I wrote Monday about how I generally like children, but there are plenty of parents in the world who irritate me. Wednesday I wrote about dealing with parents and a child I liked, and today I'm sharing an anecdote about an encounter with a parent who totally pissed me off.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Target for some particular product. I don't remember what it was; I only remember that they didn't have it. They did, however, have Clueless on sale for $7.50, a spiffy anniversary edition dvd with lots of special features, and as I collect adaptations of Austen novels (in case you didn't know, Clueless is based on Emma) and as my VHS copy of Clueless has grown worn from use, I decided to buy the dvd. So I took my single item and went to stand in the express checkout line.
The woman ahead of me in the express lane was dealing with two children. She seemed a bit frazzled--her son, who seemed about six, wanted some gum, but kept picking out kinds that were sour, and she kept saying, "It says sour! See? It says sour!" I can be pretty good at tuning out other people, so I just ignored her and thought about the pleasant activities I had planned for the rest of the day--I think I was planning to sew. The cashier rang up and bagged my movie before the woman had removed her bags from the counter, and for some reason her son, who had not taken any of his mother's bags, picked up my bag.
"That's mine," I said, in a neutral voice with a neutral expression, and took the bag from him. While I didn't simply wait for him to hand the bag to me, I did not wrest it forcibly from his hand. I didn't smile and say, "Sorry, sweetie, but that's not your mama's bag; it's mine," but neither did I scowl and say, "Gimme that!" And having retrieved my package, I went about the business of handing a 20 dollar bill to the cashier.
The mother stood and eyed me for a moment. "I don't think my son meant to steal your bag," she said.
"I don't think he did, either," I said calmly, still focused on the cashier, who was handing me my change. I mean, why would he want a copy of Clueless?
"Well, you didn't need to be so nasty to him," the mother added, her voice rising.
And at that point I turned and gave the woman my full attention. "I wasn't nasty to your kid, you fucking bitch," I said. (And yes, I realize I exposed the child to genuine profanity. Shame on me, in some ways, and in other ways, WHATEVER. He'll hear it eventually anyway, if he hadn't heard it already. I wanted the mother to understand that there was a genuine difference between neutrality and nastiness.)
"Nice mouth!" she said, and headed out the door. I put my wallet back in my bag and headed out too. I thought briefly about saying something more to her--something like, "I hope you realize you spoke to your son far more sharply than I did," or, "Don't feel you have the right to criticize my behavior unless I also have the right to criticize yours"--but decided against it, got in my car and drove away. (Though in a later fantasy, I also considered the line, "There are some people who shouldn't have children, and you're obviously one of them. Don't take out on me the fact that you're stuck with two very big mistakes you clearly can't handle." But that, unlike the F-word, is something I would feel guilty for saying in front of a child.)
The point is, that was the moment when I said, officially, TO HELL WITH PARENTS WHO SEEK TO "CORRECT" THE BEHAVIOR OF EVERYONE BUT THEMSELVES AND THEIR CHILDREN.
I'm still not done.