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February 25, 2005

The mother drive-by
Posted by Teresa at 09:20 AM *

There’s been a fairly spectacular upwelling of rants, sentiments, and anecdotes at Chez Miscarriage (via LizDitz). It started with the proprietor’s sturdy rant about Judith Warner’s new book, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, which as I understand it says that mothers who try too hard to do everything right are at fault because they’re trying to do everything right.

It appears that mothers are constantly getting told that they’re doing something wrong, especially by other mothers. The term for this is a “mother drive-by.”

That initial post got 127 comments plus hundreds of e-mails, so Chez Miscarriage did a follow-up post:
as I read through your voluminous tomes, my eyes riveted to the screen, I began to notice a pattern. A theme, if you will. A leitmotif, which was this: apparently, other mothers frequently say crappy things to you about your mothering. Now, I wasn’t too sure what to make of that, so I began to surf a few bulletin boards in the hopes of finding some hard data. …
Which she found, in loony abundance.
Knowing me as you do, you can probably imagine my surge of joy upon finding evidence of a deranged collective maternal psyche right there on my computer screen. And yet my thrill was short-lived, since—as my husband so kindly put it—“how do you know if any of that is real? weirdos write all kinds of things on the internet.” Yes. Well. Thank you, honey. I’ll take that as your belated Valentine’s Day gift.

So here’s what I want to know from you folks: have you ever been the victim of a mother drive-by? And if so, what happened?

Please, no psychological theories, sociological analyses, or political opinions. I want personal anecdotes and factual stories only, the weirder the better.

Show me what you’re working with.
As of this moment, there are 328 comments to that thread, most of them telling stories that make my jaw drop. Her lively third post, Things I am Learning from the “Mother Drive-By” Thread, has collected another 80 comments. Her fourth post, People Unclear on the Concept, went up yesterday:
Over the past few days, as I sat here at my desk, hundreds of comments and emails have poured in regarding the “mothering drive-by” phenomenon. I’ve read every single one, laughing or muttering in outrage, enjoying them all. Except the drive-bys.

Yes, as hard as it is to believe, some women posted on the drive-by thread in order to make a drive-by. I gritted my teeth and refrained from pointing out their poor reading comprehension skills and deleted their posts and emailed them polite explanations. “Hello, I see that this is the first time you’ve ever posted on the blog. The regular posters here work hard to maintain an atmosphere of respect and acceptance. Please feel free to repost your comment in a less inflammatory manner. Thanks!”

But as more and more newcomers visited, the drive-by comments only increased. After a while, I stopped emailing polite explanations and just deleted the posts. I’m sorry but real mothering includes breastfeeding and if you didn’t want to breastfeed then you shouldn’t have had children. Delete. To all working mothers out there: if you’re okay with having a stranger raise your kids, who am I to say anything? Delete. I am so sick of AP mothers who use their breastmilk as an excuse not to go out and get a real job. Delete. My husband stays home with our baby and has been doing this for almost a year now. I just want to let the stay at home moms know something: if you see a stay at home dad hanging out in the park with his child HE IS NOT TRYING TO PICK YOU UP. Get over yourselves! Delete while acknowledging that I’m sorry you’re so frustrated and your husband is so lonely, but COME ON! This blog is not a Vent-O-Mat! Try to stay on topic!

By the way, I just want to let all the moms out there know something: get over yourselves!

Kidding.

Then I received the following comment, the comment that made me mutter, “Okay, that’s it, it’s posting time.” Take a look, while keeping in mind that your comments to this blog entry will all be unfailingly polite and respectful because there’s no way I’ve worked this hard to remain civil just to have you people steal the curse words right out of my mouth:
I’m probably going to get a new one ripped, but here goes. After reading all these comments, hasn’t anyone ever done anything wrong in raising their kids? I’m not talking about the breastfeeding-type thing … [but] about the stupid things I see every day. Like mittens. I was walking in the park the other day, it’s easy 25 degrees, and at least 1/3 of the kids under 1-11/2 years didn’t have mittens on, including some who were sleeping. Now, you can’t tell me every one of these kids has a fit and throws off their mittens. Or, as another poster noted, giving kids soda, or “apple juice” (which is not juice but sugar water - read the label). I have NEVER said anything, but boy would I like to. It seems that no one is willing to consider whether their actions might not be the best idea for babies and kids. [And this includes piercings - yes they are mutilations. Not that I’m attaching any negative connotation to the term, but piercing does alter (i.e. mutilate the body). I personally have lots of “mutilations,” but I was a grown up who made my own decisions about this - not someone else who thought it was “cute”]. Lastly, regarding newborns out in public: it is recommended that newborns not be exposed to crowded places (like anywhere people shop) for at least 4 weeks. I too am amazed at some of the things people say to moms; but I’m equally amazed at some of the stupid, dangerous and self-centered things moms do to their kids. PS Hot chocolate has caffeine.
Um.

Hello.

Welcome to my blog.

Let’s take it from the top, shall we? …
That one’s already up to 173 comments.

I’m astounded. The behavior they’re talking about is worse and weirder than the stories on the Wedding Etiquette Hell website, and I wouldn’t have thought anyone could top those. I’d heard occasional mutterings about it from friends who have children, but I see now that I owe them an apology. I had no idea how bad it was. There’s a universe of wildly dysfunctional interactions going on out there.

Comments on The mother drive-by:
#1 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 10:30 AM:

Post is up for an hour and no comments. Hunh. What, is everyone actually working?

I guess I'll get this rolling by adding that the drive-by is by no means an exclusively American phenomenon. I can't think of anything wildly dysfunctional (except being seated between the kitchen and the door to the restrooms in an otherwise empty restaurant), but the amount of unsolicited advice received here in Germany has been significant. Some is heeded (people with v small children can cut to the front of the line in most public offices, but there aren't always signs to this effect), some is happily ignored and some are told off. Sometimes in German, sometimes in English, depending on just how uppity I'm feeling.

#2 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 10:31 AM:

I learned that even before my firstborn was born: mothers are walking targets, and the sharpest sharp shooters are other mothers. I spent a long time being a baby-and-toddler daycare center caregiver, and the things I heard from those mothers about what other people had said to them were pretty harrowing, too. But then: every so often they'd say something pretty awful to each other or about each other to me, too.

I don't know if this is just because motherhood is so innately fraught, or if it is because we have that extra "blame the mother" thing going on from Freud and stuff.

#3 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 10:34 AM:

TNH>Thereís a universe of wildly dysfunctional interactions going on out there.

As a parent, let me just say: Yep.

#4 ::: JeremyT ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:01 AM:

It seems like there's some kind of primal pleasure to be derived from judging the parenting skills of others. And there are people out there indulging plenty. It's a hell's road paved with good intentions thing too. Some might say it's hard for you to criticize the phenomenon because these mother drive-by-ers have "good intentions"--the health or well being of a child, which as a non-parent, seems to me at times to be the most holy and sacred of bovines. That status sure does give a lot of protection to the behavior, I think.

Wow. What a mess. As a non-parent who is giving some consideration to the idea, it frightens me parents become the target of so much criticism. And not just criticism, but... really self-righteous criticism.

#5 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:10 AM:

Anything attached to an absolute produces insanity.

Whether this is moral perfection or the idea of the infinite value of children (or the infinite significance of art, or....) people go kinda squirrelly.

Getting to "bad insecurity management" from "squirrelly" is a short trip.

#6 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:16 AM:

The "driving by" starts when you're pregnant, when perfect strangers want to come up to you in the subway and put their hands on your belly, offer unsolicited advice, tell you what sort of food you should be eating, make sure you're taking your vitamins, etc. These people doubtless believe they're being helpful, but they're not (helpful is my friend Annie, who used to regularly shame middle-aged men on the subway into giving up their seats to pregnant women).

Once you have the kid (or kids) there are plenty of people who want to tell you you're not doing it right (which is another way of saying they're doing it better). Parenthood is a chancy business; I am quite capable of working myself in a froth at my own inadequacy, I don't need anyone else pausing in their busy schedule to tell me I don't measure up.

I wonder if the drive-by moms know the effect they have on the kids of their victims? Julie, age five, told a woman she was BAD because she scolded me for something. Not the reaction she was hoping for, I think.

#7 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:38 AM:

Not for the first time, I find myself suffering from that very strange sensation of discovering that once again I am unknowingly treading the same footsteps as you, through all these variously unrelated sites. I keep expecting to see your coattails disappearing out the far door as I enter. I guess it's a small web after all. Either that, or you read the entire web (-:

As a single mom by choice, I've been the recipient of mother drive-bys from just about everyone. You learn to tune them out, or at least filter between the "meant to be helpful" versus the "meant to be hurtful" ones (and there's a lot of the latter, sad to say).

Actually, it was good practice for learning how to constructively deal with writing critiques (writer drive-bys?). Parenting and writing are similar in that they are both things about which we are incredibly emotionally invested and about which we are inherently insecure*, and thus easily prone to the sorts of "you've got it all wrong, let me show you the One True Way" advice and commentary.

(* or at least me. I don't presume to speak for anyone else)

#8 ::: Lisa Hertel ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:48 AM:

Not only are people incredibly tactless, but the invisible peer pressure is immense. I almost never wear a hat, but I won't let my kids go to school hatless & gloveless in winter, for fear that I'll be hauled off by the DSS. (No matter that it may take 20 minutes to find a hat and unmatched pair of gloves, 'cause all the pairs were lost.) Most mother won't admit that they've spanked their kids, becuase let's face it: it works. BF Skinner knew the power of pain, and 'time-outs' are pretty laughable sometimes. Yeah, it shows kids that they can be bullied about by people bigger and stronger than them. Well, sorry, but that's what parenting is all about: I'm bigger and stronger and wiser and you respect my authority without endless discussion. And most people don't complain about my kids' behavior, so I guess it works.

Are we strict? I don't think so; certainly, many parents were think we're too lenient. Then again, there are plenty who think we're not strict enough. Psychologists would have me simultaneously give my children unconditional love and never say no to them, while disciplining them. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way. When my kids whine, "Mommy, you're not my friend," I retort, "That's right. I'm your mother. It's not my job to be your friend." Friends let you get away with shit--like swearing--that your mother never would.

Will my kids turn out okay? No worse than any other fannish kid, I think. At least they are moderately civilized, which is all I can realistically hope for. Now in my dreams, they clean their rooms...

#9 ::: LizT ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:50 AM:

Madeleine said:
"Julie, age five, told a woman she was BAD because she scolded me for something."

My daughter Fiona, now ten, tells my mother and my mother-in-law, the two worst offenders for drive bys in my life, to "stop being mean to my mother. I'll be just fine" or "I'll live."

This is something of an echo of what she hears from me.

"I forgot my gloves." - You'll live.

Because she will. I try to be a sane mother. Really hard.

#10 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:51 AM:

Oh, man, you have no idea.

The only thing I have ever seen online that gets nastier than breastfeeding discussions on parenting sites is circumcision discussions on parenting sites.

I'm OK with anyone out there who's raising a kid having rituals that comfort them and make them feel safe. When they crave the extra reassurance and righteous glow that comes from abusing, shunning, belittling and humiliating people who don't share their exact ritual (because it's reasonably clear that no-one is trying to convince anyone else) it can be really scary.

I once saw a flamewar start at the suggestion that it wasn't self-evident that infant girls should have their ears pierced.

#11 ::: Jena Snyder ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:52 AM:

I went to a parent-teacher interview at my daughter's elementary school some years back. The hallway was decorated with student artwork and writing, and although some was very good, I was surprised that "Ms. Doe," Sara's grade five teacher, had transcribed the stories verbatim, leaving in all the errors. When I asked why, Ms. Doe was indignant. Editing the students' work, she said, would "damage their self-esteem" and "stifle their creativity."

Stifling my own urge to ask her how long she'd been sniffing the Elmer's Glue in art class, I asked Ms. Doe if she thought my daughter was a timid little mouse, afraid to express herself for fear of a put-down. I reminded her about the class discussion they'd had about religion, where Sara had announced with a wicked grin, "We're heathens!"

Stifled creativity? I think not.

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:52 AM:

Something about opinions and assholes...

Seriously, we all have opinions about how to raise kids. Even those of us with no kids of our own, because we were raised once. When we see parents making the same mistakes (or even committing the same crimes) our parents made with us...well, it feels wrong not to speak up.

I realize you're not talking about outright abuse, but where to draw that line is something about which even reasonable people may disagree. Unreasonable people disagree even more! Does the guy who was outraged to see kids with no mittens feel the same way I do when I see a mother deliberately twist her 4-year-old's wrist while yelling at him to stop crying right now? I don't know.

I try not to say anything, I really do. But sometimes...

BTW, my friend Laura refers to "drive-by"ers collectively as "the Bad Mommy Brigade."

#13 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:53 AM:

Very few people have ever given me drive-by advice on parenting, even though (as it turns out), I've been the stay-at-home parent. And to be more specific about it, I don't believe a *father* has ever given me drive-by parenting advice. I think it's because dads are under the opinion that giving drive-by parental advice falls under the same category as "questioning the other guy's manhood," and unless you want to get caught in a throw-down, you pass on that drama. Also, dads are generally aware that society sees them as the more irresponsible parent, and one doesn't want to be the pot calling the kettle black.

#14 ::: hanne ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:58 AM:

Last weekend I went to a children's museum with my partner and a pair of friends of ours and our friends' two small children.

While playing with the 5-year old member of the pack, the two of us interacting with some exhibit or other, a woman we didn't know marched right up and very snottily informed me that "You know, your being so overweight sets a very bad example for your child."

To which my five-year-old friend replied "That's not my mom."

The snotty woman retreated. I talked with my 5-year-old pal about the interaction and she said "Only rude people say stuff like that. I don't like rude people."

A wise little girl indeed.

#15 ::: Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:00 PM:

I don't see anything surprising about this. Any subject on which people have strong opinions is going to lead to snippiness and defensive outrage/hurt on the part of the recipient. You see it with politics, if you hang out with politically-engaged people; you see it with XML syndication formats, if you hang out with XML syndication format-engaged people; and you see it with parenting, if you hang out with parents.

The only thing that makes it seem weird is that there seems to be some belief that parents (or, especially, mothers) should all be united in their interests rather than bitterly divided by ideology, the same way that Democrats and Republicans or RSSians and Atomists are.

#16 ::: Adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:05 PM:

Suzanne: I must be right behind you most of the time. It is a very, very small web.

I think your point about the incredible emotional investment and inherent insecurity making motherhood a ripe target for drive-bys is a valid one. And I do think it is specifically a motherhood phenomenon. Which isn't to say that dads don't have a special kind of guilt-trip reserved just for them, just that it's a different thing -- and seems to not be as socially acceptable.

Mothering drive-bys do start when you are visibly with child. For me, the question was always "you're not going back to work after the baby's born, are you?" The question was always asked as if I were a shrew for even pondering a return to the office. If I handled nuclear waste for a living, I might have given some thought to opting out. But I'm a writer/editor, for Scribner's sake, and it's not a particularly hazardous profession. (Physically, that is. Psychologically is a different thing.)

What always ticked me off was the no one ever asked my husband the same question. Nor do they every ask him who takes care of the kids while he's at work. Nor is his choice to work outside the home cause for scorn and derision, Nor is he ever singled out for handing off his spawn for someone else to raise. I, however, am a fair target for all of this. And have had to deal with all of this, almost constantly, from strangers, for the last four years.

Two ideas I'd like to toss out--

1. The hard-core feminist in me wants to blame backlash against women having more options now. For centuries, we've been conditioned to hate on each other if we make decisions that affect the status quo. I have no doubts that suffragettes caught crap from other women -- as did divorcees and ERA advocates. I don't know the root cause of this, but suspect that there are many causes, each linked. IMO.

2. The advice I give to anyone who is pondering kids is to find two books -- one that is a good guide (with pictures and charts) to all of the random illnesses and rashes that can infect a child; one is a "parenting" book whose advice you can live with. Toss everything else out. Trust your gut. And, no, you won't do it perfectly. There is no perfect.

(Note: this isn't to say that you should do things to your kid that are actively dangerous because your gut says its OK. Common sense should also be allowed some input.)

Also, parents -- moms especially -- should find a group of other moms who are of a like mind. That doesn't mean that everyone should agree on breastfeeding or co-sleeping, just that each mom is willing to accept the ideas of another. Which isn't to say that the same group of moms should keep their mouth shut when faced with a situation that sounds actively ill-advised (like, say, only giving breast milk and no solids until the kid is two). Just that everyone understands that everyone going to do the parenting thing a little differently and that, largely, the details don't matter that much.

As for the moms who thrive on drive-bys, they have their own little world where I hope they are happy. They don't need to receive any additional validation by having an effect in my little world. My little world, granted, isn't perfect, but I also don't expect it to be. It is life, not art, and you can't control every last variable.

#17 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:09 PM:

My mantra is, "Not my kid, not my call." It doesn't cover actual abuse, but the "apple juice and no mittens" stuff over at Chez Miscarriage is right in there.

Madeleine and LizT, I really want kids like yours.

