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Apryl Duncan

The Rudeness of Strangers

By September 29, 2009

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Rude comments about your parenting skills are hurtful. They're especially cruel when a stranger makes them based on a few minutes of sharing air with you.

Kids on Swings
Photo © Apryl Duncan

This weekend, at a national department store, I was the mom with the squirming, cranky child in public. Even though we were the only customers in the store, I don't let my toddler act up. He fussed a bit, not in full-blown meltdown mode by any means, but I thought it best to take him outside for a breather.

As I carried him toward the door, a store clerk behind me said something I will never forget:


I stopped in my tracks. A quick pivot with child on hip and I was looking right back at this woman who made an unfair judgment of my parenting skills.

Time seemed to stand still while I stood there and just looked at her. Was this the type of person who would slap a stranger's toddler in the face or spank someone else's child? Either she didn't have kids or she was the first person to ever raise a child who had never been fussy in a store.

I thought of a million things to say. Ultimately, I made a conscious decision to take the high road. I turned back around and took my son and my money elsewhere.

This woman wasn't worth my time. My son is my number one priority and I chose to focus on him instead of someone I would never see again.

Motherhood isn't an easy business, especially when people try to inflict their opinions, parenting styles and attitudes on you. Choose your battles and fight the ones that are worth it.

It's very difficult when loved ones criticize you as a parent. When it's a stranger, it's particularly hard because someone has made an assessment of your child and your entire life as a mom in less than a minute.

Nothing you can say will change that person's mind. And does it really matter what someone else thinks when you have so many more important responsibilities on your plate?

Take a deep breath, count to 10 and size up the situation. Will confronting a stranger give her what she wants, be a waste of your time, upset you more? Know what will make you sleep better at night and go with it.

If it's a store's employee, arguing with her doesn't get anything accomplished when you could call or write a letter to the corporate offices about this person who's supposed to be representing their company. If moms in playgroup make you feel badly, find another playgroup with like-minded parents who relate to you.

You don't have to be a doormat. Just don't feel like you have to engage in high school debates when that's exactly what these types of people want.

This person's opinion didn't impact me enough to spend a moment on her. She did affect me enough to want to share my experience and let you know that you don't have to feel like a bad parent, argue every point that makes you a great mom or relive the situation over and over in your head.

Your parenting style is right for you. What a boring world it would be if there was a cookie-cutter method to raising cookie-cutter children.

What I loved about this whole experience was my husband's view. "There are a lot of  mean people out there in the world, which should make us appreciate the nice ones even more."

September 29, 2009 at 2:10 pm
(1) Carol says:

I’m tired of the growing rudeness I see in society. I could elaborate on the lack of respect I see everywhere that leads to this kind of rudeness, but I don’t know if I’d have enough room here. I used to keep quiet at rude behavior, but I don’t anymore. I don’t defend myself or any other target of rude behavior, nor do I give the rude person a lecture. I just calmly point out that the comment or behavior is rude. I’ve actually had a coupe rude people apologize.

September 29, 2009 at 2:36 pm
(2) Susan Adcox says:

I’m just glad that mothers like you, Apryl, don’t worry about spoiling your kids. You just give them what they need and talk to them when they misbehave. Fear of spoiling led to some horrendous practices back in my parenting days.

September 29, 2009 at 10:48 pm
(3) Jackie says:

It’s always the non-parents who think they know everything there is to know about parenting! I’ve actually gone out of my way to give the parents of tantrum-ing kids a sympathetic grin, or even say, “I don’t hear a thing.” Love your husband’s comment!

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