By Laura LaVoie
I’ve been faced with the same very interesting situation twice this holiday season. I don’t believe I am the only one who’s had this experience and I am wondering exactly how I should or could handle it better. So, I am presenting the situation for you, the NotMom Community, to review and assess. Your commentary is most welcome.
I was in a public place. A mother and her young child, who was maybe 5 years old, were occupying the same space as me. I was minding my own business when the child suddenly decided that the one thing I was missing in my life was interaction with her. She began to engage with me, and while I could ignore it briefly, she was persistent.
I occasionally threw glances at the Mom who was not paying the least bit of attention to me or her young daughter. I kept thinking that she would have to come collect her charge eventually, but time continued to tick by. After far too long, the Mom approached and asked one simple but presumptive question:
“Is she bothering you?”
I was suddenly paralyzed with fear and trepidation. I would have been happy to let this Mom take her child away from me – far away, in fact – but that wasn’t what happened. The Mom was asking my opinion on the matter as if it were OK for a child to engage with a stranger for a prolonged period of time. As much as my entire being wanted to respond with, “Yes, yes she is,” I heard myself saying something quite different.
“Oh, no, not at all.”
What was I thinking? If I didn’t tell this Mom to take her kid from me right that moment, how long would I be stuck as an ersatz babysitter? At that time, I wasn’t in a position to leave my location and remove myself from the situation, so there I sat. Mom actually walked a bit away, leaving her child in my “care.” Eventually, when I was able to exit the scene, I simply left without discussing anything with the child or her mother who was nearby but not actively watching her little girl.
Then, just a few days later in an airport, Example B. The same thing happened again.
In this case, the traveling Mom seemed frazzled about the upcoming flight and how her one-year-old son might behave. I was much more sympathetic than I was to the Mom in Example A. When this Mom frantically asked if her son was bothering me or my husband, we smiled and said “No, he’s fine.”
Honestly, he was being a little bothersome, but at the same time, we wanted him to release toddler energy before the flight, just in case his seat was close to ours.
So, NotMom Community, I am asking your opinion. I felt while I was in the midst of those situations that it was not socially acceptable to tell the truth to these Moms. As much as their kids were bothering me and I just wanted to be left alone, I didn’t feel comfortable actually saying that. My intention is never to upset or alienate anyone, but I am baffled that parents don’t seem to realize that politeness often hides the uncomfortable position of a stranger in public.
Have you ever been in this situation? How have you handled it?