#18 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:09 PM:

A heinous variant of this drive-by is the variety that is directed at the child in question. I used to get snippy comments from people who would opine that my parents' decision to have one child was tantamount to abuse (I'm not exaggerating - the mother of one boyfriend actually used the term "abused" to describe only children).

One woman who had just met me and was going through the litany of, "I don't know what to say to kids, so I'll ask her her age, what grade she is in school, and how many siblings she has," went from being friendly and inquiring to cold and nasty when she found out I had no sibs. Her exact quote was, "Oh, then you're a spoiled brat."

Being 12, and having had my fill of this kind of stuff, I shot back, "Well, you're rude. What's your excuse?"

#19 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:14 PM:

It's definitely a mileage variant situation - a mother on the beach at Coney Island got mad at me when I told her that the papers were reporting washed-up hypodermics because, you know, it wasn't my business if her kids had shoes on or not.

#20 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:29 PM:

Thanks very much for the pointer -- I'll pass this on to my wife, who's expecting in four weeks, and is already learning that some people won't wait until she's become a mother before they start criticizing her about it.

#21 ::: Nabil ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:49 PM:

It feels to me like they heard about Clinton's book, "It Takes a Village", and took the title as validation to interfere in other people's lives.

Kids are far more resilient than people give them credit. Do the best you can. 9 times out of 10, that's enough to get them to adulthood in some semblance of sanity.

#22 ::: Sal ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:54 PM:

Criticisms from the Bad Mommy Brigade would have no effect if it weren't for our inherent worries that perhaps we are doing something wrong. The guys are in their twenties now and reassure us that we did just fine. They like who they are. They tell us they've heard some very weird tales from friends about other families' dysfunctions. I still wish I'd baked more chocolate chip cookies, though, and could undo some of the choices I made. But they're happy with their childhoods and themselves so maybe I should just let go of the if-onlys.

My favorite drive-by happened at a PTA luncheon. I'll be generous and say that perhaps one too many glasses of Chardonnay before lunch had freed Mrs. B from her inhibitions. On hearing that his nibs and I have different last names, she went into a tirade about people with different last names and how she assumes they aren't married and how it is absolutely terrible for people to have children out of wedlock, unfair to the children, failing society, and on and on. The look on my face must've been the one I use when I poke at a stink bug or millipede. You know the one, the oh-what-have-we-got-here look.

She asked, "Well, what do you think of that?"

I answered, "It's your problem, Nancy, not mine."

She spluttered and didn't talk to me for the rest of the meal. Oh, well!

#23 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 12:56 PM:

One of the many reasons parenthood is not right for me is this "drive-by" phenomenon. Here's the thing; while I may grumble to myself later about parenting, the fact of the matter is IT's NONE OF MY BUSINESS!!! Really, the fact that (fpr example) someone's feeding their 1-year old french fries or doesn't affect my life one bit. I think it's probably a bad idea to get the kids started on fast food that early, I may rant to a friend later about how my parents both worked blah blah blah homemade meals woof woof bark bark, but I would never dream of approaching the parent in question. Not because every parent is different, every kid is different and there's no "perfect" way to parent (although all of this is true) but because it is RUDE.

The two exceptions to my general "leave the parents alone" policy have been :

1.) When parents thought the bookstore was a great place to drop off their young kids (bookstores may have an inviting children's section, but their staff is busy shelving books, not watching young ones.)

2.) Those awful parents at WizardCon many years ago who decided that a cafeteria table where people were eating was the proper place to change their infant's poopy diaper. The bathrooms, at least the ladies', were never crowded.

Sorry, if you abandon your kid in a public place or expose a hungry nerd to feces, you are more than deserving of a "Drive By".

Feeding your kid apple juice, late bedtimes, breastfeeding, not breastfeeding, SAHM, working outside the home, not having mittens (am I the only one who remebers having to wear mismatched socks on my hands after losing one too many pair of mittens?) being fat, mixing stripes and patterns, etc. are NONE OF MY - OR ANYONE ELSE'S - BEESWAX!

#24 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:00 PM:

Drive-bys don't stop when the kids grow up. In college, my brother studied theater and I studied English. My mother got lots of grief about our majors from her friends and colleagues. "How can you let them study such impractical subjects? Aren't you worried about them moving back in when they can't find jobs?" My mother would reply, "They're adults. I can't tell them what to do."

She had no end of fun around 2001, when all their computer science major kids moved back home after getting laid off. Meanwhile, her kids are actually making money at theater and writing and have always paid their own bills.

Success is always the best revenge.

#25 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:01 PM:

Jill - Would you believe, on the subject of only children, "drive-by hypothetical mothering-to-be"?

Me: "Well, we aren't trying for kids, but if we ever decide to, it'll be just one. That's all I think we can handle."

Other (A): "Oh, you can't have just one! The poor thing will be lonely..."

Other (B): "Oh, trust me, you won't stop at one. You'll want another, you wait and see."

Other (C): "Why aren't you trying for kids right now? You're nearly 30! You'll never feel ready, so you might as well jump in now before it's too late and you regret it."

We won't discuss (C). Well, I won't. Dumbschmuck.

In the case of (B) - what, kids are like potato chips? No one can eat just one?

And in the case of (A), my husband and I came from the two different sides of being one-of-two; I was the older sibling in my family, and he was the younger. We are selfishly reluctant to go through what our parents had to, what with constant referreeing of sibling rivalry, and we would also like to spare our hypothetical kid the stress, the inevitable injustices, the comparisons, etc. (Plus there's the negative-population-growth angle.

Does that mean we think that people who have more than one are inflicting trauma on their kids? Hell no. Nor do we think our hypothetical kid would necessarily thank us for the decision. But it is our decision, right? Some experiments you're allowed to make, because, face it, it's all experiments. You take those risks you feel you can afford, and, frankly, if the kid ends up feeling sad to have never had a sibling, that's not exactly life-scarring abuse.

"But they'll be lonely..." That's an argument that works for indoor cats, OK, not humans. And even with cats, mileage varies.

Oh, and speaking of which, there are drive-by pet owners. "Why aren't your cats fat? Do you starve them?" ... "Why do you scold your cat for being on the table? That's mean." ... "You mean you cook actual meat for your cat's regular meals? You're spoiling them!" ... "You walk them on a leash? You're trying to turn them into dogs or something?" ... At least with pets there isn't the niggling suspicion that if you're wrong the world will end. We love them to death, but drive-by pet owners just don't, at least for us, evoke the same sense of personal inadequacy and suspicions that we are quite possible causing the world to end that I suspect drive-by mothers cause y'all what've got actual human kids.

Even more so, ditto drive-by writing opinions from non-writers. Y'all get those? "Oh, you're writing a book? You should try to get [InsertNameHere] to publish it. They publish goot books." One day someone the name inserted there will be PunishAmerica, er, Publish, I mean, and not a judge in the country will convict me for what ensues.

And so it goes...

#26 ::: Sal ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:12 PM:

And in the case of (A), my husband and I came from the two different sides of being one-of-two; I was the older sibling in my family, and he was the younger. We are selfishly reluctant to go through what our parents had to, what with constant referreeing of sibling rivalry, and we would also like to spare our hypothetical kid the stress, the inevitable injustices, the comparisons, etc. (Plus there's the negative-population-growth angle.

I was raised number four of six with all of the lost-in-the-middle-shuffle issues. Now, in my fifties, I am the oldest of three. His nibs was an only.

My family is less dysfunctional than most, but there are times when you'd think we were forty years younger than we are with the way we can push buttons or remember past slights. His nibs watches the family dynamics and says, "I'm so glad I was an only child."

#27 ::: Andrhia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:13 PM:

I've been sending all of my friends to CM since the day that first post went up. That whole series has been very eye-opening to me regarding how very judgemental *I* am. I never even knew it! There I was, thinking uncharitable thoughts about even my own friends, and over issues that are really so insignificant, if you use just a grain of perspective. I guess, though, that parenting is such a high-stakes game that even small decisions take on disproportionate huge meaning. Like --

Not putting a hat on my daughter means I don't care if she's cold and dies of exposure, right? Not making sure she eats some of her broccoli at dinner tonight means I don't care if she dies at a young age of cancer and obesity-driven heart failure all at once.... right?

After this whole thing, though, I'm becoming a lot more comfortable with my own parenting practices. Let's face it, I don't even live up to my own ideals. Maybe it's time for me to reasses exactly where they came from in the first place.

#28 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:31 PM:

I've been following that thread too. (I was unexpectedly but pleasantly surprised to see you take this thread up...two of my favourite blogs, but priorly unconnected in my mind.)

I personally make a distinction between the person who comments sight-unseen on a behaviour that has in no way affected them, and the person who is attempting to correct a person (who just happens to be a parent) who has breached some kind of societal etiquette or allowed their children to breach said etiquette.

The example above of the parents who changed poopy diapers on a public eating table when the women's bathroom (and presumably the mens) was uncrowded and undoubtedly a better venue for such activity--THAT warranted a drive-by, or a polite correction of some kind.

The person who gives you what-for for being unmarried, for choosing to adopt, for choosing to have twins implanted, for letting your kids read Edward Gorey's Gashleycrumb Tinies as their first alphabet book--THOSE PEOPLE are dispensing unwanted and unwarranted advice and should be subjected to cold-eyed basilisk stares that let them know that their own behaviour has violated acceptable bounds.

#29 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:33 PM:

Do fathers ever have to deal with this? I don't think anyone ever told my father he was doing it wrong. Maybe the common assumption is that father's don't know what the hell they're doing anyway...

#30 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:37 PM:

She spluttered and didn't talk to me for the rest of the meal. Oh, well!

Why the "Oh, well!"? Sounds like an ideal response to me!

At the other extreme of this kind of thing are the parents who think no one has any right to criticize their kids but them. Sorry, if your kid is screaming (and screaming and screaming, apparently just for the pure joy of it) and you don't care, I'm going to tell her to cut it out. Loudly and sternly. And if she cries that's your goddam problem.

Gee, etiquette says I should talk to you ("Please, your child is disturbing me. Could you ask her to be quiet?")? Tough. Etiquette says I shouldn't have to, because you should deal with it before it becomes a problem. Also, I've found that technique to be ineffective at best. Being yelled at (metaphorically) by a stranger is damn startling to the average kid, and parents approached in that fashion often act like you're doing a drive-by. No, I'm not, goddam it!

The difference is whether it IS my business. If your kid is driving me up the wall in the airport gate lounge, I have a right to speak up. Not "you're a bad parent for letting your kid run wild," but "please don't let your kid run wild right now, it's driving me crazy."

And actually, there are cases when an outright drive-by is, if not justified, at least excusable. The dad who used the stroller - with kid on board - to stop the subway doors from closing comes to mind. Is it permissible to speak up in that case? He didn't think so, even though the person who spoke up was the conductor.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:39 PM:

PiscusFiche, great minds.

#32 ::: Carrie's Mom ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:39 PM:

I am proud of the way my kids turned out!

Mother in law drive by - picked up a 3-4 year old on a 60 degree day in the south - "why doesn't this child have a t-shirt on? He/she will be cold!"

Of course at 54, she still asks me if I'm not cold when I go barefoot, as I do all the time!

#33 ::: Andrhia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:46 PM:

Xopher: Speaking as a parent, here, I'm with you all the way. If my child were throwing a fit, and a *stranger* came and told her to cut it out, it'd give a lot more weight to my explanation that she is being very rude and bothering other people. (I imagine some of it is delivery -- "Please be quiet, I can't hear my friend," in a stern voice is one thing, and "Stupid brat, STFU" is something else again.)

Of course, we also belong to the school of thought where you remove the tantruming child from the restaurant/store/whatever, anyhow. This isn't a parenting question to me at all, so much as a "how to honor the social contract" one.

#34 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:47 PM:

Nicole: Jill - Would you believe, on the subject of only children, "drive-by hypothetical mothering-to-be"?

Oh, heck yes. My husband and I have always said that if we have kids (which is a big "if" and is subject to all its own drive-by wonders and snarky commentary), we would only have one. I have received similar comments on the inadvisability of having one (sure to be lonely/psychotic/spoiled) kid - even from people who know I am an only.

I also received your terribly un-helpful advice C.) from my doctor when I turned 30. I wasn't even DATING anyone at the time. I remember going out to my car, sitting there for a few minutes, saying, "Okay then," out loud, and then bursting into tears.

#35 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 01:48 PM:

I followed the link to the Things I am learning..." post, I laughed myself sick at "Why don't you stick a cork in that shriek hole?"

God, I'm laughing again just typing it.

As the SAHD, I rarely get drive-bys. But my mother-in-law laid one on my over Christmas when she asked me when we were going to cut my son's hair (he's three and he's never had a hair cut. He doesn't want one, so what's the big deal?)

I told her we would cut it when he wanted to have it cut. She said, in sarcastic tone: "Well! You sure are showing parental control!"

I wish I'd heard of "shriek holes" back then.

#36 ::: Kiwi Carlisle ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:01 PM:

I'm not a Mom, but sometimes I just lose it. About the only drivebys I can recall making are these--the woman who was smoking right into her newborn's face, the woman right in front of me in a long line who was allowing her four year old to scream non-stop, and the one who was allowing her five year old to hit her and call her a "ho" in the grocery store. There are some things no civilized human should have to put up with in public.

#37 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:02 PM:

She said, in sarcastic tone: "Well! You sure are showing parental control!"

We thought it would be a nice innovation if one generation of this family knew how to pick their battles?

#38 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:12 PM:

Heh. My mom still gets the drive-bys, mostly about my brother (although maybe she just doesn't tell me about mine) "You're going to let him get married in the county courthouse?!" was the last one.

Some of my judgementalism went away after ranting that I didn't like the way someone was raising their kids. Mom gently reminded me that if I wanted a kid raised according to my specifications, I could have my own. (doesn't keep me from shuddering at the thought of my cousin's kid not having any books!)

However, Xopher is right on with one of my peeves - unruly kids in inappropriate venues. While I think privately it's probably a bad idea to take a three year old to a rated R movie, the greater sin is that I have to hear your three year old, and I will say something. Of course, I feel the same way about adults making noise in those venues as well.

Besides, has saying to the "offending" parent "If your children aren't wearing hats at all times, you are a lousy parent" ever worked? Other than whatever hood was attached to my coat, I don't recall ever wearing a hat. Between that and the sock mittens, it's a marvel that I didn't fall over dead of frostbite and parental neglect!

#39 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:13 PM:

Oy. The joys of parenthood. Actually, parenthood is great -- we've loved it. But yeah, drive-bys. Like my dad, when we decided to homeschool my daughter for a year. Said maybe she could just drop out at 12 and get married, like the Amish. Um, yeah, dad, my wife has a doctorate in theoretical physics and I run two businesses online programming and translating from German to English. We're prime candidates for illiterate children, thanks for the confidence, father o' mine.

Or when we went to Hungary and didn't have our two-year-old wear a hat regardless of weather when outside. Because this was summer! Old ladies would come up to us in the subway and lecture us for minutes at a time. I thought it was kind of funny, since my Hungarian wasn't too hot at the time. My wife, though (as a Hungarian) was not amused. For some reason she just doesn't see Budapest as the exotic foreign city that it obviously is...

But random people (not just old ladies in Budapest, one expects this of them) coming up to you and being as incredibly rude as these anecdotes? I must be leading a sheltered life.

#40 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:15 PM:

Harry - Wow, that would have made me mad to spitting. I am sure that there are many aspects of child-rearing in which it is prudent to show "parental control". Hair length isn't exactly one of them. *snort*

A couple of folks in my husband's gaming group (D&D, mostly), they have two kids, a boy and a girl, neither of whom I think have ever had haircuts and both of which have it died lovely shades of blue and green. First time I came over, I mistook the boy for a girl, and my husband had to correct me. And, you know, that's fine. You are not obliged to make sure that the rest of the ininvolved world knows your child's gender. Does the doctor know he's a boy? Good! You're done.

Jill - I'm so sorry. I wish I could have been there to hug you, tell you "Wait right there a moment," then walk back into the office and punch your doctor in the mouth. There is a line between "This is a medical reality" and "I'm going to tell you what choice you should make given the medical reality," and people who cross it make me livid.

I don't do this often enough, but I would like to publically thank my mother for never pressuring me to have kids. Her attitude is that there is never a logically determined "right time" to have kids, it makes no rational sense to do it, so if you haven't gone that special sort of crazy that inspires you to procreate, no one has any right to tell you to do so. Plus, some of her siblings are now grandmothers, so her Doting On Grandchildren urge is fulfilled without my having to lift a finger; that's gotta help.

#41 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:17 PM:

Teresa and getupgrrl, two great bloggers who ought to be connected! I'm glad you linked there.

I'm a terrifying five weeks away from my due date, so of course I've been following those Chez Miscarriage threads with rapt attention. I'm probably naive, but I just can't imagine someone saying those things to me. Do they really? I mean, really?

