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14 April 2008

Another heart-wrenching moment in parenting. Long rambling inside. [More:]
I'm outside, sitting on my back porch. My two kids and their friend are playing in the backyard. The friend doesn't know I'm outside because I had just sat down. I overhear the friend telling my eldest son, while my younger kid is sitting beside them on the swingset.

Friend: You know what my mom calls Adam? (Adam is my youngest son's name)

Eldest son: What?

Friend: A brat. My mom calls Adam a brat.

Eldest son: Why?

*end of conversation*

At that moment so many emotions and thoughts swirl in my chest.

One - Why would this mother say such a thing in front of her child? Is she saying this on a regular basis?

Two - I felt bad for Adam that he had to hear this.

Three - I wanted to call the mom and say, "You know what's bratty? Telling your child what you think of his five-year old neighbor."

Of course, I didn't do that. I just seethed and paced in our home office and vented my frustrations to my husband. This particular neighbor child is over our house
nearly everyday. He plays soccer with my kid. I talk to the mom on a regular basis.

Adam is a very energetic child, but very sweet and kind, never rude. A typical five-year old boy. I'm not just saying that because I am his mother. I don't think my kids are perfect. I never let them get away with anything. I never allow them to be rude or mean to their peers or elders. I can honestly say they are good, caring kids.

The neighbor mother has always had positive comments about Adam. He's so cute. He's such a movie star. He cracks me up, etc. But, I don't doubt that she said he was a brat behind closed doors. I have questioned some of her behaviors in the past. Once, while eating lunch in a fast-food joint, she and another mother admitted in front of me that the use the N word. I was disgusted and shocked and actually said, "You do? My god, that is ignorant." I questioned whether I should let my kids hang out with these racists. I probably should have stopped interaction with them right then and there, but I'm stupid and weak. It's not the kid's fault that his parents are morons.

This child and my older child, both seven-years-old, enjoy one another's company. They live right across the way. My husband and I don't socialize with the parents without our children, but we do see and chat with them at school, soccer, and other kid-related events. I chat with her when I walk my dog. I sit next to her at soccer games. I've gone to lunch with her several times so our kids can play and hang out.

My eldest son and her kid play well together. I have wondered about this friend in the past. He's kind of annoying. He's a big tattle tale, whiner, and a manipulator. He seems to want my son all to himself. When another neighbor kid was over last week, he whispered into my kid's ear and asked my kid to ask the other friend to go home. My son said, "No, I can't do that." I was very proud. My oldest son can be somewhat of a follower and sort of idolizes this particular friend. The friend kind of just tolerates Adam or asks him to things, like go into the house to retrieve drinks, toys, etc.

In a couple weeks I have a camping trip planned. They will be there. I planned on setting up my tents next to theirs. We've talked about it and planned it. I can't believe I have to camp next to this mother. I don't think I'll be able to hide my emotions.

My husband says: "What do you expect? They're idiots."

Isn't it awful? I'm getting more worked up that this woman called my son a brat than her using the N word.

What should I do? I feel pissed and upset. Should I be upset?

Adam is a very energetic child, but very sweet and kind, never rude.

That should say, hardly rude.

I have wondered about this friend in the past. He's kind of annoying. He's a big tattle tale, whiner, and a manipulator.

But he is seven and just a kid and I like him. That sounded kind of bratty. :)

posted by LoriFLA 14 April | 16:28
Oh, sweetie, there's no should with emotions - you feel how you feel. I'm not a mother, so I can only imagine how awful it must be to hear horrible things said about your kids. I still remember, and regret, all the terrible, thoughtless things I used to say when I was a child.

I don't really have any advice - I never know, in these situations, whether I should confront the other person, or just grit my teeth behind their back and smile to their face.
posted by muddgirl 14 April | 16:32
It's personal this time, isn't it? Calling your kid a brat insults both the kid and you as a parent, and it's totally reasonable that you would be upset. I'm not a parent either, but I'm sorry you have to deal with nasty people like that.
posted by casarkos 14 April | 16:34
Kids often repeat things they hear without the context that adults use them in. Maybe she was in a shitty mood and used the term as a reflection of the way she felt about kids at the time that didn't reflect her true feelings in a broader sense. You know, kind of like you might call your husband an arsehole when he pisses you off and you might then hear a child repeat that, without the other information surrounding it. Maybe. Maybe she is an idiot.

