Yesterday I was feeling brave and took both girls to the park.
All three of us were feeling a bit cranky (me from staying up too late watching This is Us, and Rory because I told her chocolate chip cookies were not an acceptable breakfast), and we desperately needed to get out of the house. This became glaringly obvious when Rory, still dressed in her pajamas, asked if she could smell the spices in our spice cabinet. (Full Disclosure: She had already done this once that morning.)
Once at the park, my kids made a beeline to the sandbox.
They love the sandbox, and I’m not sure why. The only reason I can come up with is that they love it because I hate it, which would make perfect sense.
All was going well until Rory took a bucket right from the hands of an unsuspecting toddler. Of course, I demanded that she give it back and apologize, but she must have still been upset about the no-cookies-for-breakfast rule because she decided to throw it instead, and she added in a loud scream for good measure. At this point she had caused quite a scene, and the boy’s mother walked over to see what the fuss was about.
I explained the situation and told her that Rory was just about to apologize for her actions or we would go home. I could tell that the words were right on the tip of Rory’s tongue, despite her crossed arms and audible huffs, but then the boy’s mother uttered the two worst words any parent or caregiver can say in this situation: “It’s okay.”
I smiled and gave her my best “help me out here, lady” look and said through gritted teeth, “No, it’s not okay.”
I gently pushed Rory toward the boy and reminded her that in our family we apologize when we do something unkind. The woman smiled at Rory and again said, “It’s okay, sweetie. My boys do that all the time.” She then proceeded to hand Rory the very bucket that she had just thrown on the ground and walked back to her group of mom friends who were watching this whole scene unfold from across the playground. Rory looked at me, shrugged, and said, “See? It’s okay mom.” I couldn’t really blame her, either. Here was another adult telling her that her actions were completely acceptable and there was no need to apologize. My two-year-old self would have taken the easy road, too.
I decided to mentally file this in the “to be discussed later” category, but what I really wanted to do was grab this mom by her shoulders and shake some sense into her. I wanted to shout, “Lady, you totally just broke Mom Code!”
I realize that she was doing her best to diffuse the situation and I’m sure that she had good intentions. I know from experience that it’s incredibly awkward to wait for a fuming threenager to deliver a less-than-stellar apology, but you sit there and you wait for it, because we’re all in this together. We’re all just trying to raise polite, compassionate, and empathetic little people, and sometimes that means accepting crappy apologies from my three-year-old, even when all you want to do is go back to talking to your friends about the latest episode of This is Us. (It’s really good, guys.)
It’s okay if you don’t agree with my parenting style or if it’s not what you would do in a similar situation. But, please don’t undermine me in front of my child.
For the love of parenting, show some solidarity. Respect the way that I’ve chosen to parent and discipline my child, even if it sometimes puts you in an awkward position. I promise that I’ll do the same for you. I solemnly swear that if we’re friends, or even if we’re not, I will never break Mom Code. This means that if your child, say, throws herself on the ground in the middle of the zoo on a busy summer day because she’s not ready to go home, and you decide that ignoring her is the best course of action, I will totally back you up. I will walk away and sit next to you on the bench several feet away, no questions asked. And if your kid throws popcorn on the ground at the movies because he wanted the big bucket instead of the kid size – Mom Code is still in effect, I will wait patiently next to you until he picks up every last kernel off the theater floor. I will even give the usher the evil eye when he comes over with the broom – because he obviously doesn’t know Mom Code.
So, consider this my PSA: Even though it’s often easier to brush things off and dismiss certain actions as typical toddler or little kid behaviors, please remember that all parents are fighting the hard fight. We’re all spending about 80% of our day reminding kids to say “please” and “thank you” and develop some sort of conscious and semblance of self-control.
So, please just wait for the apology. Even if it’s a bit awkward and uncomfortable. Even if you’d rather be getting a root canal, or God forbid, watching Caillou. Please don’t say “It’s okay” when I say it’s not. Don’t break the sacred mom code.