Well, okay. My stepmother-in-law does. She and I have already had a heated argument about whether a baby who hasn't even been born yet, much less had the chance to misbehave, ought to be spanked. (Trying for middle ground, when she mentioned parents getting hotlined for sending their child to school with "a little bruise," I said that I hoped we could all agree that a spanking that left bruises had gone too far. Not at all, she told me, because "some children bruise very easily.")

And we had an appalling fight about sudden infant death syndrome in the middle of a Babies R Us store, with her telling me that I should have "mother's intuition" that tells me modern research recommendations for SIDS prevention are completely wrong. I was finally reduced to robotically repeating: "You raised your kids your way, and we're going to raise our kids our way."

But I thought it was just her. Is everyone going to give me that stuff once the Li'l Critter makes her appearance? Please say no.

I really don't understand what it is about childbirth and parenting choices that makes so many women elevate them to almost-religious significance. For example, the woman who posted on an online message board that her birth was "ruined" because her baby was taken out of her arms for ten minutes' worth of medical treatment. How did that get invested with so much importance that it could spoil the day her child was born? Is it hormonal?

#42 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:20 PM:

Only once of these top 3 times did I directly criticize a parent. I have a high threshhold for the right of a parent to make terribly bad decisions in their own household, up to the clear and present point of absolute child endangerment.

#3: the parents in a Hawaiian ice-smoking dolphin cult who, for utopian ideological reasons, never used the words "no", "don't", or "stop" to their singularly lunatic tantrum-throwing child who grabbed other kid's toys and hit those others.

#2: the late 1960s Berkeley commune which included a swollen-belly (kwashiorkor?) child who kept saying that he was hungry. "You can't be hungy," one of his mothers said. "You just had some Holy Bread." The commune fed homeless in Berkeley, but seemed to be damaging their own. I tried smuggling him a candy bar from my backpack. He screamed "white sugar!" turned pale, and ran away.

#1: the mothers whom, during the Altadena-Malibu fires a decade ago, which did roughly $1 billion damage, were pushing stroller and baby carriages uphill TOWARDS THE FIRE only a block away. Since, as the local member of Altadena Town Council, I'd had myself deputized by the fire marsahll, I pointed out that baby's lungs could not handle the smoke, and that I was empowered to arrest them. They went a few yards downhill, and started smoking joints and drinking beers while watching my neighbors' homes burn.

Up to that point, it is just Not My Business.

#43 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:27 PM:

I have to say that "you should have intuition that agrees with me" is one of the more bizarre things I've heard lately. One of the key things about intuition is that it's individual.

Sorry, Rivka, but it's true. Steel yourself now. Of course, that doesn't mean your SMIL isn't a nutbar. ("Some children bruise very easily" indeed! Yes, if your child is more fragile than other children you have to handle hir more carefully!)

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:34 PM:

JvP, I think you should have reported #2 to the authorities. Not done a drive-by on the parents, no: they were clearly beyond reach. Just rescue the kid. Child Protective Services or whoever.

#45 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:34 PM:

To be fair, there are some other things going on with the weird things people say to parents (yeah, mainly mothers), besides meddlesome contemptuous self-righteousness.

The most important thing, I think, is the primal primate urge to interact with the baby-mom thing. Like the chimps who all have to touch the new baby chimp's head. One it's mostly verbal for us because we're mostly verbal, and it goes on forever because so does childhood for us.

Another thing is that baby rearing talk is an automatic conversation and you don't have to dream up a subject (hmm, the Sims ought to have little baby icons in the conversation bubbles).

And another thing -- well, I've gotten good advice, praise, and pleasant observation on a drive-by basis, too. A nice old lady waxed all nostalgic when I was at the bus stop with my firstborn all wrapped up on my chest in a snugli -- "carry him like that and he'll never leave you" (well, he is still mostly around at almost 26, but I think med school will change that next year) -- and then said that when I got caught outside when the sun was strong I could spread a handkerchief over his head to protect him.

That was nice. I still feel good remembering it.

And the person who gives you the wry, sympathetic, encouraging little glance when your four-year-old gives up the ghost in a grocery store because it's six-thirty and you just got off work and picked him up at day care, and it's a really loud and embarrassing meltdown: the one who says, "Yeah, it's such a hard time of day, isn't it?"

I try to be that one.

#46 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:34 PM:

If your kid is driving me up the wall in the airport gate lounge, I have a right to speak up. Not "you're a bad parent for letting your kid run wild," but "please don't let your kid run wild right now, it's driving me crazy."

...the greater sin is that I have to hear your three year old, and I will say something.

Because God forbid you should hear a sound you don't like.

Xopher, I've had my son (then two) throw a balls-out screaming tantrum at the airport ticketing counter. There was no way to both collect our tickets for our flight and stop his screaming. If you have some way I could have silenced his tantrum short of throttling him unconscious, I'd be pleased to hear about it.

The world has noisy things in it. Sometimes those noises are unavoidable and inconvenient. That's life.

#47 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:46 PM:

Rivka: It happens to my spouse and I all of the time.

Hair-style is the big one. Dylan, who is ten, had a mohawk for a time and is now growing his hair long. We always respond with the choosing-our-battles line.

We also get sniped with: (a) lack o' church; (b) lack o' homophobia, and other purportedly criminal leftish indoctrination; (c) working mom/primary caretaker dad; and (d) lack o' the "right kind" of censorship, particularly regarding Dylan's choices in music.

And a fellow hockey-mom was appalled, and expressed that feeling at length, when she found out we are taking Dylan to see Green Day in May.

#48 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:51 PM:

Interesting thread. I read that newsweek article a week ago or so, and posted it to our mom list. Most objected to the condescending tone. I thought the good part of the article was that it called for more social support for parenting, but nobody seems to notice that part. *pout*

Anyway, since I'm a natural-birth, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, work-outside-the-home, "let strangers raise my kids", never had a babysitter in the house, will yell, threaten to spank (and have on a few occasions) kind of mom -- I usually end up feeling uncomfortable in either camp of the Stay at home vs Work Full-time mommy wars.

But then I don't get that many drive-bys. Maybe people in PA are more polite than elsewhere? Or maybe it's because our family is asian and most of the drive-by brigade doesn't really care about crazy foreigners. That's more likely. It's the "inscrutable oriental" look that I give them.

2. The advice I give to anyone who is pondering kids is to find two books -- one that is a good guide (with pictures and charts) to all of the random illnesses and rashes that can infect a child; one is a "parenting" book whose advice you can live with.

Word!
For the first I have something called Caring for your child from birth to age five -- has symptoms, decision charts and everything. Very cool.
For number two -- I haven't really found one book, but The Good Enough Child is a good book about the whole "it's ok not to be perfect" thing. (I like The Baby Book by the Sears couple, but it can get preachy. I loathe the What to expect books.)

#49 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:52 PM:

This "only child" thing... I have to confess it passes me by. I mean, sure, single-child families are more common now than they were a generation or two back (although I suspect so are two-child families). Is there an assumption that, therefore, it must be some modish modern parenting fad, and therefore A Bad Idea?

But, really. Siblings are important, hmm? Kids need siblings to be raised right, else Dread Psychological Damage occurs? Sure, I'm fond of my brother, and it'd have been different growing up without him; I didn't have a sister, though, and maybe I'd have turned out less of an Arrogant Male if I had. Maybe my parents should have had three kids. But, I mean, having two brothers and no sisters is kind of the same, all that Evil Loneliness. So, four, so she could have had a sister too! It's only fair, else you're hurting the child so. Hmm. Four kids, ~37.5% chance of two of each. Better plan for six! Um.

#50 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:55 PM:

There are drive by pet owners, at least when it comes to snakes.

I have been guilty, if guilty is the word, of telling people they need to get full-spectrum UV lights for thier lizards.

If they don't get full-spectrum UV, they die, so I don't think it really counts.

I have asked people if they have it, because it is one of the most overlooked/unknown aspects of keeping lizards.

TK

#51 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 02:56 PM:

the one who says, "Yeah, it's such a hard time of day, isn't it?"
I try to be that one.

Lucy, the more I read your posts, the more I like you. :)


#52 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:04 PM:

I'm a terrifying five weeks away from my due date

Rivka,
Congrats! And you'll be fine.
Mothering is so intense. It's taught me at least two things-- one is that I can't control everything, and that eventually, things change. (For example, one does actually get to sleep again after several months.)
:)

#53 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:05 PM:

Since part of the post responded to is mine, I'll toss back my 2 cents:

I paid $11 to see a movie, I don't want to hear your/your kid talking, screaming or tantrum-having. If that starts happening, I assume you can remove your self/your kid from the theatre. No one is required by law to go to the movies, and to continue a disruption is rude when it is easily avoidable (i.e. by either not bringing a drunk adult/shouty kid in the first place, or by removing the problem when it arises.)

I am not unsympathetic with parents of noisy children. They're kids; that's what they do. I don't admonish or glare balefully at them when someone has a candy-aisle meltdown or squeals with glee over the latest Barbie offering. If it bugs me, I'll move. But in my specific example, I was talking about paying to be in a place with the expectation that I will enjoy the entertainment with few distractions.

Incidentally, one of the best audiences I've watched a movie with was the 90% kid audience for Harry Potter II. The worst was the 40% adult viewing of Harry Potter I: the kids were great, but the adults behaved abominably!

#54 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:08 PM:

Adrienne: Suzanne: I must be right behind you most of the time. It is a very, very small web.

Maybe we're all just in a great big virtual conga line, snaking our way in beautiful chaos through all the intelligent sites on the web.


#55 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:18 PM:

Xopher, I've had my son (then two) throw a balls-out screaming tantrum at the airport ticketing counter. There was no way to both collect our tickets for our flight and stop his screaming. If you have some way I could have silenced his tantrum short of throttling him unconscious, I'd be pleased to hear about it.

I'm tempted to respond "would throttling him unconscious have been so wrong?" But that would be nasty, and of course I don't really feel that way.

This is yet another reason I should interact directly with the child, which is what I was saying. Read my posts again. If you just can't deal with the kid because you don't have the arms of Kali and the attention of MultiVac, no one will be more sympathetic than me. I used to keep a handpuppet in my carryon, so that I could distract or amuse fussy children on planes if their parents were at the end of their rope. Didn't always work, but sometimes was a lifesaver.

In the case you describe, I might have tried to do something to help, might have offered to e.g. hold something while you dealt with the child etc., and certainly would not have complained. If you can't do anything you lose the obligation to do anything. Of course.

I was talking about parents who are just. sitting. there, whose philosophy seems to be that if they just ignore their kids, they become invisible and inaudible. These parents weren't being frazzled, or running out of hands or rope or whatever. They just didn't care that their children were disturbing others. That's not OK. Period.

#56 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:18 PM:

Nicole - thanks. I sent your hug back in time to my 30-year-old self. :-)

FWIW, after crying, I did drive around for a while, feeling kind of blank and hollow, and then called my best friend. She got plenty angry on my part and told me my doc was a jerk. Shortly after that appointment, I got a letter from doc saying she was leaving private practice and going into research. Probably a good idea.

#57 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:27 PM:

Do fathers ever have to deal with this? I don't think anyone ever told my father he was doing it wrong. Maybe the common assumption is that father's don't know what the hell they're doing anyway...

Another explanation might be found by analogy to the bumper sticker about people being more opposed to fur than leather because it's safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs.

It's more socially appropriate (or at least less inappropriate) for men to tell annoying people to get stuffed than it is for women to do the same. Particularly in the sort of world view that leads to thinking drive-bys are a good idea in the first place.

#58 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:33 PM:

...the greater sin is that I have to hear your three year old, and I will say something.

Because God forbid you should hear a sound you don't like.

I don't mean to jump into an unpleasantness, but aren't there times and places that those of us who don't have children can go without being subjected to cranky children?

I'm thinking specifically of restaurants. Is it unreasonable for me to go to a restaurant (one with a bar) on a Friday night, and expect not to deal with (ie see and hear) children having fits and running around?

If I go to a family restaurant, I'm going to expect that there are going to be kids there, and expect that not all those kids are going to be well-behaved. But aren't there some times and places where I should be able to have an expectation of not having to listen to a toddler having a screaming fit?

#59 ::: Irina ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:36 PM:

I've probably had many more drivebys than I remember, but the one that stands out most clearly is this: I was in the town centre, doing some shopping behind the twin buggy, and the twins were cranky (I think one or both had a cold); some women I didn't know behind me were commenting along the lines of "she must have a very hard time with those twins, poor thing!" Then I turned around and said "yes, and I've got a two-year-old with chicken pox at home too!" That shut them up...

#60 ::: Richard ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:40 PM:

I've had very few parenting drive-bys. Actually, none that I can remember. I think that being a large, tall, middle-aged man with a little kid in tow just silences a lot of that stuff, because lord knows I've done enough of the usual stupid things with my kid in public to push *somebody's* buttons.

I'll bet women get a lot more drive-bys than men, but that may be pure bullpucky. What do you think?

#61 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:41 PM:

I was a witness to a mother-daughter subtextual-hypothetical drive-by-like conversation, on the way to a flea market in the back seat of their vehicle. The argument was about whether it is possible to own "nice things" (which we were on the way to the flea market to peruse) when you have children. At first it surprized me that it was the mother who was in favor of having both, while the daughter was convinced that the childern would destroy the antiques. I realized only later that the converstion wasn't about the practicality of owning antiques.

#62 ::: Andrhia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 03:55 PM:

Ditto with Xopher on the difference between the frazzled parent and the one who simply isn't paying any attention. Well explained. :)

Michelle and cellist, I think you're right to expect that wise parents shouldn't bring ill-mannered children to adult venues -- be that Chris Rock's latest standup routine, a showing of Nightmare on Elm Street XVIII, or Chez Chang, the hottest Asian-French fusion restaurant in town. On the other hand, some parents have reported getting the evil eye on bringing well-behaved and older kids to these places. Augh.

Also, the line between well-behaved and not can be tricky. When my daughter was a pretty new infant, we were comfortable with taking her to a number of adult-type locales because we knew she'd sleep through the whole thing. I once got the major evil eye at the Hayden Planetarium for bringing my girl in, and the party in question very pointedly migrated to another set of seats. She was around 7 months old, and, yep, didn't make a single peep during the whole show. So... part of it is knowing your children and their tolerances.

Then one day we couldn't do that any more, and only found out the hard way, when we took her someplace she'd been fine a dozen times before and just was not fine THIS time, thank you. Does this mean we were wrong for bringing her to that restaurant, in the face of all of our prior experiences?

I guess me point is that parenting is such a guessing game, sometimes. Wouldn't it be great if all children behaved well all the time? Sure! I bet that would get rid of a lot of the drive-by nonsense, too. Part of the problem, of course, is that children have minds of their own. Minds that have ideas in them. Like "I WANT THAT COOKIE RIGHT NOW."

#63 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 04:01 PM:

Here's my question. If kids are always to be restricted to kid-only venues, doesn't that make it harder for them to learn to behave in polite, adult company? *Mentally compares Pinoy society to US society*
Hm, actually, that explains a lot.
;P

#64 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 04:10 PM:

Terry, bless you for your "drive-bys". I bet that especially in the world of "exotic" pets there are pet owners who don't really know what they're getting into and need that kind of advice.

In my case, the woman wasn't actually afraid I was starving my cats. She just wanted them to be fat. Everytime she came over, it was like, "Why is Uno so skinny? I want him FAT. If he were mine I'd let him get FAT." Oh. My. Gods. Shut up and frickin' get your own cat. (This is also the same woman who didn't think I should ever tell the cat no.)

I try to live/let live when it comes to pets and kids, but, yes, when the dependent is actually being harmed by its guardian's practices, it's time to speak up. I'm not going to advocate that everyone drop the IAMs/Eukenuba/Purina/etc. and make home-cooked cat food--my cats' digestive needs are not all cats' digestive needs--but I'd probably get in the face of someone attempting to vegetarianize their cat or feed it chocolate.

#65 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 04:11 PM:

But I do suspect this is another area where fannish parents/kids are a little better off. I saw some of the "Mommy drive-bys" in the suburban areas where we've lived and raised our very fannish daughter. We never really fit in there, so we expected it. I've almost never seen that kind of behavior from fans (at least not about stuff that really doesn't matter, like what designer clothes is your kid wearing or how many after school activities is she doing).

#66 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 04:22 PM:

Xopher:

I think that you're right, and I've felt guilty for 3 decades that I delegated this. I told the friend of one of the communards, who'd driven me and my girlfriend there from Pasadena to Berkeley, to intervene with her friend, and then report it to the authorities if no action was taken. I found myself at a seminar with that driver just a couple of weeks ago. The driver is now a well-respected professional Astronomer. I found myself unable to approach said person and ask what happened. I think I was wrong to duck my responsibility, however much I disrespected authority back in the reign of Nixon.

That event deepened my ambivalence about "The Counterculture." I've lived in 2 communes myself, and was 95% happy with their social pragmatism. I laughed, and laugh, at "got to get ourselves back to the gaa-aaa-aarden" neoluddites in airconditioned rooms listening to electronic synthesizers and electric guitars. I've had to adjust my Heinlein/Bertrand Russellesque thoughts on Free Love in the age of HIV, and long ago became a hard-line monogamist. Not insisting that others do so, you know, just what's right for my family. But those who put children at risk, well, got to draw the line.