I always remember the Principal of my eldest daughter's first school telling parents "We won't believe half the things your kids say about you if you agree not to believe half the things they say about us". I've always thought these were wise words, if a little glib.

Let it go, move on. If this sort of thing continues, then take some action. Your kids will hear much, much worse about themselves before they grow up.
posted by dg 14 April | 16:38
Thanks guys.

Kids often repeat things they hear without the context that adults use them in.

I should note that my husband said this very thing.

I wish I could be the kind of person that does not get worked up about these things. I wish I could be content and wise and know that my children aren't brats (I detest the word) and that we are fine and this mother just chose to say something mean and immature.

If I never had to see this woman again things would be peachy, but I do and I don't hide my emotions very well. I can see myself being moody and non-talkative at the next soccer practice. Ugh.
posted by LoriFLA 14 April | 16:45
I would keep my eyes and ears open. Everyone has bratty moments, even your kids.

I have had another parent (a mom) tell me to my face what a destructive, mean child my kid was. Upon me repeating this to a lot of friends, I have been reassured that my kid is nothing of the sort.

It WILL be hard for you to be around this other mom for awhile, but, as I said, keep your antennae out and see how this other mom acts around you and your kid.

Kids do say the darndest things, and they are often just dead wrong.
posted by danf 14 April | 16:52
My partner recently got upset in a very similar situation, while I just shrugged it off because I don't really give a shit what other people think of me as a parent (or in any way, generally), but women* seem to be more invested in people's perceptions of them as a mother. Some traditions die hard, I guess.

* Not being deliberately sexist, just my observation.
posted by dg 14 April | 16:54
Lori, I had parents that sound like your description of Adams' friends mom. Brat and worse where par for the course. For so long I wondered what it would be like to not have to have crule words make up my home life. Lori, what I would give to know that my mom, just once, felt the way you are feeling now. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about what a parent you must be to protect and love your children for who they are, for the way they are. You just go on feeling what you're feeling, still keep an open mind, and give yourself a big hug for being someone your children can feel safe with.
posted by MonkeyButter 14 April | 16:58
Thanks, danf and everybody. This is good advice and I'm starting to calm a bit.

Monkeybutter, you are so sweet. I'm not a perfect parent in the least, but one thing I try to do is keep my negative opinions of others (our friends, family and neighbors) private.

dg, *I think you might be right, at least in my situation. I can tell you my husband is not worked up at the moment. ;)
posted by LoriFLA 14 April | 17:09
You know what would make you feel better? A good bitch on TrueMomConfessions.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 14 April | 17:18
The shame is that your son overheard the friend. I wonder if the mom really did say anything, or if this friend was making it up because he wanted to see what Adam would do. When my daughter was little she had a friend who was extremely calculating and manipulative, and she would have done exactly that - say that so-and-so said something mean, just to see how someone would react. She made things up all the time. She was mean.

And she was a brat.
posted by iconomy 14 April | 17:20
Yeah, my thought was,how do we know the little fellow was telling the truth? We don't.

Sending hugs and whuffles your way, because I know how it stings, regardless.
posted by bunnyfire 14 April | 17:25
This says so very much about the neighbor lady, and absolutely nothing about your kid. But god, you can't convince a kid of that, can you? They don't realize (yet) how stupid and ignorant and ass-holish grownups are.

I'm sorry, Lori. The woman's an idiot and clearly has some parenting deficiencies. You are not an idiot, and you're a good mom.
posted by mudpuppie 14 April | 17:53
Lori, next Halloween, take Adam trick-or-treating dressed as one of these. See if neighbor mom gets wide-eyed when she sees him.

