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Oops, I Did It Again

Posted by on May 24, 2014

I really need to work on my witty comebacks.

I almost called this post “Nebby Does Pittsburgh”, since it’s a sequel to the previous post “A Beautiful Day in the Nebby-hood“, but I wasn’t sure if everyone would get the reference.

You see, for the second time this week a judgmental driver questioned my parenting.

The setup was the similar on Wednesday. I was at the same bus stop. My kids were doing the same things they always do there – mostly running to a nearby street sign and back. I was doing the same things I always do – mostly urging my kids to not push each other onto the sidewalk or out into the street. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Nothing noteworthy was different from any other day I’d waited for my oldest since September.

But once again I was the victim of drive-by objurgation.

The culprit this time was a scold who appeared to be about 65. As she slowed to stop at the stop sign, she said something about watching my kids so they don’t get run over. Offended (and still sore about Sunday), I angrily informed her that I was indeed watching them. As she drove away from the intersection, she muttered – just audibly – “Yeah, sure you are”, her voice dripping with sarcastic disgust. “Mind your own business!”, I shouted back.

Yeah, so I obviously haven’t learned my lesson about responding to offenses with humility and placid restraint. 😉 My personality flaws aside, though, I have a couple of questions.

First: What was doing wrong? What were my kids doing wrong?

If my kids were totally free range, I could more easily understand observers’ discomfort. They’re not, though. While I’m not a helicopter parent, I do keep an eye on my kids and frequently nudge and nag them to be safe, responsible, and respectful. That said, I’ve never been satisfied with the placement of that bus stop, due to both the traffic and distance from our house, and I’ll likely request a better one for next year. So, yeah, there are safer places we could be, but it’s not so dangerous that I won’t let my kids run up and down approximately 20 feet of sidewalk. Unless I’m supposed to unreasonably force them to sit still the whole time we’re waiting, I don’t know what nebby neighbors want from me.

Second: What makes people feel comfortable being that vocally judgmental?!

As I said in my previous post, I do appreciate that people are concerned and bold enough to speak up on behalf of my children. However, I really think they’re overreacting. What I think really bugs me, though, is the gall. It must be nice to feel smugly self-confident and superior as you tsk-tsk and finger-wag a seemingly delinquent parent from a safe distance.

Sitting comfortably in the protective bubble of your car, you can keep me at more than a literal or metaphorical arm’s length. And the best part is that after you’ve launched your verbal sortie you can quickly retreat. You never have to face the consequences of your accusations. You never have to hear my side of the story. You get to go home and tell folks about your brave little mitzvah to protect my children from imagined harm. You never have to feel small or insignificant while my indignation pours upon you as I lash out like a wounded and cornered animal. You never have to know how wrong you are, or how much it hurts to know someone thinks I’m a bad parent who neglectfully puts his children in harm’s way.

Nope. You get to toss your verbal molotov cocktail out the window and speed away, never knowing or caring what damage it might have done.