#67 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 04:41 PM:

Here's my question. If kids are always to be restricted to kid-only venues, doesn't that make it harder for them to learn to behave in polite, adult company?

I don't think kids should be restricted to kids-only venues! There's such a thing as a "Family Restaurant" - to me that means adults and kids, and other mixed venues exist as well. When I go to them I expect kidness. If I can't deal with kidness I avoid them.

As far as polite adult company: yes, absolutely they should be exposed to it. When they're ready. And if they prove not to be ready they should be extracted at once: this provides feedback on their behavior. Framing the game as "how long do I get to stay in the grown-up space" seems like a good idea (non-parent here, just speculating). Maybe it's the Behaviorist in me (tried to wipe him out; no success).

But the key point is that polite adults in polite adult company don't let their kids turn the polite adult company into a kid's game. The kids cannot be allowed to take over, or it ceases to be polite adult company. So whether it's a good idea from the standpoint of raising the kid or not (parents' opinions trump mine on that), the parents have IMO an obligation to the other adults to see that their kids behave or leave.

I'm thinking mostly of nice quiet restaurants here. That sort of thing.

#68 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 04:51 PM:

I don't mean to jump into an unpleasantness, but aren't there times and places that those of us who don't have children can go without being subjected to cranky children?

I'm sorry, but no, there isn't. After the clueless parents of screaming toddlers take over all the restaurants, we'll begin piping the sounds of temper tantrums directly into your homes.

Xopher and nerdycellist, I understand that there are degrees of tantrums and parenting control. No one should ever make noise in a movie theater, IMO and parents should at least try to deal with their misbehaving kids.

What I was reacting to was the way you described the situations that justified drive-bys: Parents taking their kids to R movies. Parents "letting" their kids run wild. Parents who don't care.

It's an extension of the same thing that fuels the drive-bys discussed on that other blog. The difference between those unacceptable ones and the justifiable ones discussed over here is that those other people are objecting to inconsequential harm to the children. Over here the inconsequential harm is suffered by the complainer.

And those parents who ignore their kids? In my mind-blowingly humble experience, the vast majority of those parents have gone beyond the end of their rope and have fallen off. They don't have the tactics to control their kids, and they very likely don't have the help they need. They're worn out and can no longer function as parents.

It's emotional exhaustion that makes a parent take their kids into the presence of other adults and simply let go of their responsibilities.

#69 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:05 PM:

Xopher:
As far as polite adult company: yes, absolutely they should be exposed to it. When they're ready. And if they prove not to be ready they should be extracted at once: this provides feedback on their behavior. Framing the game as "how long do I get to stay in the grown-up space" seems like a good idea (non-parent here, just speculating). Maybe it's the Behaviorist in me (tried to wipe him out; no success).

Wonderfully put, X. As my parenthood is still impending I don't have a lot of authority in this discussion, but what you described is exactly the strategy I intend to try.

#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:05 PM:

Then they should let go of their responsibilities by relinquishing custody of their children.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:06 PM:

My previous comment was to Harry, not Steve.

#72 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:11 PM:

Jill Smith: Shortly after that appointment, I got a letter from doc saying she was leaving private practice and going into research.

Which causes me to wonder whether she had had kids already (in a hurry?), thinking about the hours research might require, or had decided not to have kids and was playing out her decision on you -- which would make her an even worse GP, but people get MDs for all sorts of reasons many of which don't involve caring for people. The research-doctor in Wit is an extreme case but not a fiction; I've worked for his cousin.

#73 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:21 PM:

I think the core issue here is that there are differences in perception of what is a parent/random person's duty in the social contract.

For instance, we have some parents who feel that shrieking by their children in libraries is acceptable behavior. Others politely remove their children when they take this tactic.

There are the above blog'd mentions of the people trying to give helpful advice "If you shift the sling to the other arm, you can carry him/her for longer" and those trying for hurtful advice "You're abusing your child by not having a sibling for them"

There is the issue of the perceived safety risk to the child. I've seen toddlers literally gnawing on power cords before (poor things, teething like crazy) whose parents screamed at me when I snatched the cable out of their child's mouth/hands. Other people view their children as the duty of anyone who is working at a particular location "Why don't you know where my child is?", "Well sir, I have to watch the register and the other customers". If you're in a public place and your child is at perceivable risk, I will do something about it, even if it brings a scold down on me.

The social contract is differently perceived by everyone. I think the best way to deal with these situations is to clearly communicate with people, and attempt to stay away from inflammatory language/expression (kind of like forum behavior).

I treat most children that are mobile as I would adults. If they are banging on the rescue cages or hissing at the terrified cats within, I simply go eye-level with them and ask them kindly stop the behavior. If they continue, I seek the parent or parents and re-iterate. If that continues I seek the site manager. Much the same way I would with a boor at a theatre giving a blow by blow commentary at the top of his/her lungs.

I think the WorldCon thread from last year was a good example on how variant the social contract is different depending on background and upbringing.
Bathing, vocal levels, perfumes, dress, personal space all are highly variant.

Just the rambling of someone who deals with a great cross section of humanity every weekend.

--Dru

#74 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:22 PM:

I've gotten the only child criticisms, too, from the kid end, not from the parent end. I don't know why people are that hostile, except perhaps that we kill their small talk fodder. "And do you have any brothers or sisters?" "No." "Oh. So...how old aren't they? What don't they do?"

I have a hard time telling what's going to be the right "sympathetic adult stranger" thing in a difficult situation. I keep a bubble duck in my purse at all times. It was the most practical thing I packed for WorldCon (half the price of the ones they were selling in Boston), and I've gotten it out in the grocery store line more times than I can count. But I'm not sure how to handle it when I mean to convey sympathy without intervening or seeming condescending. Are there sympathetic lines that aren't likely to sound wrong when a kid is having a meltdown or whatever?

#75 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:34 PM:

I have that same problem, Mris. I want to express sympathy but sometimes parents are MORTIFIED that anyone spoke to them at all, so it's unhelpful.

Sometimes I feel like shouting "Cut that out, you little brat! Do what your mother tells you!"

But I don't. I'm so self-restrained. I appear to have forgotten my "safe" words, unfortunately.

#76 ::: Mel ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:55 PM:

Wow, I didn't know I was lonely, psychotic, and spoiled! I appreciated being able to spend time with my parents, not having siblings who hit me, and not having to worry about how my parents were going to get three kids through college instead of one.

All along, I thought I was a reasonable, thoughtful, happy person with a good work ethic! Gosh, how wrong I was! I never knew I was abused because I didn't have siblings to sit on me and pull my hair and break my toys and call me names!

(I did, however, practically share the siblings of various friends of mine, thus my great fondness for being functionally an only child.)

People are very peculiar.

#77 ::: Hugh Sider ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 05:57 PM:

Wow. Lots of comments I could make, but I'll try to restrict myself. I think parenting is the one thing where everyone has an opinion - after all, most of us _had_ parents - but all parents know that in some ways, we're screwing up. It's a job that is fundamentally impossible to get right.

A few scattered pieces of advice:

- You will get drivebys, even Dads will. Be prepared. Perfect the look that says "volunteering to be axe-murdered, are we?" You know, the one you use on the prosletyzers at your door.

- You will feel like you screw up sometimes. Kids are more robust than you think. Just try not to do it again. (I'm assuming you won't do hideous things, like strapping your child to the roof rack or something.)

- Be prepared to leave adult venues. Sometimes it's the only way. Most restaurants are cool with "I'm sorry, can I have the check and our meals packed to go?" when faced with a screaming child.

- Other people's kids will bother you less. Tired kids in restaurants just don't bother me anymore.

- There will be a point where you decide to "drive-by" yourself. For me, it was watching a ten year old pick out GTA:San Andreas to be purchased by his mom. I didn't tell her she was a bad parent, but I did explain what the ESRB rating was.

The flip side of this is not to be too afraid to give compliments. I still remember the look on one families face when I told the five-year old "thanks for being such a good example for my son."

#78 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 06:03 PM:

(I'm assuming you won't do hideous things, like strapping your child to the roof rack or something.)

You mean...they're not supposed to strap you to the roof rack?

That explains the dirty looks my parents used to get...I think my mom's got some 'splaining to do.

#79 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 06:07 PM:

Xopher -

The puppet on long flights? Is brilliant! I feel like a dummy for not thinking of it.

Harry -

I do think I understand you and you are completely and totally right about the relationship between my peeves and the logic which leads to drive-bys. Maybe I can clarify a little? I'd hate to be lumped in with all of those mitten harpies:

The movie in question is "Red Dragon", which concerns a cannibalistic serial killer - a sequel to the well-known film involving cannibalism, serial killers, and lotion.

What happens: Consisten and terrified screaming during scary parts.

The first thing that goes through my hind-brain is "Argh! Noise! Movie interrupted!! HATE!!!"
After a split second, I notice it's a kid probably around 4 or 5 years old. Another part of my brain feels ashamed that I am directing "hate" at a kid who is responding appropriately. Yet another part of my brain formulates a justification: "what's wrong with his parents, exposing him to this kind of thing!"

The third component is the "drive by" one - it's none of my business, and it is entirely false, but it doesn't make the first any less legitimate.

With people criticizing how long a child sleeps in the same bed with a parent, or whether or not mom breastfeeds, where is that hind-brain response in the critic?

I do think this "you're screwing up - we're all going to die!" concept in parenting is directed mostly at moms. There was just an academic study I read about in the LA Times last month stating that "toddlers with mothers who work outside the home" suffered certain minor developmental delays due to "instability in the household". While I understand instability is undesirable, I found it interesting (and infuriating) that every mention was made of mothers, and none about fathers. I thought we had gotten out of those idiot assumptions years ago.

Socially, maybe the compulsion to criticize mothers for minor deviations in "accepted" parenting practices is related to the consistent criticism - from other women as well as The Media - about women's bodies: If we're thin, we're anorexic, if fat, we must be slothful overeaters, we're so much prettier when we smile, ad nauseum.

Anyway, I wouldn't want to get into an argument about parenting, since I know bugger all about it. :-)

#80 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 06:29 PM:

I still regret one time where I didn't speak up. I ran a weekly film program while in college for no money, which meant I spent a lot of time in various libraries going through film catalogs to see what was available. I remember sitting in the Seattle Public Library going through the suppliment to the film catalog when I noticed a woman and her son at the next table. She was blond, had a German accent, and with the benefits of hindsight looked like the actress who starred in "Ilsa, She-Warden of the SS." Her son was next to her, and with the benefits of hindsight he looked like a ten-year-old Harry Potter.

She was talking to him at a pitch now associated with folks in a bad cell reception area, or perhaps that used while talking to the partially deaf. "No, you've seen that already. That's stupid. I can't believe how stupid you are. Look around the library--none of the children here are as stupid as you. If you can't make a better decision we're going to go home now." And so on.

I still wish I'd told her off. Or hit her on the head with a illustrated history of the Civil War by Matthew Brady...

#81 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 06:31 PM:

Long thread, several comments.

I knew when I was 13 that I didn't want kids of my own, so I try to keep comments to a minimum. The most recent was actually to a kid holding place in line at the grocery store. He was yelling and stomping and then pointed out a woman to me and said "That's my mother." I said "Better her than me."

My half-Mexican cousins had pierced ears right after birth and I was always extremely jealous. I didn't get mine done until I was in my 20s and I've had to have them repierced after each long hospitalization.

I wouldn't have minded being an only child. If I didn't have a younger brother who was shy and didn't handle change well, I would have been free to leave my family much earlier.

#82 ::: acm ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 06:34 PM:

I don't see anything surprising about this. Any subject on which people have strong opinions is going to lead to snippiness and defensive outrage/hurt on the part of the recipient. You see it with politics, if you hang out with politically-engaged people; you see it with XML syndication formats, if you hang out with XML syndication format-engaged people; and you see it with parenting, if you hang out with parents.

It may be that all of these topics are those in which people can be bothered by receiving advise. However, they differ hugely in the social norms about *giving* advice, especially unsolicited. For example, I would often tread very lightly when the conversation with folks I don't really know drifts toward politics, because I have strong feelings, am not necessarily respectful of those whose opinions take a markedly different lean, and [note!] know that political rudeness (or even combative discussion) in a polite social situation is not acceptable. However, it seems that there is no parallel social norm against telling somebody that their childrearing philosophy is suboptimal (read: misguided or even dangerous) just because it differs from your own.

Somehow we understand that people can have different political stances, but there's a feeling that there is only one right way of handling parenthood. And that it's not only not impolite for me to educate you as to the "right" approach, but somehow imperative that I do so.

Very different.

#83 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 06:45 PM:

As the youngest of four, with three older brothers, all I can say about the single vs. multiple kid thing is: siblings are no panacea for loneliness.

And as a non-parent, I try not to say much about other people's kids, even when the parents are friends of mine. I pretty much abide by the general policy others have articulated about the imminent danger vs. annoying behavior distinction, and try to be as sympathetic as possible. The only times I've found myself genuinely angry at kids' behavior was when they were being obnoxiously rude to their parents. Not normal kid sass, but an utter lack of respect. And of course, parents who allow that -- shouldn't.

#84 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 07:57 PM:

"- You will get drivebys, even Dads will. Be prepared."

Well, and again -- have the dads here been given drive-by advice? I have only *very* rarely (maybe once or twice) and then never by men. I don't think it's in the father pathology to offer unsolicited advice; I think it's rather more in the father pathology to ask about someone else's kid as a pretense to brag on one's own ("you kid's doing soccer this year? That's great. You know, my Bobby's been the ace on his soccer team for the last three years.").

#85 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 07:57 PM:

I'm not exactly a stay-at-home dad, but my schedule (weekend overnights) has me taking care of the kids during the week. I haven't experienced much drive-by advice, but I have two responses when it happens:

1. "Thank you" (if there's any reason to be polite, such as that someone has noticed something that I actually hadn't); and

2. Outward silence and turning away, possibly punctuated with A Look, and inward repetition of the words I won't say in front of the kids ("go to hell" or "f*ck off", depending on just how heinous an offense has been committed).

So far, so good.

P.S. I hang in the playground with my kids, and it's not for purpose of picking up the moms there. Just a data point :-)

#86 ::: Adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 08:03 PM:

Mayakda said:
or the first I have something called Caring for your child from birth to age five -- has symptoms, decision charts and everything. Very cool.
For number two -- I haven't really found one book, but The Good Enough Child is a good book about the whole "it's ok not to be perfect" thing. (I like The Baby Book by the Sears couple, but it can get preachy. I loathe the What to expect books.)

I love the *Caring* book. I would like one that makes it even simpler, however, and breaks everything down into three possible responses:
1) Some OTC remedy (Motrin, cough syrup, oatmeal baths) will work just fine.
2) Call your doctor because he/she is the only one who can handle this.
or
3) Call the CDC, burn all the sheets and let no one in your house again ever.
Sometimes, you just need someone to make the choices simple, especially at 3 a.m.
I agree with you on the parenting books, frankly. *What to Expect* is simply evil.

Lucy K: Some of the drive-by mothering I've gotten has been positive, too. Same scenario with the grocery, crabby kid and hairy cat fit. An older woman walked by and said "you're doing a great job, honey. It'll be OK." I nearly hugged her and bought her some ice cream.

Mris: What is a bubble duck? Sounds like something everyone should have in an emergency. As to what an outside adult can say when faced with a screaming child not their own? A silly face -- aimed at the kid, not the parent -- can be enough of a distraction that the kid stops screaming long enough to figure out who that wacky person is and if they can be convinced to make the face again. Also in this category are things like small hand magic (coin tricks and the like) and juggling balls. imo.

#87 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 08:21 PM:

CHip - I don't have a lot of data points on my former doctor, but I do know she was a.) single and b.) wheelchair-bound/paraplegic. That doesn't necessarily mean she was childless, but I think she was. When she advised me that I'd better get on it if I was planning on having kids, it had that "I've read this in a medical journal" feel to it.

Mel - well geez! You didn't know you were a ticking time bomb because your parents only procreated once? Shame on you. Hie thee to a re-education camp.*

Funnily enough, now that people are having children later, only children are a much more common occurrence. Wonder where the "norm" will skew to in 10-20 years?

*Interestingly enough, I now have a stepbrother. He was 25 and I was 33 when we became members of the same family. We were both only children when his mom married my dad, and we now treat one another as a delightful joke of fate, identifying as only children - er, with (step)sibling.

#88 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 09:04 PM:

Oh - and Adrienne, I've found making silly faces at kids who are obviously on edge of a screaming meltdown (mouth going that funny rectangular shape, eyes narrowing, fists starting to clench) to be a wonderful trick. It seems to work less well if the kid's already committed to said meltdown!

#89 ::: Darice ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 09:08 PM:

One of the most valuable parts of my childbirth training class was the last thing our teacher taught us. She had us practice wide smiles and repeat the phrase "Thank you so much for your advice! I'll take that under consideration." Works like a charm, especially because the delivery can be modulated to fit the circumstances.

