Monday, August 12, 2013

The Worst Mom at the Brookfield Zoo

She snatched it right out of my three-year-old daughter’s hand. “It’s not your turn, it’s hers,” she snapped. 

It was another mom visiting the zoo, a grown woman, upset that my daughter had stepped ahead of hers to turn the handle of the machine that simulated a tiger’s roar.

Trying not to be a helicopter mom, I was chatting with a mom friend a few paces back from the fence in front of the tiger habitat.  Our kids were in full view.  Mr. R, my four year old, was turning the machine as fast as he could.

People behind him seemed impatient, so I took a few steps closer and asked him to stop.  He looked at me cheekily and kept turning the wheel. 

“Get down, NOW!” I scolded.

Mr. R obliged and stepped down from the platform.  As soon as he was down, before I could get any closer, his sister, Lady A, came up behind him and tried to get a go.

And then…

“Did you really just rip that out of my little girl’s hand?” I hurried over to my daughter and swooped her up in my arms. 

“I did not rip it out of her hand.  My daughter was waiting.”

Was there really a line?  Or a herd of kids trying to work the machine ASAP?  “I saw you and you did.”

“Well your son cut in front of her before, " she retorted as she her helped her little girl have her turn.

Oh, so now my whole family has offended you. “If I had seen him do that I would have said something to him.  Maybe you should learn how to speak to children.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you should learn to watch your children,” she called as she put her daughter in her stroller and scurried off, her last triumphant words hanging in the air. 


Only the presence of children -- mine and hundreds of others -- kept me from letting loose on her a string of expletives that would have reduced a gang leader and four street hookers to tears.   

Publicly insulting another mom’s parenting is as low as it gets. It’s the kick in the balls of the mommy wars.

Why do moms need to treat each other like crap? Are we all so angry and insecure?  Is the mompetition just too much?  Can’t we all just get along -- cut each other some slack?

In that spirit, I am going to give this mom the courtesy she didn’t give me.

She doesn’t know that dealing with two children -- aged 3 and 4.5 -- requires the neck rotation of an owl, the patience of a saint, and the  “whatever” attitude of a complacent tenth-grade stoner.  She was with one child, who appeared to be under two.  One child may not be easy, but once you double, or triple (or more) that, it definitely ups the ante. 

She doesn’t know that it takes a village, but the village has to be kind, not a mob with torches and pitchforks.  She never got the memo that you are extra nice to other people’s children.  Especially children you don’t know.  That if you want to correct a stranger’s kid, you do so in the nicest way possible, and you look around to see if the mom is there first.  (And trust me, in that crowd I was pretty easy to spot.)

She doesn’t know that parents need to stick together, and build each other up, not tear each other down.  Parental solidarity is everything.  A little empathy can be the difference between a parent losing it or holding her head a little higher when a kid makes a major mess, is being a total jerk or is in the throes of a meltdown.  

She doesn’t know that you keep your judgments to yourself.  And you never insult anyone’s parenting.  No matter how tired and angry you feel.

I feel sorry for her for being so mean and so clueless.  

For acting so ugly to another person’s child.  

Hopefully she’ll learn someday.  

Maybe time will teach her.  

Or maybe, just maybe, it will be karma in the form of some Mama Bear ready for battle, one whose searing comebacks roll off her tongue like ghost-pepper-flecked honey. 


  1. I am sorry for the example she is teaching her child. Boo. You're not the first person sprayed with her entitlement, I'm sure.

    You can hold your head up for keeping it classy, my friend. Ellen

  2. I have visited this terrain, and it ain't pretty. And, while I get this woman's initial intention - that she didn't want her child to miss his turn, and that perhaps he's too young to speak for himself - she's also missing an opportunity to teach this child patience and compassion.

    But, I'm sure it also would have felt good to give this woman a piece of your mind in person.

  3. Holy cow. I can't believe she did/said that! Kids tend to cut in front of other kids - it happens. Chill out lady and just wait OR say politely to the little kids who need teaching and guidance, "Excuse us, it's our turn now." I feel bad for her child.

  4. Oh, MAN!! I admire that you were able to keep calm. That was RIDICULOUS and I know it would have felt great to let her have it. Well done for not losing it! (I hope I would have been as mature as you, but I'm not sure).

    I think hanging back, watching, but refusing to helicopter is so much better for our kids. How can they ever work things out if they are never given a chance? But GOOD GRIEF, I thought *EVERY* mom knew the "you are nicer to other people's children". What in the world?


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