Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Mommy Foul

by Marjorie
I think I may have been a perpetrator. The Mommy Foul is what happens when a moms tries to direct the actions of another mom's child, especially when said child's mother is there. I've been a victim, too, so I'll start with an example.

I was on a field trip to the cathedral with my kids. As we were walking through the doors into the cathedral, I was opening my mouth to remind Suzanne that we were going into a church and we must behave properly -- be quiet and no running, the idea being that we are reverent to God. Before I could say a word, the organizer of the field trip said this to Suzanne -- it was not a general announcement to the other kids (of which there were none other than her kids, who never run, anywhere, ever). Now, she's not even a church-goer, so I was doubly annoyed. However, she organizes lovely field trips and just happens to have a more controlling personality than I do (hard to believe). I let it slide, probably because, being a church-goer, I am prone to exercise forgiveness (pipe down, I can hear your laughter). And I'm used to this from her -- she is a frequent Mommy Fouler.

Okay, so that was a foul on me.

Here's my foul, though I maintain it was justified. We're at the pool today and my girls were playing beautifully with another little girl, filling a pail with water. The other girl's mom smiled at me. A little boy comes wandering over and picks up another pail, fills it with water, and starts pouring in on the girls' heads. The other girl's mom and I again exchanged looks, unhappy at the interloper. The boy's mother told him to stop and he seemed to ignore her (he had earplugs in his ears to keep out the water) and she sighed heavily. The boy stopped for a bit and went elsewhere. Peace was restored.

The boy came back, this time he flung a toy that nearly hit Gabrielle in the head and then he poured more water over Gabrielle's head. The mother of the other girl seemed shocked. I was not about to sit around sighing heavily because the boy did not listen to his mother. I got up and said to the boy (loudly because of his earplugs), 'please don't pour water on her, she doesn't like it.' That got the mom's attention; she must not have seen the toy flung, because that was worse than the water pouring, in my opinion.

The mom came over and admonished her son for pouring water. Then she made some sort of defense to me that he had earplugs and some other excuse about his behavior. I said only "it was the third time he poured water on her" and otherwise ignored her. I think she was annoyed with me but she eventually got over it. If you're going to be ineffectual, prepare to be fouled.

That said, I don't think we can control our kids, especially very young children -- we can teach them not to harm others or property, we can expect some courtesies, but a lot of things are just beyond their understanding and ability. I have two daughters, I think moms of boys tend to be more laid back because this principle is made obvious to them so early in their sons' lives.

Dads don't seem to be as constrained as Moms -- I've seen some pretty harsh Daddy fouls. My favorite was when one kid was pushing by a younger child on a pool ladder. The younger child's dad was right there and plucked the older kid off the ladder saying that his child was climbing it. It was an egregious Daddy foul but it matched the kid's egregious behavior (he was old enough to know better). I envied and admired that Dad's guts. Moms tend to be so nice and chirpy when they ask a child not to attack their child. I'm not that nice -- not anymore. If the mom isn't handling it, I'm the hammer.


Blogger Anne Zelenka said...

I'm ambivalent about mommy/daddy fouls. I think you were justified in responding as you did to the boy pouring water on the girls. The woman who fouled you, though, wasn't even responding to misbehavior and you were about to instruct your kids anyway. So it's different.

Still, I sometimes regret that it's not more of a collaborative thing, this raising of kids. One of the great things about going to church was having multiple adults know and care about my kids. I can see how in a close community, having multiple adults giving kids guidance would be a help. That could have some serious drawbacks though, as when a community enforces morals with which you disagree.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

There's no foul when it's a matter of self defense, which extends, of course, to defense of family as well. So I don't think you can be charged on this one.

Yip! Yip!

Robbo the LB

4:59 AM  
Blogger dgm said...

uh-oh, i'm a frequent fouler. i have no qualms about stopping a kid from hurting other kids if his own parents won't do it. i try to let the kids work it out but if things disintegrate into harm, that's where i draw the line. i've got a really good stink eye and firm voice for kids who cross me, and it usually works. usually those kids are not used to someone who will follow up, so they are kind of shocked when they see they can't get away with certain things.

7:56 AM  
Blogger clanlally said...

soooo....is it a foul if the neighbor DOESNT hear me telling her VERY ANNOYING 8 or 9 year old for the 975th time that if she continues to terrorize my daughter (who is DEATHLY afraid of cats...mostly because of this kid) with her mangy cat I will nail it to her front door and make sure it gets under her bed when it returns from the dead?

Disclaimer: I'm not saying I did this. Im just asking for hypothetical reasons.

dgm....it is CRITICAL to develop a good "stink eye"...I've never heard anyone else ever use that term!

10:17 AM  
Blogger Marjorie said...

Great comments, I enjoyed them!

Anne, you make a good point, I wonder if I take the whole thing too seriously -- I like the collaborative view; I'm not interfering with another mom's kids, I'm being a villager. Like Donna, I have a firm voice [and a stink eye, maybe; definitely a serious look]. I envy those who seem so calm and unaffected. I think I take some of these things too personally.

Mike, definitely no foul, I'd call it creative problem-solving.

4:35 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Today at the park, I thought nothing of screaming, "DO NOT. SPIT WATER. ON MY KIDS!" at this child who was far too old to be spitting water on a two-year-old. I then shouted a useless, "NOOOO!" at him as he dumped a pail of mud over my friend's kid. Clearly, I'm fine with yelling at other people's kids.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Marjorie said...

No foul there, Amy, thats defense of others. You go, Mom!

6:57 AM  

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