That said, I think a drive-by is a different animal from busting out the Voice of Authority on misbehaving kids with inattentive or uncaring parents. The drive-by has a distinct overtone of malice, and usually involves criticism about something that is a debatable point anyway (breast vs. bottle, working vs. staying home, number of kids you have, whether you're planning to have them at all, etc.); the Voice of Authority is usually a response to something happening right then and there.

(I used the VoA myself on a kid last week -- he was roughhousing and slamming my two-year-old daughter's hand in a playhouse door, and his mother was not doing a thing about it. So I did. I don't think he'd ever heard anything quite like that before.)

#90 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 09:13 PM:

Adrienne, a bubble duck is a small, hollow plastic duck with a built in bubble wand that can be unscrewed from its head. You unscrew the wand and blow bubbles and then screw it tight again and stick it back in your purse. No spills after almost a year of it. $1 each at our local independent toy store, though my pediatrician (-writer-mother-jewelry maker) best friend buys them by the case for even less.

As a bonus, the bubbles and bright yellow plastic ducky cheer many adults as well. And the ones we have come on yellow cords that can be hung around one's neck and left with small ones in dire circumstances.

#91 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 10:41 PM:

nerdycellist, I understand completely.

#92 ::: dilbert dogbert ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 10:48 PM:

Please forgive the comment hijacking; my wife and I have 6 kids, 3 hers and 3 mine, and, I would like to ask all who attend here to let me know your child raising results - Those of you how have gotten to the adult kid stage of life.
Out of the 6, we have 4 mutants and 2 normies. Is this the average? God knows we tried hard in our own ways to raise all normies but did not get optimum results.
Thanks in advance for the fun comments.

#93 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 10:56 PM:

Well, adding one more statistic to the male side, I don't get drive-by advice. But then I'm tall, stern-looking, and quite capable of full down-the-nose Wimsey-of-Balliolity ("always laying down the law with exquisite insolence to somebody") if I'm accosted by a stranger.

#94 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:11 PM:

I stayed home with our only child, our son, after my wife, to whom I had been legally married some two years before his birth, went back to full-time work, her maternity leave having expired. I used to carry him around in a backpack. My wife did not change her name. We flipped a coin for whose surname he would have, and she won. (He received my surname as a given name.)

I was 34 years old at the time of his birth, and prematurely grey. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

Now. Drive-bys to fathers. "Who's his real father?" is one I cherish, even though it was several times repeated. "Are you the grandfather? Don't you hate it when kids expect you to raise their kids for them?" is another with an honoured place in my memory. "Where's his mother?" when he misbehaved was pretty good. (I was doing everything possible to quiet him, but it was in the supermarket, I had to get the shopping done, and you know how it is with two-year-olds and chocolate bars.) But I think the prize for all time freeform interpretive dissing goes to "aren't you a little old to be a hippy?" Such class, such virtuosity, such command of the essence of the have-you-quit-beating-your-wife school of insult.

On the other hand, we have the Cathay Pacific senior check cabin attendant who at a moment of crisis took him off our hands for fifteen vital minutes, calmed him by speaking to him in Mandarin, (of which we speak not a word) and returned him just on the point of him going to sleep. May the gods of all the airlines smile on her and her own fortunate children forever, and may her equally fortunate employers know that for that one act we will fly Cathay again.

#95 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:23 PM:

Madeleine and LizT, I really want kids like yours.

Mris, there are days when I'd mail 'em to you, no problem.

It takes a village, yeah. I'm part of the village when I stop a kid about to run out of the supermarket while her mother's paying for the eggs. I'm part of the village when I talk to the toddler who's hanging over her mother's shoulder so that she won't interfere with Mom digging out her credit card to pay for the child's new socks. There are all sorts of ways to be part of the village without snarking at the parents.

Some years back, an upper West Side freepaper had an article (for which read: screed) by a woman who objected to children, particularly children in any public place she happened to be. She had some very valid points: if you go to Starbucks to have a latte with your friends, it is not the duty of the staff and other patrons to sit for your kids while you debrief with your pal. But the tone of her piece was purely hateful, the possible result of years of not saying anything to the parents of kids who were running wild in the aisles at Barnes & Noble. I did that thing I never do: I wrote back, noting that if she was going to make a point of yelling at the parents of undisciplined kids, she had a moral obligation to compliment the parents of kids who behaved well.

I try to do that, even now. Kids are awed when a stranger comes up to Mom and says something nice about her kids' behavior. I'll bet they behave for an extra hour.

#96 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:24 PM:

dilbert, whatever you consider to be mutant behavior is almost certainly going to be what your children decide to do to stretch their wings and put you in your place and get your attention. They're like that.

Almost human at times.

#97 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:38 PM:

Jill, I was 33 when I had HM and they gave me every too-fat, too-old test known to doctorkind. She came out just under ten pounds and held her head up right away so she could see who she was howling at.

My sister-in-law just had her second at 46.

I don't think you really need to feel deadline pressure over this.

#98 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2005, 11:54 PM:

I've long thought the scariest thing about parenting is, not the kids, but dealing with other parents.

I've only skimmed the edges of this as a Scout leader (without children of my own). But I have, indeed, met the occasional parent who's convinced that every other parent is doing it wrong.

They don't tend to have terribly well-adjusted children, and they don't tend to be terribly respectful, after all that time being told everyone around them is messing up. (They also don't tend to stay in Scouting--where dealing with other people is half the point--very long.)

One thing that infuriates me is knowing that women get this sort of unwanted advice regularly, while men with their kids in tow? There are exceptions, but they're more likely to be praised for being "involved" in their children's lives.

No one ever praises a Mom just for being involved.

#99 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 12:27 AM:

Just a few more thoughts to throw into the mix...

Over the last few decades obsessive self examination has become a cultural industry: what am I doing? why did I do it? what in my past set me up for this? where is my inner child? Nothing just happens; there is always a reason for it.

Along with this belief in root causes there seems to be developing in parallel (especially in the last 20 years) a belief that the root cause is always Someone Else's Fault. Well, it would have to be, wouldn't it? Because everything is Someone's fault, after all, so if it wasn't Theirs it would have to be Mine.

Align this belief in culpability with the fact that most of the issues around child-rearing come down to responsibility. Responsibility is learned; kids aren't automatically responsible, they have to be taught to be so. There's lots of variance in terms of where responsibility (adult or child) is considered to begin and end.

The intersection between the conviction of culpability and the assignment of responsibility is bound to be a flashpoint. Mothers seem to be at fault an awful lot of the time, I must say; whether you stay at home or go out to work, you can't win. Perhaps that's a cultural industry too.

#100 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 12:33 AM:

No one ever praises a Mom just for being involved.

And the level of involvement required of Moms seems to have grown to some towering, insane level. Sometimes parenthood makes me think of that scene at the end of Topsy Turvy, where Gilbert's wife talks about how wonderful it would be if, at the end of the day, everyone got a round of applause. "Well done, Kitty. Well done!"

#101 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 01:26 AM:

My firstborn will turn 26 and my younger one will turn 18 this year on th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake. So I can say, more or less, how they turned out. But I don't know how they rank on someone else's mutant-normies scale. They're good people, with good brains, good politics, and good taste in music and movies and art, and they're there for their friends. But my firstborn currently never wears anything that isn't orange except to final exams and on Halloween -- when he wears a different monochromatic outfit -- and the younger one has "I poke badgers with spoons" and "Keepo Santa Cruz Weird" plastered on her bagpipe case. So are they normal, or not?

#102 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 01:40 AM:

I think my family would count me as one of their mutants, but I like me just fine.

#103 ::: Lisajulie ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 06:16 AM:

woofp! lots of things to contemplate here.

I am not a parent. I consciously chose not to reproduce my genes (schizophrenia on both sides, maternal parental generation, grandparent paternal generation, serious disfunctionality my generation).

But I have been a co-parent with a friend. She was a single parent with three children, ages 3, 5, 6. And one night a week, I got the children from school/day-care, took care of them, and the next morning walked them to school/took them to day care.

So, I have sympathy and empathy for people raising children. I can tell war stories (no s**t, there we were) about exploding mead bottles and other (now) amusing stories.

I also know people who parent their children in styles that I find, well, unacceptable. They do not control behavior and I find that distressing. It probably says much of me that the one time I was motivated to intervene was when I saw the younger child pummel their cat. At that point I did a "drive-by" and told the people, close friends of mine, that if I saw that behavior again, I would extract the cats from their house. No right of return. The family modified their behavior at that point.

As for public melt-downs? I intervene in an appropriate way, at least I hope it is an appropriate way. Grocery stores? I endeavour to distract the child. Restaurants? Well, I mostly go to places where children are welcome, Vietnamese, Thai, Peruvian, Chinese. There, if a child has a hissy-fit, people just _deal_. And the child is distracted/removed from play/taken care of. And we all chip in.

Oh, and the children I co-parented? They all have functional lives, self-supporting and moving forward. The youngest has just had a child (November 2004).

#104 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 06:49 AM:

Madeleine, I expect that if we do manage to have kids, I'll want to give them away sometimes, too. My best friend and I have a standing agreement that she will call me for first bid when she decides to sell her son to a passing Mongol horde. Less jokingly, we also have a house where she can bring him and let other people than herself and her husband chase after him.

People are so attached to the stay-at-home vs. work-outside-the-home distinction that they ask me, "Are you going to stay home when you have kids?" And then I squint at them dubiously: I work from home now, without kids. I'll probably want to run away from home from time to time, but that's different.

But quizzing someone on how many hours they're giving their full attention to work vs. The Kid is probably something that has to wait for the arrival or, heck, anticipated arrival of The Kid, whereas they can plague me about standard social conventions as far in advance as they like.

#105 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 08:02 AM:

I don't get many drive-by comments on my parenting...

However, that may be because I generally look like I'm ready to snap at the slightest provocation and dismember the nearest person. On multiple occasions, we've had a manager in a restaurant come up to us, apologize for 'the problem', and tell us the meal would be free-- without a single verbal complaint on my part. I just look displeased with the universe, I guess.

#106 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 09:53 AM:

I think my spouse and I get drive-by comments so frequently because we are surrounded by parents that think we are the mutants from our families, so we must be raising the pup to be a mutant too. And we look a lot younger than we are, and we had him young by today's standards, so sometimes I get the "how could you have a ten year old at your age" stuff.

As for D's mutant-status, I guess that depends on how we define "mutant." He's responsible enough for ten, kind, cuddly, and compassionate, and smart as a whip. He's also rebellious and sometimes a little sullen. Lately he argues just for the sake of it. I think it's being ten. We let him be ten sometimes.

On the other hand, he's got long hair that's perpetually in his eyes, likes baggy carpenter jeans and punk-rock band t-shirts like his father, wears funky-looking wrist-bands, and has a deep, abiding interest (going on five years now) in meteorology, of all things. He reads science fiction and fantasy, plays too many video games, and plays ice hockey. He's a feminist and he's pro-gay rights, but he's anti-lawyer (my job). He dishes out the snark better than some adults I know (frequently at my expense), but he still likes to crawl into bed with us in the morning and just snuggle up. And sometimes he entertains us by doing goofy dances to the music in television commercials.

Is he a mutant? I don't know. But I think he's doing okay.

#107 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 10:07 AM:

Harry Connley: I'm sorry, but no, there isn't. After the clueless parents of screaming toddlers take over all the restaurants, we'll begin piping the sounds of temper tantrums directly into your homes.

I suspected as much. You must be in league with my sister-in-law who keeps trying to get us to take our nephew and niece for "just for a short overnight stay."

And for someone without kids of her own, I can do a pretty good Voice of Authority. But then I started babysitting at ten, so I've had plenty of practice.

And strangely enough, my family has never given me the "when are you going to have kids" spiel, and were supportive when we said we weren't having kids. My in-laws, on the other hand, still don't seem to accept this, although it's come up far less frequently in recent years.

#108 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 10:10 AM:

I think the problem is that people are very confused about their responsibilities and that children are not free.

They can't be.

And "children" covers everything from newborns to people seventeen and three quarters, and they slowly become independant and free, and the amount of choice it's possible for them to exercise responsably are very different for a toddler and for a teenager.

Adults are free. They do not own their children. Children do not own themselves either. Nor does the community own the children. The children are going to be people who are free, but for the time being someone has to make decisions for them. So who is that? In some societies, that's the parents or the extended family, in others, that's the community, mostly the family make the decisions with the community for back-up.

There's a very real point where you want the community to be there to rescue the child from the parent. That point is well this side of the parent beating the child, but well the other side of the child in the wrong colour clothes. I think a lot of the "drive by" problem is people disagreeing about where this line is/should be, expecially when they come from communities where the line is in a different place than the community the parent comes from. (I think this is particularly a problem in immigrant societies like the US and Canada, but I percieved a big improvement in the general level of interference when I moved from Lancashire to South Wales when Sasha was six.)

It is wrong to walk away from a child being starved or a child having their arm twisted. It's also wrong to insist someone follow your childrearing practices. It isn't always easy to see where the line is -- when it's -40, a child being pushed in a stroller could lose fingers to frostbite if they're not properly covered up. When it's only -10 and they're running around, different thing, but the same twitch. Meaning well doesn't cut it when you're saying stupid and hurtful things, but I don't think anyone interferes like this without meaning well.

I'm probably seeing this from an odd angle -- I had a very challenging time when I was thirteen getting society to agree to take me away from my mother. I've had random strangers on usenet say I was an unfit mother because I don't have a TV.

I tend to think the important thing is for everyone to try to preserve the maximum amount of choice for the child once they are able to exercise it. There are things you can do to children that are irrevocable. I think it's quite right that we have laws that say children have to be educated, and that parents can't refuse needed medical treatment. I'd think it quite reasonable to have laws saying parents can't order medically unnecessary irrevocable interventions. But these are things that need to be worked out on a level of the whole community, on behalf of its future members.

#109 ::: Holly Biffl ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 10:32 AM:

I actually like it when I get mothering drive-bys. Then I can comment, full of smug derision, ďwell, since Iím a pediatrician, I know what Iím doing, thanks.Ē Thereís some sort of unspoken rule that by virtue of a training in Pediatric Medicine that Iím considered a child-rearing expert. Iím not sure thatís true, but if it makes rude strangers shut up, Iíll take it.

And as a pediatrician, I can vouch for the fact that thereís as many different ways to parent as there are parents. You must do what works for you, and Iíll only lecture you if I think there are HEALTH or SAFETY issues involved (back sleeping, smoking, seat belts, gun safety, etc.) Beyond those issues, Iíll support your choices.

#110 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 11:02 AM:

Some of the things people seem to feel it's fine to do because there's a kid really do surprise me. I mentioned this thread to some friends yesterday (which means they might well be reading - hi guys).

The conversation wandered off from there, and included things such as me being amazed to find out that "oh, you're pregnant? Can I feel your stomach?" actually happens, or that random strangers come up and kiss the 6mo child when she's in her sling on her mother's front. Usually people would realise putting your head that close to someone is quite an invasion of personal space, but somehow because you're doing it to kiss the baby it's okay.

(Her husband was surprised to find that one out. For some reason it doesn't happen to 6 foot tall hairy men...)

#111 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Sal wrote:
"Criticisms from the Bad Mommy Brigade would have no effect if it weren't for our inherent worries that perhaps we -are- doing something wrong."

The bad news is: You ARE doing something wrong.

The worse news is: You probably won't figure out what that "something wrong" is until about twenty years too late.

But the good news is: It probably won't be a BIG wrong. Most kids only turn out as screwed-up as their own parents, and a few even improve on the role model. No one can be a "perfect" parent; it's too big a job, with too many variables and decision-trees, to get EVERYTHING right.

(And for that matter, with some of the "perfect" kids I've known, when you get to know them better it's frequently the case that they've learned how to ACT "perfect" in public, and they're really just as confused and anxious inside their own heads as all the normal kids.)


Harry Connolly wrote:
"Xopher, I've had my son (then two) throw a balls-out screaming tantrum at the airport ticketing counter. There was no way to both collect our tickets for our flight and stop his screaming. If you have some way I could have silenced his tantrum short of throttling him unconscious, I'd be pleased to hear about it."

At the airport counter? No problem, Harry. Put a tag on his wrist and send him as checked baggage. He may still be screaming, but YOU won't have to deal with it for a few hours.


Jill Smith wrote:
"CHip - I don't have a lot of data points on my former doctor, but I do know she was a.) single and b.) wheelchair-bound/paraplegic. That doesn't necessarily mean she was childless, but I think she was. When she advised me that I'd better get on it if I was planning on having kids, it had that "I've read this in a medical journal" feel to it."

Ummmm, you probably didn't intend that comment this way, but it sorta came across to me as close to the (mostly unstated, but annoyingly common) meme of "people in wheelchairs don't have sex".

Yes, they do. Whenever possible. Hilde and I may not be able to do the entire KAMA SUTRA together, but we can still use the Readers Digest Condensed Version.

#112 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 11:48 AM:

but somehow because you're doing it to kiss the baby it's okay.

I sometimes think that, for those people, babies are just ambulatory dress accessories.

