On Saturday I was judged as a bad parent by a complete stranger. This was not a private word uttered in confidence, this was a very public announcement both inside and outside my home. In front of my neighbours and people I consider friends. It also involved a call by the Police. It could go down as Top Monkeys most memorable tantrum yet and had the potential to change my parenting forever.
For him the world had ended
I have worried about wether or not I should be publishing this tale. However, in a time when every aspect of parenting is under scrutiny, I thought it served as a good example of how important it is to look at the bigger picture. It was Saturday morning and I was home with Top and Little Miss. Top was playing Angry Birds 2 while I tidied up and attempted to declutter the cupboard under the stairs. Little Miss has hidden a remote control and she likes to park her bear in a shopping trolley in there. It seemed a good place to start.
I could hear Top losing his temper at his game. His voice getting louder and louder. He was at the front of the house and at volumes audible from the street. He had lost all his lives and now he had to wait 30 minutes for new ones. For him the world had ended. I knew immediately that this was going to be a big one.
So out he went
As the tantrum unfolded, I confiscated his iPad and tried to talk him down. He was screaming and shouting at me, shaking with rage and becoming increasingly more irate. I put my fingers in my ears, closed my eyes and retreated to the quiet part of my brain to form a plan. When I came back, I warned him that if he didn’t calm down by the time I counted down he was going on the back step to cool off. He didn’t, so out he went. Bare foot and in his pyjamas. It wasn’t the middle of summer but it wasn’t raining or anywhere near freezing.
I stood at my kitchen sink taking a moment to breath, Top outside shouting he was sorry. At that moment, to my complete astonishment, a strange woman appeared in my garden. I was out in a shot, taking Top behind me. We exchanged words that consisted of “who the hell are you?” from me and “what are you doing to that child?” from her. She informed me that she was an off duty police officer (of course she was) and that my behaviour was so appalling that she was calling the Police.
How dare you?
I took Top inside, who was now terrified that the Police were coming to take me away. We went out to the front where the individual was speaking to the police. I was furious. Top tried to explain himself but she wasn’t listening. After hanging up and shouting at me for a few minutes, she walked off, telling me “she wouldn’t put her dog out in weather like this!” (Which is funny because she was walking a husky type dog who I believe are used to arctic temperatures.) I am ashamed to say that stood on my front step, in my pyjamas, in front of my neighbours, I shouted after her. “How dare you, how dare you” I shouted, “how dare you come into my home and judge me like that”.
I came inside. Fuming. Heart pounding. I looked around at the carnage in my house. I told Top to get dressed. He did without question. (Every cloud and all that). I quickly tidied up and got dressed too. Just in time to be on the front step when the Police arrived. Thankfully, the officers that attended were amazing. They asked me what had happened then spoke with Top. They reassured me that my behaviour had not been unacceptable and that I was right to be angry. Then they spoke with Top about how he could have managed his anger better. The incident written off as someone who can’t mind their own business.
Knock on my front door next time
They left me feeling reassured but no less angry. I waited for the informer to return to her car which was still parked right outside my house. I thanked her for teaching my son a valuable lesson. But suggested that next time she knock on my front door if she was concerned. That it was her behaviour that was unacceptable and that how I discipline my child, in my home, is my business. She didn’t agree. I wasn’t surprised.
You know what? I get it. In a time where so often a blind eye is turned where children are involved. How brave to scratch the surface and make sure that the child is safe. I really do understand, however, if she had been so concerned for my child, why did she walk away? Why not wait for the police to arrive? Why not approach me and ask, rather than stand on my property and accuse me wrongly? Is it not better to approach a situation with an open mind?
Judged on a snap shot
She judged me on a snapshot in time and that hurts. A few minutes out of context and I am offended and humiliated. I am horrified that someone would assume that I was an abusive parent because I was trying to diffuse a heated situation. She did not and does not know me or my family. How dare she assume she does? If I was confrontational, which I know that I was, it was because a stranger trespassed on to my property and approached my child. I am still shocked.
I am grateful to the police officers who attended my home and to my neighbours. The friend from next door who came at once and spoke to the police. My other neighbours who also offered their support. They know me and have seen my monkeys at their best and worst. Not just a snap shot in time. They have intervened and offered their support in the past. Intervention I have appreciated and accepted because it was properly offered and without judgement.
Let’s talk about chicken nuggets
I know I am a good mummy and at the heart of any of my parenting decisions is love. I am strict at times because Top has a fiery temper. It is my job to show him consequences and the importance of calming down. If I am strict it is because I love him so much. I wish the informer had been there yesterday when I went with Top to have the wires removed from his broken wrist. When he became upset about the second wire coming out, I took his face in my hands. “Look at me. What shall we have for dinner?” “I bet Nanna is making chicken nuggets for Middle Monkey”. “Let’s talk about chicken nuggets”. The look on his face as he concentrated on my face and not his wrist told me all I needed to know.
I know my boy inside out. What makes him laugh, what makes him sad and what makes him angry. I know what to do when his fury takes over. Then we talk about it later so that one day he won’t need to go and cool off. He will know how to control himself. He learns a little every time and I will always be proud of him whatever.
If I have to find the positives in all of this, it is that Top behaved impeccably for the remainder of the weekend. His iPad confiscated and angry birds 2 removed. Permanently. In conclusion, the lesson that I have learnt from all of this? Keep my garden gate locked in future.