Ha! I kill me! (This is probably why I'm not a parent... heh)

But seriously, what the others said. You totally have every right to be upset, and it reflects well on you that you are upset. I don't think there's much you can do, though, but keep an ear out when that friend is around. That story about him trying to get another kid sent home makes me think he's greedy for your eldest's attention. This "brat" remark might have been his way of trying to run Adam off so he wouldn't hang around them anymore. If so, he may continue saying mean things to/about Adam in the future, in which case you'll have to intervene somehow.
posted by BoringPostcards 14 April | 18:23
5 and 7, huh? Does your son's friend have any younger siblings? Any older ones? A 7 year old child is 40% older than a 5 year old. Compared to your neighbor's son, your youngest is probably, at times, very immature-acting. (Not for his age, mind you, but relative to a 7 year old.) Given that thought, there any number of perfectly logical explanations why the mom might have said that.

One thing I've learned is that our kids keep us humble. Things happen that we can't control. What we can control is how we react to them. My guess is that the proper reaction is to let this one go, Mom.

If your kids get along with each other, you don't have to give a darn what the rest of the world thinks.
posted by Doohickie 14 April | 18:59
Thanks so much everybody. Like most of y'all have suggested I'm not going to say anything and keep my eyes open.

Yeah, doohickie, I can see your point. The friend is seven and an only child. My five-year old can probably be annoying to the older kids. They don't actively go out of their way to include him. He's always desperately trying to work his way in; he loves the older boys. We've had many talks with the older son to include, brother comes first, you're not allowed to be rude to your brother, etc. Also, I really think my seven year old would have the wherewithal not to repeat something like that. But that doesn't really matter.

Haha, BP. That looks delish!

If so, he may continue saying mean things to/about Adam in the future, in which case you'll have to intervene somehow.

Yes. I will do this. So far, I've been trying to back off and not be a buttinsky unless somebody got hurt or my kids did something undesirable, but I might have to intervene. I have such a hard time saying anything that remotely resembles discipline to other people's children.

TPS, I'm going to have to check out TrueMomConfessions. I think you linked to it before and I remember it being entertaining.

Thanks all. This parenting thing is so difficult sometimes.
posted by LoriFLA 14 April | 19:12
The assumption your making is that she called him bratty. It could be just as likely that she called her own son bratty and she compared him to your younger son. He may have taken out his emotions to your older son.

She could have also been describing one event as bratty and he misheard or extrapolated.

Finally, if the assumption is right, then it says much more about her than you or your son.

Is your son a good five year old? Yes? Then you're a good mom. End of story. The reason it's bothering you is that you are a conscientious mom and you're now in a feedback loop, not quite able to be pissed at her but still not able to resolve the situation.

I'm sorry.
posted by plinth 14 April | 20:47
I agree with the others. The best solution is to take what you feel, and use it to emphasize your own values within your own family. Your kids will get it. And if it really is a continuing pattern, your son will be smart enough to one day decide "you know, hanging out with [Friend] isn't that fun any more." Just keep checking in with him and keep the lines of communication open.

As for the camping weekend, bring a book and a hammock and just say "Whew! I'm looking forward to some peace and quiet and time alone while the kids play" and wander off on your own. Maybe your husband can relieve you of kids duty for a while, or if there's a group outing you can beg off at the last minute to minimize contact.
posted by Miko 14 April | 21:15
Lori, you're such a great mom!:)

Yeah, damn straight you should be upset. This mom sounds like a complete moron of a woman. Using the N word--what the hell's that all about. (I really don't want to give you any Parenting advice, since I have zero experience as a Parent, but I love kids and I'd hate to see your older son be affected in any way by the comments of this person if she were careless and didn't think it was a big deal to repeat such things in front of the children.) Your sons sound like good kids, and for someone to judge a five year old isn't fair, imo, but then some people just love to get on their high moral horses and dish it out to anyone they can--even kids. Makes me sick to tell you the truth (especially when the said moralizer is a racist)!
posted by hadjiboy 14 April | 21:58
Hee, BP!

Is this the bully kid you've mentioned before? I would take what he said with a handful of salt.
posted by brujita 15 April | 00:09
Thanks for the wonderful advice and thoughts. I truly appreciate it.

I'd hate to see your older son be affected in any way by the comments of this person if she were careless and didn't think it was a big deal to repeat such things in front of the children. If she used that kind of language in front of my kids that would be the end. I think she knows my feelings on the subject.

I feel kind of silly that I reacted so strongly yesterday. I am always the emotional, anxiety-ridden, and irrational when it comes to my kids.
posted by LoriFLA 15 April | 07:47
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