I know that sometimes there needs to be intervention for the good of a child--I've worried, sitting in a restaurant, about the children of a harried woman whose every other word to those kids seemed to be a curse or an insult. But a twenty second window into someone else's life is not the basis on which one wants to make a complaint to the Department of Children's Services. I once pulled Rebecca off an uptown bus when she was a toddler--she was having a tantrum, and I saw no reason to inflict her on the other riders. I wound up having to hoist this tiny screaming, kicking animal up on my shoulder to carry her home; anyone who saw us might have pardonably wondered about my parenting skills, but no one called the cops on me. And when we got home everything was all right, and she's now nine years old, and we're both still alive.

However, if someone had come up at that moment to offer a helpful comment on how badly I was doing, I might have killed them.

#113 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Bruce - I very carefully noted that the fact that she was in a wheelchair did not mean she didn't have kids. You are absolutely right that I did nto mean to imply that she didn't have sex. I didn't say it, I didn't imply it, and I tried (perhaps too obliquely) to indicate that my data points did not add up to a full picture and that I did not *know*.

I am sorry if what I said pushed a button with you - it was not intentional.

#114 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 12:45 PM:

Xopher, I've had my son (then two) throw a balls-out screaming tantrum at the airport ticketing counter. There was no way to both collect our tickets for our flight and stop his screaming. If you have some way I could have silenced his tantrum short of throttling him unconscious, I'd be pleased to hear about it."

We early on instituted the concept of Subway Rules in our family, the salient point of which is that if you're somewhere other people have to be, you have to factor their comfort into what you're allowed to do to amuse yourself.

Works in restaurants too, but we always asked for a booth anyway because it was easier to pin her in one place before she really grasped the concept. She has excellent restaurant manners now.

#115 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 01:41 PM:

And for someone without kids of her own, I can do a pretty good Voice of Authority.

Michelle, I also developed a Voice of Authority before I had a kid. When I was growing up we had a lot of dogs running loose in the neighborhood.

A word of helpful advice to everyone here: Don't tell parents that the voice you just used to settle down their kids also works on dogs. Voice of experience talking here.

And strangely enough, my family has never given me the "when are you going to have kids" spiel, and were supportive when we said we weren't having kids. My in-laws, on the other hand, still don't seem to accept this, although it's come up far less frequently in recent years.

All I can say is: Thank God there's less pressure on people to breed than there used to be. It's the parents who didn't really want to be parents that are the most troubling.

At the airport counter? No problem, Harry. Put a tag on his wrist and send him as checked baggage. He may still be screaming, but YOU won't have to deal with it for a few hours.

Bruce, what a fabulous idea! It occurs to me that the luggage stickers would fit perfectly over his little mouth.

julia, Subway Rules sound great for slightly older kids. At two, he didn't quite understand that other people exist, as such. They were still large moving objects meant to admire him.

#116 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 03:06 PM:

I'll admit that I missed more than one restaurant meal before she was two sitting in the car with A Certain Person who was having trouble with the idea.

#117 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 03:26 PM:

Oh, God, it's so true, Teresa. The only people who get more free lectures and unsolicited advice than pregnant women are moms.

Motherhood pushes everybody's buttons.

-l.

#118 ::: James Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 05:03 PM:

I used to live in Manchester, a city with, in places, a catastrophically high rate of teenage pregnancy, and the sight of a nineteen-year old girl *screaming* at a crying two year old that he or she was 'a stupid little fucking brat' was a depressingly common one. I've always found that making contact with the parent does very little good, except maybe to draw off some of the anger onto yourself, and so tried instead to make sympathetic eye contact, smiles, etc with the child. On the other hand, I've heard it argued that intervention in such extreme circumstances demonstrates to the child that their parent's behavior isn't acceptable, which is a very good thing in the long run.

On mother drive-bys, though, Korea and China, where I live now, probably rank first in the world. The Chinese delight in children, but any woman past 40 also takes any opportunity to lecture. Korea has probably the most spectacularly messed-up family dynamics in SE Asia, which is saying something, and the dominance of the mother-in-law figure there is almost unbelievable; I've seen young women reduced to tears in public by the criticism of strangers. (The Koreans take age respect to extremes, though I have to admit that seeing three traffic policemen, all 18-19 year old conscripts, being literally slapped around by a middle-aged taxi driver for having the effontery to give him a ticket was pretty funny.)

#119 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 05:10 PM:

I'm reasonably sure my family would be happier if I was a mutant, which I don't think I am, than what I actually am, an atheist.

#120 ::: Lisa ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2005, 11:38 PM:

I was sitting in a paint-your-own-pottery shop when I overheard a mother berating her child for not painting the piece the way she wanted it. "You missed that spot!" "No, you have to cover the whole thing!" "Why did you have to mix the colors like that? Now it's a mess..."

I gritted my teeth and kept painting. I'm a teacher and I could have lectured that lady on what is a developmentally appropriate expectation for a child of that age, but I decided to mind my own business. The child was certainly ignoring her well enough!

Then the lady got up for a minute, and a store employee leaned over to the child and whispered, "I really like what you're making..."

And I thought that was a perfect response. Criticism free. I guess I would characterize that as a reverse drive-by.

#121 ::: Scott Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 12:06 AM:

New poster. I hope it's all right to make a couple of brief comments.

First reaction: This actually happens?

Second reaction: Of course it does. People are innately nosy and curious about things that are none of their business.

My own VoA works well enough, but then I'm a stocky, 240-pound overweight guy with 3 foot shoulders and facial hair, and friends have delighted in telling me that I look either A) Angry or B) Psychotic since I was about 8 years old. I don't get involved unless the parents obviously can't deal with the child, whether because they are too busy (in which case, interact with the child directly in a polite but firm and loud-but-not-yelling VoA, or distract them) or because the parents are in fact sociopaths who would be happy to see their child fall off a bridge (in which case, get an authority figure, such as a manager).

In my own experience, making faces and telling jokes to cranky kids cools them out just as well as the VoA, so that's my response of choice.

Janni: I'm trying to figure out how to put this--men get praised for being involved with their kids because the current societal stereotype is that dads are either deadbeats, thugs, or idiots. The always-prevailing cultural stereotype about mothers is that they are "just doing their jobs," so no one (male or female) would ever think to cut them some slack. Hence the drive-by, behavior so rude that normal people (like all of the people on this thread) are appalled by it. Mothers can never do anything right and will never get thanked.

I'm thinking that if I ever get married, I will try in my own hamfisted way to make up for this by being extra-nice to my spouse during these occasions.

#122 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 01:09 AM:

I think Dilbert Dogbert didn't come to the best forum to ask about "mutants" and "normies."

#123 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 06:46 AM:

I often think that drive-by parenting is as old as speech itself. What appears to be different is how much we mind, and I have my own theories about that.

There are entire industries dedicated to telling us how to be good parents (child-rearing books, developmental psychologists, etc). To make money in any industry, though, you have to create demand. How better to do that than to tell parents that they're bad parents? They go on radio shows and government panels and pontificate. As chid-rearing changes, they find new things wrong with every trend. The only message that's consistent is that we need their help.

And we believe them, believe that there's only one way to raise a child. We doubt ourselves, because child-rearing is important, and they feed off these doubts. That makes us vulnerable to the drive-by.

On a slightly different tangent, James Palmer said:

I used to live in Manchester, a city with, in places, a catastrophically high rate of teenage pregnancy, and the sight of a nineteen-year old girl *screaming* at a crying two year old that he or she was 'a stupid little fucking brat' was a depressingly common one.

These girls may very well be reflecting their own upbringing; the problem of teenage pregnancy has been endemic for generations in many areas in Scotland. I understand that the average age of first-time motherhood in the wealthiest areas of Glasgow is now greater than the average age of first time grandmotherhood in the poorest districts. How much good mothering did these girls get, if their own mothers were just kids as well?

Puts me in mind of Philip Larkin.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

(Too late for me on that one.)

#124 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 07:35 AM:

Years ago I was off to a job interview near Dundee, and the agency who got me the job was a one-person one-assistant show who, instead of advising me to take a taxi from the station, asked me how I was planning to get there, and when I said "Train up from Reading to Edinburgh, train from Edinburgh to Dundee..." said "My assistant will drive you there from Edinburgh! It'll be much simpler for you. No arguments, we'll do it that way."

Turns out the assistant was a woman in her twenties with a fairly new baby. (Certainly under six months. This was in the bad old days of no automatic maternity leave for part-timers or people who'd not been in their job for at least two years.) She said rather nervously she hoped I didn't mind sharing a car with a baby, and I assured her that of course I didn't.

Which I honestly didn't. But, the whole getting-on-for-three-hours I was in the car with the two of them (there and back again), every time the baby opened her mouth to wail (as babies do) her mother popped a chocolate drop in, and the baby ate it. Five minutes later, the baby would start to wail again, be comforted by a chocolate drop, and stop. Start. Chocolate. Stop. For three hours. (I hope this stopped when I was out of the car.)

And I sat there, for three hours, fighting the urge to say that it was a really bad idea to give a baby that much sugar, or to let a baby associate crying with sweet reward.

By the time we were back in Edinburgh again, the baby was clearly exhausted, wanting to go to sleep, and too hyped on sugar to get there. Really and honestly, I don't see how I managed not to say anything, but I didn't.

#125 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 07:56 AM:

If women want to give advice to other mothers, it must be because they care. Or could it be... dare I say it... (Dare! Dare!) maternal instinct?

Even us guys feel protective around kids.... or at least we recognize ourselves in kids' behavior, and think: "I'd better tell that dumb kid to stop playing on the railroad track before he nearly kills himself, like I almost did at his age."
:)

-A.R.Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com

#126 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 10:12 AM:

I get drive-bys all the time. My most recent was about four days ago.

City Employee: What's he fussing about? (referring to my two-year-old)

Me: Oh, he wants to nurse.

City Employee: He still nurses?!

Me: Yep.

City Employee (after pause): Think he'll be a boob man?

#127 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 10:30 AM:
If women want to give advice to other mothers, it must be because they care. Or could it be... dare I say it... (Dare! Dare!) maternal instinct?

Sometimes. But sometimes it's one-upmanship, bidding for superiority on the pecking order. (I know - I am tempted at times, being only human.) Sometimes it's a form of complaining about the child, or armchair generalship from people with nice theories and no experience. Mind you, some of the comments made for these reasons may still be correct. But they're pretty annoying.

And sometimes, right or not, well meant or not, it's just destructive. When I'm at the end of my tether, tired from the baby's sleeplessness and plagued without mercy by the willful toddler, I already know I'm not doing well by the children. Telling me so will just add guilt to exhaustion and annoyance. Just what I need.

On the other hand, it does give me a target for my fraying temper, one who is not likely to be traumatised for life by one cross comment too many. I may not say it to her face, but a good mutter behind her back can do wonders.

#128 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 12:24 PM:

For all of you who feel insecure about your parenting skills, who worry that you may be damaging your child, I want to put your fears to rest.

I married a man who had Aspergerís Syndrome. I (we) got pregnant accidentally. Our son was born drugged and with a hematoma on his head after 42 hours of difficult labor.

My husband could not tolerate the mess and disruption of a child, so I spent 14 years (until my husband took his own life) being a buffer between father and son. (If youíre interested in this topic, Iíve written just a bit about it on my blog. The related posts are http://llandryn.net/blog/archives/000028.html and http://llandryn.net/blog/archives/000117.html)

My son was an only child. I never let him cry because my husband couldnít tolerate the noise. My son couldnít have friends over; see above regarding husband and noise. In the car, I placated him with a cookie everytime he started to fuss. See: husband, noise. I even gave him infant Tylenol to put him to sleep during long car rides.

I kept my maiden name. Because my husband was having a nervous breakdown, I put my son in daycare at the height of his separation anxiety phase. I worked full time most of the time.

I gave my son uncountable gallons of apple juice. Because I have always had a tenuous relationship with that thing in the kitchen that gets real hot and you can cook in itóI think itís called an ovenóI fed my son boxed macaroni and cheese and frozen pizzas. Oh and canned spaghettios. Frozen burritos, too. He ate most of his meals alone in his bedroom, sitting on the floor in front of his TV.

I insisted he learn to drive as soon as possible so he could get his license the day he turned 16.
I bought him a Nintendo player when he was four.
I did not limit television viewing or video game playing.
I did not monitor internet usage.
I did not bake cookies.
I did not attend PTA meetings.

My son will be twenty on May Day. Heís a student at the University of Virginia. He scored 1520 on the SATs. Heís independent, heís easygoing, he has a realistic self image and high self esteem. Heís healthy and fit. Heís got a wide circle of friends. Heís a gentleman. He treats girls with respect. He gives me hugs for no reason. When I told him a while ago that I felt guilty about what a terrible mother Iíd been, he said ďYouíre awesome; you rock.Ē


#129 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 03:26 PM:

Scott says:
Janni: I'm trying to figure out how to put this--men get praised for being involved with their kids because the current societal stereotype is that dads are either deadbeats, thugs, or idiots. The always-prevailing cultural stereotype about mothers is that they are "just doing their jobs," so no one (male or female) would ever think to cut them some slack. Hence the drive-by, behavior so rude that normal people (like all of the people on this thread) are appalled by it.

Oh, I know all this. It merely infuriates me, and I want it to change. :-)

#130 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 03:32 PM:

I think Jo is saying many sensible things, above.

I think "in danger of dying or being maimed" is a pretty good criteria for where to draw the line and step in.

But that it's also okay, as others have said, to say encouraging things to the kid when Mom isn't looking. Which is different from telling the Mom how to parent.

#131 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 04:02 PM:

I have had my mother-in-law keep saying that we should have another spawn because "when *I* was a child" (she's an only) "I always wanted someone to play with." To which I always want to retort, "Because, you know, we're going to lock her up in a cage and never let her play with other kids." (She's 15 mos. old, so maybe playing *with* is a ways off. But certainly, getting to play with other kids when she's more socialized!)

I am patently ignoring the woman. My husband agrees that One Is Enough. (Some nights? More than enough. :-p) I keep being reminded of somewhere in the Vorkosigan books where Cordelia remarks on Miles's idealization of having a brother. I have a sister. My mom's one of six. My sister and I get along great, but after watching some of the wacky interactions between my aunts and uncles I am under no illusions that having siblings is a panacea for, well, anything.

Also? I've had my spawn be loud in public places. *Usually* at the mall, which is crowded with many, many, many spawn, so I don't feel so bad, especially now that I can take her to the play-area where the other kids are. There are times I try to get her to be quiet and she isn't having any of it, and I am at a complete loss as to how to communicate with a preverbal being besides removing her from the situation and providing a distraction; and sometimes I don't have enough arms and I can't get her away from the area quickly enough. It also makes me more sympathetic to people who are attempting to deal with their unruly spawn; the older ones especially. It's like having a time-warp lens. I think: that's gonna be ME in a few years, and I'm gonna have to learn how to deal with it, and chances are I'm going to screw it up sometimes. :-/

The other thing that bemuses me is that in brisk but not chilly weather people will drive-by at us for the child missing a sock, or both socks. (She's talented at removing shoes and socks. We've lost three left shoes already. I tell you, it's a curse. I wouldn't mind putting mismatched shoes on her, but she doesn't have two right feet!) At the same time, they found her uncovered head and uncovered hands unremarkable; my husband or I was carrying the child, so letting her walk around barefooted was not an issue. I am still confused. I don't understand humans.

When it gets really bad, I remind myself that almost nothing a stranger has said to me has ever been as bad as the things my mom has said to me about my ability to raise a child.

Or maybe I should just shoot myself now.

#132 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 04:07 PM:

James Palmer:
On mother drive-bys, though, Korea and China, where I live now, probably rank first in the world. The Chinese delight in children, but any woman past 40 also takes any opportunity to lecture. Korea has probably the most spectacularly messed-up family dynamics in SE Asia, which is saying something, and the dominance of the mother-in-law figure there is almost unbelievable; I've seen young women reduced to tears in public by the criticism of strangers. (The Koreans take age respect to extremes, though I have to admit that seeing three traffic policemen, all 18-19 year old conscripts, being literally slapped around by a middle-aged taxi driver for having the effontery to give him a ticket was pretty funny.)

I'm Korean-American and I llived there a third of my life, and oh my Lord, YES. Mothers-in-law, but also mothers.

My daughter was originally going to be fostered with my mother. There is a reason my husband and I changed our plans, and at least part of it was due to the increasing psychoticness of my mother--I love her, but she has Issues, and I am not exposing my child to the same corrosive environment that nearly did me in. There is something wrong about a mother who feels the need to call you three times a week or more from *South Korea* for hour-long discussions interspersed with attempted micromanagement of your parenting (she keeps insisting I should show my 15-mo.-old Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood starting Any Time Now and I keep trying to remind her that we don't own a TV and don't want one).

There are so very many reasons I will never live in South Korea if I can help it, and the messed-up family dynamics are among them.

#133 ::: James Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 04:12 PM:

I had a Korean friend whose mother *confiscated* her life savings - painfully earnt over seven years of independent work - because 'she wouldn't spend them properly.'

