This post originally appeared on DC Metro Moms Blog on December 7, 2008. Original comments follow below.
She called her daughter rotten. I think the girl is 18 months old.
After several weeks of cringing in mommy & toddler Spanish class listening to Mean Mommy shout “No!” and “Don’t make me come get you” in the middle of our signing about animales on the farm, I snapped this last time. Well, sort of. I consider what Mean Mommy does on average of five times every 45 minutes to be “snapping.” When she yelled at her daughter (who was looking at a leaf on a table) and labeled her a bad seed, what I did was take the passive aggressive approach of covering my son’s ears, turning away from the mom and muttering something about not wanting him to hear that language.
Seriously, I don’t. First of all, it’s really, really loud.
Even if she weren’t being critical of her daughter, her brash English would still break the immersion spell I’ve gotten used to in language classes and the always-singing Music Together class. Loud English sounds ugly when it’s out of place.
But more than being bugged about the sound of the ugly American, I am seriously disturbed by how mean this lady sounds. That woman kills my happy-to-play-and-maybe-learn buzz. I am no perfect Pollyanna, but I sure try to keep a happy game face most of the time. I don’t want my kid learning how to be a grump, so I try not to model it. It’s fine to show a range of emotions, and of course all kids need to learn to deal with a variety of personalities and situations, but what’s the use getting mad in public over a kid being a kid? And messing with everyone else’s experience, too. Maybe this has just been a bad seven Fridays in a row for the woman.
The teacher moves around the rants, commenting that the grabby-but-exuberant “Paduca” is “just fine” and “so interested!” before heaping some kind of praise or descriptive language on the girl in Spanish. Mean Mommy counters that Paduca is a “crazy baby.” True, the girl is never still or seated. But the mom always is. Rather than get off her duff to redirect or distract or simply play with her kid, she sits, shooting scowling finger-shakes and class-disrupting shouts across the room. Something has to be really wrong for this mom to budge. And watch out, little girl, if it is!
Now, when this mom is not cooing “Dukie, Dukie, Dukie, come heeere!” or snapping “No, Duck! No, no, NO!” she can actually be quite affectionate. She turns the girl upside down, showering her with kisses and tickles and smiles. I have no doubt that she loves her daughter. I just think this inconsistency makes the label of “crazy” a little more apt for mama than for daughter. So far.
It can’t be much fun for Mean Mommy to be stuck in disapproval mode so much. It’s certainly not a lot of fun to be around. In seven weeks of class, I haven’t found the perfect way to defuse this negative energy without seeming holier-than-thou. I just try to smile a lot and sometimes whisper things like “Oh, that’s just what they do! Ha! Ha! Ha.” Often I just look away and try to distract my son from the scene, but once, when the barking literally made me shiver, another mom and I shared big eyes and raised eyebrows across the room.
I want to hand Mean Mommy a copy of Playful Parenting for strategies on having fun instead of getting mad or Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline for advice on dealing with your own issues as an avenue toward effective parenting. Maybe there’s something there about needing attention that has her turning the whole class to focus on her and her child… Using that logic, my over-interest is probably just a symptom of one of my own issues I should deal with.
Because of a timing conflict, we’ll miss the last regular class with Mean Mommy and Paduca. Next session, my son will be in a different level, so I don’t expect to see this mama-baby pair again for a while. Watch me duck away from confronting this mom – and from confronting my own discomfort.
An original D.C. Metro Moms Blog post.
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It is a shame that M.M. ended up reading this post and feeling it only as personal criticism. (I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be read by M.M.; surely it would have been easier to say something in person than to have it etched in virtual stone for web-eons.) I hear, in this post, that Jessica is struggling with parenting choices that she actively makes each day — and how to handle it when these choices are subverted for her by another in close range. I know I face these kinds of inner dialogues each day, along with the corresponding questions of whether I’m being too hard on someone, and what people might think of me in my moments of weakness. This story summarizes that experience well, and dare I say, compassionately to both mum and daughter.