At What Point Can You Bitch-Slap Another Parent?
There is this kid at day care that I really like. I interact with this child on a daily basis, as I’m frequently accosted by them upon my arrival. This child is really really incredibly cute, really really sweet, and really really social. I’m frequently shown the pictures they drew that day, I receive recaps of their activities, and hear about what was eaten for lunch. This child really, really needs some positive attention, presumably because they are not receiving enough at home. Presumably because their mother is pretty nasty.
I first observed this mother as she dragged the child out the door after school. I am generally not a rubbernecker of other people’s parenting, but holy moly it was impossible not to watch this lady yell at her kid as she tried to get them to leave. It ended with the mom carrying her screaming and crying child out as she continued to yell. I’m all for being strict and no-BS with your kid, but this was beyond discipline or hardcore child management. This was a parent not handling themselves or their child in a constructive way. This was a parent who lost their shit in public and left a room of slaw-jawed people behind them.
Last weekend, Willy observed this same mother at a party. His observations were similar to mine: he classified her as an extraordinary bitch, and felt her treatment of her child was unjust and inappropriate, particularly in public. He felt bad for the child, although admittedly, the child was not listening to their mother whatsoever so he understood the mom’s frustration. Regardless, he was surprised by this woman’s behavior, both the magnitude and unabashed display of anger in front of other party-goers. He had exactly the same frightening thought I had: If this is how she treats her kid in public, how is she treating them at home?
So I ask, at what point is it OK to bitch-slap another parent?
I don’t mean actually bitch-slap them, although it is tempting. I mean intervene, period, with more of a verbal bitch-slap. At what point do you step in, sticking your nose where most would say it doesn’t belong, and say, “Yo! What the fuck is your problem, talking to your kid like that?” Obviously you step in if a parent gets physical with their kid—I mean, I would step in, and I don’t care if the abuser is a foot taller or outweighs me by 100 lbs. But what about when a parent is just a total, irrational asshole to their child?
No-one wants a stranger commenting on their parenting. Hell, no-one wants anyone commenting on their parenting. We’re inclined—no, trained—to turn the other cheek when we witness parenting we disagree with, telling ourselves it is none of our business, we don’t know the full story, blah blah blah. But at what point do you put aside the assumption that this poorly behaved adult is having a bad day or the child has been pushing their buttons and speak up for the tiny human that is probably crying on the floor? When do you address the parent, or bring the situation to the attention of someone who can help if you feel you’re unable or won’t be able to refrain from actually bitch-slapping them?
I’ll tell you: When you are so uncomfortable or so concerned for the child that you can’t help yourself. Whether it’s in the moment or afterwards. After hearing about this lady’s repeat performance from Willy, I couldn’t stop thinking about the poor kid. So, I spoke up. Because I was not at the party at which my husband observed her, and because I haven’t seen Mad Mama since that memorable but unfortunate introduction (and I am so ready to cut in next time I see her mistreat the little one), I spoke up to the day care providers. I asked if they were aware of this mom’s treatment of her child, and they were. They assured me they were working with both the mom and child. They also assured me that the child was not being abused (and unfortunately you can’t do a whole lot to a parent who is just a big jerk to their kid). But they’re aware, watching, and trying to help. Thank goodness.
I feel better knowing that professionals are monitoring this issue, but I am still ready to give that mom a verbal bitch-slap next time I hear her irrationally yelling at my little pal.
What would you have done in this situation? Do you think I prematurely stepped in? Do you think parents should be allowed to parent however they see fit, even if others think they’re extreme?