Then her mother brought a car for herself with her daughter's money.

J.

#134 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 06:20 PM:

James Palmer: I believe this utterly. :-(

I have to remind myself that I have some Korean-American friends with decent and loving parents.

#135 ::: dilbert dogbert ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 06:38 PM:

Julia et al,
I sort of have some familiarity with Mutants and Normies. My 44 year old son is autistic. I am quite familiar with that small group of people who have had to cope with kids like mine.
All the kids are doing well, even the autistic one who is living independently, owns a car, has a girl friend and has a job.
My wife and I laugh at our situation. The Normies and Mutants is our way of joking about our kids. It is a way of talking about how different our kids are from ourselves. We know other couples whoes kids seem like clones of the parents.
I can't remember too much of that early part of coping with the autistic son except that we just holed up till he was capable of accepting the world. We did develop quite a thick skin about peoples comments, however, I don't think we recieved a lot of flak. Maybe we were just too overwhelmed to notice.
Still interested in what peoples experieces are with the outcomes of their child raisings.

#136 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 07:15 PM:

For all of you who feel insecure about your parenting skills, who worry that you may be damaging your child, I want to put your fears to rest.

Mary, you are my hero. No, really, I mean it. And your son is my hero too.

#137 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 07:23 PM:

And from another perspective, I frequently feel comforted that children feel free to occasionally raise their voices or insist on things. I know their family is not like mine was, where any noise or attention drawn resulted in a beating. I always watch the quiet ones a little closer.

#138 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 08:48 PM:

My mother had an interesting comment a while ago about the feminist movement, to whit - "I became a feminist so that what I did would be as valued as what any man did - not so that I would be expected to do what any man can do -and still- not be valued for being able to raise a child".

I thought it was an interesting reflection on a common complaint about the demand to not only have a career, but to also be a perfect parent in order to be considered a 'success'.

My take on children also falls into safety and social contract, but I'll cheerfully admit to having turned around in my seat on the airplane and expressed (to the child in question) that kicking my seat (or opening and closing the tray table rapidly and constantly) is Not Okay.

#139 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2005, 10:54 PM:

I don't have kids, but on observing the comments:

Many of the drive-bys seem perpetrated by people who believe that their duty in raising children is Social Reproduction, in the full sense, either class-based (yuppie) or conservative.

That the goal of parenting is to raise decent people that you want to spend time with, doesn't seem to cross their minds.

#140 ::: nancy ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 01:29 AM:

I feel compelled to confess: I have committed a drive-by while in a movie theater.

Screaming, shouting child. No one heard even a line of the movie for half an hour. Everyone moved as far from the mother and child as physically possible. More than half the theater gave up and left entirely. All shushing from others provoked shouting swearing from the mother. Finally I knelt by her chair and asked if perhaps I could help. She swore at me like a sailor, then a few minutes later left the theater, dragging her child while shouting to everyone (and directed at me): "You bitch! He has Tourette's! You've fucking traumatized him, you bitch!"

Was I really a heartless bitch for volunteering to help, even before I knew it was a physical handicap that had him shouting nonstop? Moreover, is it wise to take a shouting Tourette's child to a movie that triggered the piercingly loud screams for more than half an hour, and then refuse to leave the theater and swear at people?

And no, the mother didn't have Tourette's. She just plain swore like a sailor.

I still feel somewhat guilty, but ... should I?

An aside: I get drive-by "why don't you have children?" by strangers all the time. I have given up on intelligent responses, as it only provokes arguments. Being told I'm "not a real woman" because I don't have a child isn't an intelligent argument, so I won't even bother responding to it anymore. The fact that my in-laws are selling off the family silver rather than leave it to a "childless couple" (us) was just broadcast to us today by my father-in-law. Don't even get me started.

#141 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 03:20 AM:

In extreme circumstances -- and I won't bother to define them, because the definition is so slippery -- people should intervene. YOu should intervene in the nicest way you can imagine at the time. That won't always be nice.

But. Unless the movie theater is pretty new, it has a crying room, most like, and it you have a kid with a serious noise problem and you're trying to get them out in the world, that's your angle: you call the theater in advance, say you have a disabled child and ask if there's a crying room. Repeat until you get a match of appropriate movie, accessability, and crying room. No, you can't be spontaneous. But you can't be spontaneous much anyway if you have a disabled child, so it's not worse.

Marilee -- I do agree with you, that an outspoken child is better off than a scared-silent child.

A child who is generally respected and generally educated about proper behavior will be reasonably pleasant most of the time, and it's usually Local Lousy Conditions (quoting the great education writer James Hines)that cause temporary breakdowns.

If you only ever see a child at five-thirty in the grocery store, or being rushed through a department store on sale day, or being stalled for forty-five minutes in a restaurant already past the kid's usual dinner time, or standing in a two-mile line at a ticket counter with the lights buzzing overhead and the sound echoing like a horror movie, you're going to see a surplus of Local Lousy Conditions and melting down children.

#142 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 06:21 AM:

Lisa Hertel
Psychologists would have me simultaneously give my children unconditional love and never say no to them, while disciplining them. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way. When my kids whine, "Mommy, you're not my friend," I retort, "That's right. I'm your mother. It's not my job to be your friend.

Actually, I'm pretty sure failing to be a parent authority in a child's life is considered by psychologists to be not healthy, and not establishing good boundaries.
At least that's what I've read.
And I also don't think that spanking "shows kids that they can be bullied about by people bigger and stronger than them.". I think child abuse does that.

Unless of course your child is 12 years old, entering puberty, and you're pulling their pants down in public in front of a co-ed audience of their schoolmates and the pervy neighbor, to spank them bare-assed.
That might be a gray area of spanking/abuse possibly. hahaha!!!

But I'm not a parent... So who knows, maybe when I become one, I'll be running around the public parks looking for stay-at-home dads assuming they're lookin' for love. HAHAHA!!!! ;) ;)

#143 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 07:42 AM:

As a father of three, I can't recall ever being the victim of a parenting drive-by, but I have often been helped by passers-by, with or without kids, when my hands were full and one of the kids threw a wobbler.

My favourite drive-by related story is about a pregnant woman visiting a Chinese restaraunt who was having a glass of wine. The proprietor stopped at her table and said "You are drinking wine?" Here we go, she thought and replied "Yes" politely. He hurried away, and instead of hectoring her, he produced a bottle of a liqueur which his mother swore by for pregnant women, and poured her a little glass on the house.

#144 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 08:14 AM:

Unless the movie theater is pretty new, it has a crying room, most like

Maybe it's a someplace-I've-never-been thing, but I have to say that in an experience of movie theatres extending over several decades and several states -- east coast, west coast, and in between -- I've never encountered a movie theatre with a crying room. Although dear lord, I would have liked to sometimes.

The big problem with raising kids is that it's a game with no clearly defined victory conditions, which makes it appallingly easy to define a losing score as anything less than perfect.

#145 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 10:37 AM:

If movie theaters had crying rooms, my mother would have always had to sit there. Not because of me or any of my sibs, though - she was given to crying her eyes out at pretty much anything on the screen. After she got through watching The Color Purple we practically had to wring out the living room carpet! :-)

On-topic, I don't know why people feel compelled to dispense parenting advice to others, but I suspect that there may be some sort of innate drive to do this. Healthier kids = healthier adults = a better ability to beat of the hordes/animals/natural disasters that might threaten from time to time.

It still doesn't make it any more pleasant. The only time I ever say anything (in line with Xopher and others upthread) is when kids are wildly misbehaving in public places. Especially on airplanes. Especially when they're kicking the back of my seat.

I once had a mommy shriekingly call me an "evil man" for complaining about her 10-year-old doing just this, endlessly, over a three-hour flight. The flight attendants told her to sit down, shut up and control her son. And if she didn't they'd land the plane and have her arrested! (She and her kid were *really* out of control.)

#146 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 11:11 AM:

Seattle has some movie theaters with crying rooms, but not very many, I think. I know that at least one of the screens at the Metro multiplex has a crying room, and I think the downstairs screen at the Varsity does. Those are both Landmark Theatres.

Given how many screens Seattle has, that's not a great many. Since I've never needed one, it's not something I think about a whole lot, and some quick web searching this morning reveals that even if they have one, it doesn't appear to be something the theaters advertise.

#147 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 11:18 AM:

Huh, I never knew theatres might have crying rooms. Something to look into. If you're at the mall though, and your baby/toddler decides it's time to nurse Right Now, and you want to do so in private*, some stores have very nice nursing lounges. Nordstrom is one.

(*My first kid was ok with dicreet-nursing-in-sling, but my second _had_ to have one in mouth and the other in hand and a lot of fresh air too, thank you very much.)

#148 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 11:33 AM:

The big problem with raising kids is that it's a game with no clearly defined victory conditions, which makes it appallingly easy to define a losing score as anything less than perfect.

Brilliant, Deb. The added problem is that everyone defines success a little differently. Some parents feel they've succeeded if their kids get in to Harvard, others if the kids are polite little gentlefolk, still others if the kids are tough enough to hold their own in playground brawls. A drive-by parent who aims to produce one kind of kid may well be intolerably dismayed by the sight of a child being raised to be some other type.

#149 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 11:59 AM:

The thing about the crying rooms is nobody knows about them. I didn't. I thought it was only very old ones that had them, but I discovered that more of them do than you'd know about -- I probably shouldn't say "most like," but it seems like it, hereabouts. Anyway. If you have very young children, or if you have older children whose self-control is coming slowly for one reason or another, it doesn't hurt to sit down and call around and find one.

#150 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 12:01 PM:

nancy wrote:
She swore at me like a sailor, then a few minutes later left the theater, dragging her child while shouting to everyone (and directed at me): "You bitch! He has Tourette's! You've fucking traumatized him, you bitch!" [...]
I still feel somewhat guilty, but ... should I?

Of course not. You didn't create the situation, you tried your best to resolve the situation. If the kid really had Tourette's (I'm cynical, I wouldn't trust the mom implicitly on something like that) then that's a shame, but it's still the mother's responsibility to either control him or take him someplace where the disruption to others will be minimal. It is not the rest of the world's responsibility to put up with it.

(Although I wonder what happened to the theater management's responsibility to take care of the problem earlier. Surely some of those people who left complained about it.)

#151 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 12:16 PM:

Dru wrote:
There is the issue of the perceived safety risk to the child. I've seen toddlers literally gnawing on power cords before (poor things, teething like crazy) whose parents screamed at me when I snatched the cable out of their child's mouth/hands.

I'm reminded of several years back, when I went camping at a Pagan gathering in Ireland. Some of the kids had found a funny stick in some building debris and were playing with it in the fire. It was a great toy, because after the outside of the stick burned off they were left with this white stringy stuff that wouldn't burn.

I took an interest and started playing with the kids. When it was my turn with what was left of the stick, I took it off and buried it deep in the trash can. The kids were upset for all of thirty seconds until they found something else to stick in the fire. One of the mothers came over and demanded to know why I was spoiling their fun.

"Um. Because that was asbestos."

She was convinced I was being a typical overanxious American. I let her think that. Meanwhile, the kids didn't have their stick.

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 12:23 PM:

Kimberly: My gods how I envy you. He sounds like a GREAT kid! (Yes, I know it can be frustrating. But...but you know, I don't have to tell YOU.)

Bruce: Most kids only turn out as screwed-up as their own parents...

Oh, wow. Now I know the true meaning of 'cold comfort'!

Harry: I have a question, which I implied but did not directly ask before. Would a stranger behind you in line been able to do anything at all to help? If I'd been behind you in line at the airport and said "can I help you manage that bag" or something, would you have responded positively (which includes "no, thanks, there's nothing you can do") or negatively? Your response will influence me next time I'm in that situation.

mary: I agree with Madeleine. You're a hero. A genuine, bona fide hero.

#153 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 12:29 PM:

I'm pretty sure we had asbestos-insulated power cords when I was growing up. Which I may or may not have ngawed on. Not to mention naphthalene mothballs, pink rat poison pellets strewed behind closets and candy-flavored "baby aspirin" chewable tablets. I distinctly remember raiding the medicine closet to eat the tablets. It was right beside the jar of salt peter.
And my mom was one of those overprotective types too. Standards, they sure do change...

#154 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 12:35 PM:

Good thread and comments. My wife and I (childless by choice) have friends that we believe are spoiling the c#@p out of their 7-year old son. We have traveled in Europe with these folks, and it has taken every ounce of our self-control to keep our mouths shut.

Which is the point: Self-control. Is. Hard. I am herewith adopting Mris' mantra: "Not my kid, not my call."

I do think that adult kindness from strangers in public melt-down situations is called for - and that benign distraction of children can be a real blessing. The bubble duck and hand puppet ideas are great - I use string figures. They don't require any talking, and the sight of a middle-aged man pulling a loop of string out his pocket and making shapes with it will beguile both child and parent.

PS - that link above has video clips which make it very easy indeed to learn something more than Jacob's Ladder.

#155 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 12:49 PM:

We had sheet asbestos on the ceiling over the stove pipes.

This was a good thing when the creosote in the pipes aforesaid caught fire one winter night.

Everything is tradeoffs. Yes, that, too.

I tend to think the measure of success is whether the kids have their parents' fears or not. (They shouldn't. Times change, and people are different.)

#156 ::: Northland ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 01:20 PM:

I don't get a lot of mothering drive-bys. I suppose I could be projecting some type of don't-say-it forcefield, but it seems highly unlikely, since I'm always the person chosen to hear someone else's "tinfoil causes global warming" theory at the bus stop. I think it's just that Canadians are more into silent stares of disapproval.

Most movie theatres these days have a designated matinee time for parents + kids under three, often called "stars & strollers" or something equally cutesy. It saved my sanity a few times last year while I was at home with a newborn.

Of course, that assumes you have a schedule allowing for movies on a weekday afternoon.

#157 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 03:18 PM:

Xopher:

Thank you! We feel very lucky, and think that any mutant qualities are those we are grateful for, and only seem mutant to the outside world. Recently he has been a bit more, er, challenging, and I'm sure that will continue, but I'm choosing to see it as a sign of a strong personality. We make lots of mistakes with him, and we are definitely only "good enough parents,"--Pop-Tarts are ENRICHED, I tell you, ENRICHED--but we haven't killed him yet, he's not a bully, and he doesn't listen to country music. What more could we ask for?

mary:

You are my hero too. And your son sounds amazing as well, and we will count our blessings if D. turns out nearly so great. I don't bake cookies either, except sometimes the ones that come in the roll o' dough. When D. and I want cookies (sometimes for breakfast!!), we drive the store and buy them.

#158 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Screaming, shouting child. No one heard even a line of the movie for half an hour. Everyone moved as far from the mother and child as physically possible. More than half the theater gave up and left entirely. All shushing from others provoked shouting swearing from the mother. Finally I knelt by her chair and asked if perhaps I could help. She swore at me like a sailor, then a few minutes later left the theater, dragging her child while shouting to everyone (and directed at me): "You bitch! He has Tourette's! You've fucking traumatized him, you bitch!"

If you keep a child who can't handle it in a high-stimulation environment where he isn't capable of behaving in a non-disruptive way, they know how people are reacting to them.

I'd say putting a kid in that position voluntarily because you want to see a movie is not sterling parental decisionmaking. It could be she was teetering on her last nerve and just really needed the distraction - I try really hard not to judge parents in that situation - but I suspect it was her trauma she was dealing with, not his.

Mommy freaking out and shouting curses at a roomful of strangers? That's got to be a little traumatic.

#159 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 04:37 PM:

Re:
I once had a mommy shriekingly call me an "evil man" for complaining about her 10-year-old doing just this, endlessly, over a three-hour flight. The flight attendants told her to sit down, shut up and control her son. And if she didn't they'd land the plane and have her arrested! (She and her kid were *really* out of control.)

and the allegedly-Tourette's case:

Some adults behave as if they were never taught as children that their desires must be bounded by other people's. (The phrase I've heard is "Your right to swing your hands around ends where my nose begins.") Back when airplanes still had smoking sections, I called a flight attendant because someone several rows deeper in non-smoking than I was had lit up; the smoker's reaction was to catch up to me in the arrival jetway and scream abuse at me. (No, I didn't try to ID and report the FA who ratted -- I just wanted out of there.) IMO, the best you can do with such cases is to call in authority and hope that authority will handle the mess as they should be able to (and you usually can't). (It's also safer; I made the mistake once of speaking directly to someone \loudly/ narrating one of the fights in Star Trek: Generations; he was lying in wait for me when the lights came up.)

All I can suggest for the victims of drivebys is to remember that the offender doesn't know even a percent of what's going on -- and maybe be thankful if somebody takes a \helpfully/ step like some of the people upthread.

#160 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 06:08 PM:

Kimberly wrote: "Pop-Tarts are ENRICHED, I tell you, ENRICHED"

You bet they are. And popcorn for supper once in a while never killed anybody.

For several years I worked with a physicist who, when his kids were babies, gave them beer so they'd sleep during long car rides. Not something I'd recommend, but both his kids later went to UC Berkeley-- not too shabby.

