Today I was at the grocery store with all three kids. Mac and Keegan were sitting in the "car" underneath the cart and Johnny was in the bucket seat in the basket. Several times Keegan had tried to dive head first out of the car so Mac was continuously pulling her back in and telling her to stay in the cart. Something I very much appreciated as I tried to swoop through the store before dinner. I paused to look at something and then heard Mac saying once again, "No! No! Keegan you have to stay in the cart." As I continued on, a lady from further in the store, rushed at my cart saying "Watch out!". I paused at wondered what was going on, the cars don't have an opening on the bottom so I know that their feet weren't caught, they hadn't grabbed anything, so I figured the only logical thing was that Keegan was going headfirst through the front of the car. When I looked Mac was holding onto Keegan in a bear hug around her neck to make sure she was staying in the cart. It wasn't tight and Keegan looked like she could have cared less. The woman then started to say that "She has her hands around her neck and she is choking her!". I looked down and said, "They are fine, kids do that." To which I got the nastiest look and she started to berate me. There was a lot of "You need to stop them." and "My kids never did that" as I rounded the corner to get a way from her.
As I continued on with my shopping, I of course thought of a million things to protest and retort back. I stopped half way down the aisle to make sure they were both ok, which they were. Trust me, Keegan would have made it well known if she wasn't 100% ok with the situation. And the hot tears of embarrassment and anger began to set in as I tried to move past what the woman said. I fully recognize that I don't parent the way that a lot of parents do. We are pretty laid back in letting the kids explore and try new things. But this wasn't a situation where one of the kids was ever in any danger. The lady didn't know the full story. And I would never, ever approach someone over a situation like that without having observed something clearly going wrong. Ironically I would have expected someone to comment on Johnny being sideways across the sides of the cart in his bucket seat more than what the girls were doing. At the performance of Annie yesterday I saw a kid being disciplined by his mother and he was wincing after she yelled at him and was squeezing his shoulder. He did look like he was in pain, and I felt bad for the little guy, but I don't know that their story was. I don't know what was going on. I don't know what factors went into her decision to do that. The whole situation was over in less than a minute so it seemed like a pretty normal parent/kid interaction and thus I turned away and forgot about it until now. Matt and I are so careful on the way we treat the kids and discipline the kids and you still get scrutinized in public for things that aren't even what they seem. We work so hard to raise our kids to be kind, brave, strong, articulate, and caring and most of all, happy. And so it is frustrating to be placed under a microscope for such a small occurrence in our lives that really shouldn't have been a big deal at all.
I should have told her that I was so glad we live in a country where we can all raise our children as we see fit. I should have told her to shove it. I should have told her that I am a damn good parent (which I am) and that I was quite sure there are decisions she makes with her life that I may not agree with. I should have done what a friend said and shown her what an actual headlock looks like. Instead I walked away. Which will be a good lesson for my girls someday. But I also hope that one day, the right thing comes to me in which I can express myself clearly and firmly in a situation like this so they can see that it is ok to stand up to others who disagree with you too. For now I am going to keep on doing what I have been because my kids seem to be doing pretty well with that and if they don't like it they can meet me out back and we can settle this like civilized human beings...I guarantee I would win that fight!