking five little ones to the grocery store, I couldn't have done it... lol.

SarahJane said...

A few things:
1)In this age of severe food allergies, no one should give kids food without express permission from their parents. I don't care if your brother is throwing a tantrum, I'm not giving him a sucker. Find your mom and I'll give her the sucker.

Funny thing though, when Mom showed up she was really angry with me for *not* giving her 18 month old junk food.

2)Leaving kids in parking lots *can* be dangerous - we had a kid get run over at church and spend several days in the hospital - I'm with merrily; I wouldn't say anything but I'll stay and watch to make sure she doesn't jump in front of some car. If you think I'm judging you, think again.

I watched the little boy's father pick him up off the ground, I saw the pool of blood on the pavement, I see the scars ringing his skull every week. It's not for you that I watch your kids - it's for me. So I never witness such a gruesome sight again.

3)I'm so tired of people telling me I know nothing and then having them offer me their kids. I'm more than happy to take their kids if they don't want them. Will I learn some things? absolutely! Am I totally ignorant of how to care for a child? Absolutely not!

NoSurfGirl said...

Sarah Jane,

When you have a tantruming five year old who refuses to follow you to the car, but instead chooses to stand on the sidewalk, hoping she's going to win a "power struggle," and you have four other kids to attend to including a toddler who is actively crawling out of the front of the cart, you can feel free to try to bodily lift the five year old and carry her, kicking and screaming, to your car, all while towing a double-cart and snapping at your other kids to follow along.

Personally, I thought the safer option was to leave her on the sidewalk in front of the store until I could take care of the others. *if* she had stood there and I had to come and get her after I buckled all the others in, the next step would have been a Grand Spanking. And yes, I would have done it in public. And Yes, our adoption social worker knows we spank occasionally.

You know somethign about kids, I'm sure. And I hate to say this because i don't know your circumstances, but you don't know much until you parent. Sorry! And even when you parent, you don't know much about other peoples' kids.

That's just the way it is.

* Kate * said...

I feel your pain. I cringe more when a parent in the store is screaming with anger at their child, louder than the child's annoying whine - and I detest whining! A parent who is training a child appropriately is a refreshing sight! (And yes, walking away from a tantrum is training.) If I may add, count your blessings that you live in UT with a so-called "large" family. Many places chastize couples for having "too many" children even when they are well-behaved - as if their approval was supposed to be obtained first! The nerve! Ah well, good thing peace of conscience comes from one's standing before God, not from the acceptance of others.