You told me I was a bad mother. You saw a snapshot in to my relationship with my five year old and you called me a bad mother. Actually, I think you called me a bad mother because I politely refused your offer of boiled sweets for my son and you didn't like the refusal. That isn't ok.
I am a strong woman and I am generally pretty confident in my parenting ability and in my relationship with my children. Sure, I mess up at times and I don't always get it completely right but actually, this wasn't one of those times. I laughingly told my husband what you said and we shook our heads at yet one more judgemental person throwing harsh words with no care as to how they might be received. Luckily this time they were aimed at me and not someone barely coping, not someone struggling daily on the brink of depression or someone without the support of a strong family to help them through difficult times. And yet, here I am, over a week later and still your words are with me. I know I am not a bad mother yet I doubt I'll ever forget those words you flung at me. Take a second and imagine what you could have done to someone in a tougher situation than mine.
So, let's go back to the situation and see if you still think I'm a bad mother. We were on holiday, all happy together, my husband, our two kids and I. We were waiting for a boat at a small port. My husband decided to go and get some snacks. Our smaller child asked to go with him, the bigger child said he wanted to wait with me. Then, as five year olds so often do, he changed his mind. I said he could run after his dad but I then had to call him back when they disappeared out of sight. My son understood this, he came back willingly and I gave him a hug and agreed with him that it was a shame he hadn't been able to catch up with them. Again, as five year olds are wont to do, his mood changed and he kicked out at the snack I had prepared for him that was sitting next to us. It was a snack he had asked for. I calmly asked him not to do that and moved it out of his way. He kicked out at it again so I took him off my lap and told him he had to sit at the other end of the bench if he was going to behave that way. I told him his behaviour was unacceptable. After probably two minutes of him sitting and yelling I asked him he wanted a hug to calm down. He refused. I told him I was ready when he was. He kept up the angry crying. I went and picked him up and brought him back to sit on my lap and talk things through. He did struggle. He didn't want to be picked up and calmed down but I knew I could calm him through hugging him and trying to make him laugh. He was on the edge of laughter when you came up and offered me boiled sweets for him to stop him crying.
We never give our kids boiled sweets. We aren't parents who don't allow sweets at all but boiled sweets just aren't ok with us. I politely thanked you but told you that we don't give our kids those sweets, especially in the middle of such behaviour. Your response was to tell me it wasn't much sugar and I should let him have them. At this point, I still appreciated your sentiment, I really did, but no, no sweets for kids who kick over snacks deliberately and no sweets to bribe a kid out of a strop! You turned away in a huff and told me you could see what sort of mother I was: a bad one.
You know what? I ignored you and carried on with my son, who, by the way, was perfectly happy and lovely probably two minutes later and all calm was restored but your words have stayed. I just can't believe anyone would feel the need to fling such an ugly accusation at someone with so little justification.
So next time, please remember that there is an actual human being on the receiving end of your words. You don't know me and you don't know my son. You may not have liked how I was dealing with him but I wasn't harming him physically or mentally, I was trying my very best to calm down my emotional little boy with methods that work for him.
Not a bad mother.
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