#161 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 06:18 PM:

I don't bake cookies either, except sometimes the ones that come in the roll o' dough.

I find that the roll o' dough cookies are at least as good as what I can make from scratch. And my friend the food scientist, an excellent baker in her own right, has pointed out to me that cake mixes make better cakes than you can make from scratch, because you cannot obtain the ingredients they use at retail.

CHip: As a contrasting story, back when New Jersey Transit trains had smoking cars, I once watched someone light up in the non-smoking car. I walked over to him and very calmly and politely said "Excuse me, this is the non-smoking car. Could you put that out please?" He hastily extinguished it.

Only later did I realize that he was a stranger to me, and probably didn't know that the all-black attire with the black motorcycle jacket and the axe dangling from one ear did not, in fact, signify that I was prepared to offer him bodily harm should he refuse.

#162 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 06:21 PM:

I'm in the Mary fan club too.

I'm not a parent (cheerful godmommy to be, and I called the parents-to-be yesterday and had a good long heart-to-heart with dad-to-be that went something like "You'll do fine. You'll make mistakes and stuff, because you're human and everyone does. But the kid'll be loved and your best will be good enough. Trust me.") I'm also not a sociologist, psychologist or any of that. But I have a Theory:

I think the impulse-to-judge-and-belittle that fuels the mommy-drive-bys springs not from any desire to help, or any genuine concern. It seems to me that it comes from very poorly managed insecurity. I think the insecurity comes from the huge burden of expectation placed on The Mommy.

Think of it: Who buys all those books on child-rearing? The Mommy. Who do we say is responsible for everything that happens to the kid? The Mommy? Who is the focus of the Stay-at-home/Return-to-work debate? It sure as Hades isn't the father. Making women feel insecure about their mothering skills is an industry and a social meme, and it's as inescapable as the Vile Brain Sucking Wedding Machine (having been Lady of Honour at the Wedding of the Mommy and Daddy to Be, I witnessed that one get two otherwise stalwart and sensible people, but good.)

So women, who don't traditionally get much training in dealing with insecurities, tend to get buried in this enormous amount of expectation that they will somehow raise perfect children, and if the children are not perfect, it will be because of them.

And, not being very good at insecurity management, they look around them and see other mommies making other choices. Which, if those choices are correct, invalidate the choices they have made. And they get all irrational about this, because they're really stressed out and not thinking clearly. And they need to remind themselves that they are Good Mommies, so they do it by putting someone else down.

Nice? Of course not. But y'know, people who are staggering under huge burdens of insecurity that they don't know how to name or manage are often really really nasty. And, as a veteran of an all-girls' school, I know just how viscious women in poor control of their insecurities can be.

#163 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 06:25 PM:

I note that--unless I've missed it--every person who has puzzledly said "I don't get parenting drive bys" is male. A few of those who get them are male, too--but none of those who don't are female.

Which is part of the point. You don't get drive-bys not because they're not common, but because you're Dads. The question to ask is whether your wives get them--regardless of which of you is the stay-at-home parent.

#164 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 06:47 PM:

Xopher, whoever thinks boxed cakes are better has not had my mom's recipe for cake, which I use, too.

But I have no illusions that making baked goods from scratch will have a particular impact on how any future potential spawn of mine turn out. It was good parenting when Mom and I baked cookies together because we were doing something we both enjoyed and spending low-key time together, not because of the cookies themselves.

#165 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 07:18 PM:

Cake mixes are great--if you like what I call "bakery-style" cakes. I prefer the recipe my family uses, which calls for whole-wheat flour, wheat germ and other such flavorful ingredients. The cake isn't light and fluffy, but it's delicious. (The baker makes a difference, too--my grandmother was *much* better at it than my mother and I!) But I buy the icing, because that's much better than anything I can make myself.

--Mary Aileen

#166 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 08:07 PM:

I just ran into a rather timely item - the crummier of our two local papers just had an editorial; Apparently, Jennifer Lopez just declared aloud that she wants a child, but only one. So this Winnipeg woman wrote a three-column editorial about how, this was incredibly selfish, a baby isn't a Gucci bag accessory, and, my favourite, "What about the child's right to have a sibling?"

#167 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 08:29 PM:
I find that the roll o' dough cookies are at least as good as what I can make from scratch. And my friend the food scientist, an excellent baker in her own right, has pointed out to me that cake mixes make better cakes than you can make from scratch, because you cannot obtain the ingredients they use at retail.

No disrespect to your friend, but I have never had a cake made from mix that was anything like as good as one made from scratch by someone who knows what they're doing - or me, using my mother's Industrial-Strength Chocolate Cake recipe.

I'm also not sure what magic ingredients the mix makers are supposed to be using that we can't get, or get very close equivalents of.

I don't care for pre-fab cookies, either. However, making such is certainly not a black mark on one's parenting record.

#168 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 09:43 PM:

On the baking tangent - cake mixes are "better" inasmuch as they always produce a fine moist crumb that's hard to do with a scratch cake. They're generally not better w/r/t the flavor, which can be cloyingly sweet with heavy chemical notes.

The ingredients not available to home cooks are generally responsible for both of these things. And, of course, if you feed mix-cakes to your kid, you are, prima facie a bad parent.[/snark]

#169 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 09:58 PM:

Xopher, someday when you are eating carbs again I will make you one of my from-scratch chocolate cakes. And you will never again believe anyone who says a mix is superior.

#170 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 10:31 PM:
On the baking tangent - cake mixes are "better" inasmuch as they always produce a fine moist crumb that's hard to do with a scratch cake.

I dispute the "always" given the number of dry mix cakes I've tasted over the years. I also question that this is hard to do with a scratch cake inasmuch as I do it every time. Do I just have the magic recipe?

They're generally not better w/r/t the flavor, which can be cloyingly sweet with heavy chemical notes.

Amen. Even if the mix texture was better, flavor trumps texture in my book.

#171 ::: Nancy ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 10:36 PM:

Rivka, why does Xopher have to wait for carbs (or, I should say, "high carbs")? My favorite-of-all-time, to-die-for, chocolate cake is the Sacher Torte made as a real torte: with nut-flour instead of wheat flour. It spoiled me for "regular" chocolate cake for life -- it was my birthday cake throughout my teen years, made by my stepfather who had attended the Boston Cooking School specifically for pastry classes (long story there involving MIT and housemates and assignation of house duties; let's put it this way: he always won the duty of being cook for the house, which absolved him of all other duties, including cleaning the kitchen).

Mary, way upstream, wrote: "For several years I worked with a physicist who, when his kids were babies, gave them beer so they'd sleep during long car rides."

So that's why my dad used to give me sips of beer and whiskey (not at the same time) as a young child! That and to cultivate a taste for fine single-malts -- or that was his excuse at the time.

#172 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 10:41 PM:

Janni:

My father was only once criticized about parenting in my presence. It was some idiot who disagreed with how my Dad was teaching me to hit a baseball. My Dad, who used to watch Babe Ruth play, rather strongly objected to the intrusion. Normally, he is an extremely diplomatic man, a gentleman editor of the old school. But not this time...

Nobody has ever dared criticize either me or my wife about how we brought up our son, although we suspect that some of his friends' parents think we're too liberal. But since our son is doing spectacularly well in school, and socially, they keep mum. I only spanked him once in our lives. I cried more than he, but after that he knew I wasn't bluffing. He was safe to take to restaurants as a baby, never cried or yelled. I think that we are astonishingly lucky. I did speak with Dr. Spock once at a Democratic fundraiser in the early 1960s. Say, what would have happened if he HAD been elected President? Mike Resnick, Harry Turtledove, we await your fiction.

My father's father was a rags-to-riches immigrant, but dysfunctional within family relations. I'm very impressed by how well my Dad overcame his lack of paternal role model. My mother's parents were famously sociable, kind, and sensible -- plus my maternal grandmother was known for her great cooking, as was her mother. I picked my parents well, when I was still in the potential space of the unconceived. I think that my son picked me and my wife just as well. If anyone did drive-by criticize me or my wife, they'd get a response that would last a lifetime.

Anything I do to annoy anyone in this blog is entirely my fault, not to be blamed on my parents.

#173 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 11:22 PM:

Cakes from mixes? If D. came home from hockey practice and found I had baked a cake--even if the cake mix box was still sitting on the counter in plain sight--he would cock his head to the side and say, "Who are you and what have you done with my mother?" Or else: "Are you sure it's okay if I EAT it?" Or--as he said the last time I popped a couple of french bread pizzas in the oven--"Mom, do you think we should wait for Dad to get home?"

(I'm not a TERRIBLE cook, really. I just have a narrow subset of specialties, and baking is NOT one of them)

#174 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 11:33 PM:

Dan Blum - Maybe you do have the magic recipe. My texture success rate on scratch cakes is somewhere in the 75% range. Then again, I hold myself to very high standards, and I've only once made a cake that was a total failure, too many bananas, not enough everything else. Cake mixes, if you follow the directions, are pretty much foolproof. A bad-texture mix-cake was probably under-beaten and/or overbaked.

Of course, you're right, taste does trump texture as long as the texture is acceptable. And don't even get me started on that so-called frosting that comes in a can. If you feed that stuff to your kids... [/less_snark]

#175 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2005, 11:37 PM:

I just started a training course to learn how to be a personal coach, the kind of person you might hire if you want to increase you productivity or get greater fulfillment out of your life. I'll be done with the first course in five months.

Anyway, here was the relevant bit. The course starts with the assumption that poeple are healthy, whole, and complete. If the person isn't healthy, whole, and complete, then you're supposed to find out if they need coaching or if they need a therapist or some such thing.

So, an outcome of that attitude is that you as coach ask questions and the client comes up with the answers. The client hires you, basically, to ask them the right questions. They come up with the answers.

I didn't realize it until I got it, but I had in my mind the idea that a coach would be giving out advice, telling people what to do. ask a coach a question, they'll give you an answer.

But that isn't how this training works. as a coach, you learn to stop giving answers and start asking questions. It's a lot harder than I thought it would be when I actually started trying it.

Mommy drive-bys are a symptom of a larger human condition of giving advice. Sometimes you want advice, like when you're writing a story involving a helicopter pilot, you talk to a real pilot to find out what an autogyro feels like when you lose the engine.

But when you're in a relationship as equals with someone else, and if you relate to that person as whole and complete, then they don't need your advice.

I just never realized how much advice I give out until I had to help a bunch of people find their answer only by asking them questions.

What a cool experience though.

#176 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 12:06 AM:

Greg -- that's a lot of what I've had to learn to do as a negotiator/problem solver. We can't solve the problem together until we both know exactly what it is. And the Hakomi work I've been doing starts from the idea that people can generally solve their own problems from what they know somewhere inside -- it just takes a bit of work to put the pieces together.

I almost did an anti-drive-by today. A mother was (basically) dragged into The Other Change of Hobbit by her (about 5 year old) son. He was the one who wanted to look at the books. She wanted to get out sooner than he did, negotiated with him, insisted that he keep the books off the floor and treat them respectfully. I didn't quite say, "I love the way you're helping him respect books and love reading!", and I'm regretting it now. I did smile a lot at both of them!

#177 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 12:46 AM:

We're in a problem-solving society, and the easiest thing in the world is to offer a solution, or an apparent solution. Just listening is miles harder, especially when what you're listening to makes you uncomfortable or pushes your own buttons.

Tom: from the sound of it, that woman was probably terrified that her son would wreck something expensive, or that you would disapprove of her bringing a child into something other than the Kids Section at Barnes and Ignoble. I wish you'd done your anti-drive-by thing; she probably would have appreciated it.

#178 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 12:49 AM:

Crying rooms... I never heard of that.
But then I was astounded when I was at Wegman's grocery store recently, and upon leaving the check out aisles, I walked past a glass walled room that contained a playground of sorts, 2 young adult women, and several children playing. I'm assuming this is a baby sitting service the store offers to shoppers.
But I have to say this, even if it's in poor taste... But the first thing I thought of is how very similar it looked to pet store glass walled rooms where they keep the cats & dogs. haha.

Niall McAuley: "As a father of three, I can't recall ever being the victim of a parenting drive-by, but I have often been helped by passers-by, with or without kids, when my hands were full and one of the kids threw a wobbler."

You know, I think there's some sexist thing going on. Because my friends who are mothers often complain people in public won't even hold doors for them. But yet I often have seen people rushing to help a man with a kid. As if people think women should just deal, but men need extra help at any given moment with children. haha.
Personally, my bias runs more towards being more likely to assist someone elderly with a door or whatever.

Larry Brennan: "The only time I ever say anything (in line with Xopher and others upthread) is when kids are wildly misbehaving in public places. Especially on airplanes. Especially when they're kicking the back of my seat.
I once had a mommy shriekingly call me an "evil man" for complaining about her 10-year-old doing just this, endlessly, over a three-hour flight. The flight attendants told her to sit down, shut up and control her son. And if she didn't they'd land the plane and have her arrested! (She and her kid were *really* out of control.)"

Yeah, you know, I'm hesitant to even make personal silent judgements on any minor parenting choices, never mind to say something to someone... because I'm not a parent myself.
But that does NOT include keeping my mouth shut when someone else's kids are infringing upon my rights.
Over the years I've had repeated problems with parents completely oblivious in the grocery store while their kids fool around running into me, or around me, with the parent's grocery cart & such.
Of course, even worse, one time, this was happening, and when the parents finally noticed (they were busy arguing)... it would've been sufficient for them to simply call the kid over, scold the kid, and keep an eye on him - but instead, the father grabbed the kid by the upper arm & shoulder, started shouting right there in the aisle and then cracked the kid upside the head.
I still didn't say anything, but I did give them a dirty look. haha. Or as Northland says, "silent stares of disapproval". haha.
But I'm sorry, that's not a case of someone telling someone else how to parent - it's a case of - I don't want to deal with your family's dysfunction during my grocery shopping, thank you. haha.

Steve Eley: "It is not the rest of the world's responsibility to put up with it."

Exactly... If the kid has a behavioural problem. I'm sorry, but we don't have to excuse disruption or crimes committed against us because perpetrator is mentally ill. So I don't see a reason that a kid with a mental disease, or whatever, should just be allowed to run rampant in society doing whatever they please.

She swore at me like a sailor, then a few minutes later left the theater, dragging her child while shouting to everyone (and directed at me): "You bitch! He has Tourette's! You've fucking traumatized him, you bitch!"

Sounds like it was the mother who had Tourette's. LOL.

#179 ::: Carolyn Davies ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:06 AM:

Lenora Rose: and, my favourite, "What about the child's right to have a sibling?"

Which caused my older brother, who was peering over my shoulder, to ask, "Does it work the other way around? Where's my right to get rid of you?"

About the alleged Tourette's case-- I know from experience that with Tourette's, you learn really fast how to deal with it in public and I, for one, became totally desensitized to people being weirded out by my tics about six months in. I think the kid would be more "traumatized" by having the mom act in such a mortifying fashion in public than having other people act in a completely reasonable manner.

#180 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:11 AM:

Madeleine -- she made sure he said thank you to me when he left, and I said thank you back to him, and with very deep sincerity "Thank you for coming in" aimed at her. It may not have conveyed quite what would have been best, but I tried a bit.

#181 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:12 AM:
Crying rooms... I never heard of that. But then I was astounded when I was at Wegman's grocery store recently, and upon leaving the check out aisles, I walked past a glass walled room that contained a playground of sorts, 2 young adult women, and several children playing. I'm assuming this is a baby sitting service the store offers to shoppers.

Yup. We don't have Wegman's around here (Boston area), but there are other stores that have this (the Super Stop & Shop in Woburn, for one).

It's a great idea from the parents' perspective (which is to say, mine, although our son is generally very well-behaved in stores) and presumably pays off for the stores in customers' spending more time in the stores and choosing the stores that do this over others.

I've also seen stores that have special parental shopping carts - they're more or less carts built into plastic cars and trucks that kids can sit in and "drive." Not as effective as the babysitting, but cheaper.

#182 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:42 AM:

A couple of my best memories as a child are from the child care thing they had at the Berkeley Co-op. Being that this was back in the Ice Ages, the woman who worked there wore a white outfit like a nurse. You could do the colored macaroni stringing and block playing, and there were books, and it was just generally cozy, tucked under the stairs where you could see the whole store, and know your daddy was out there somewhere.

#183 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:46 AM:

A friend of mine has a son with Asperger's syndrome -- high-functioning autism is the short explanation of the syndrome often given. He's 11 years old and currently spends a lot of time shouting at his mother. Recently, towards the end of the summer holidays, she dared to go with him to the beach, after the other labour intensive options had run out. At the beach, he flew into one of his extreme rages and shouted at her unrestrainedly for a some time. This was not only painful and humiliating for her; it also disrupted the quiet of everyone else on the beach. After some time a woman approached them and said, "Is that child under medical supervision or is this incompetent parenting?"

You know, if she'd said "STFU" that would have been understandable. If she'd said, "For God's sake, shut that @#$% child up!" But the form of words she actually used indicates that she had grasped there was a real problem, but she still moved in to criticise, with no hint of an offer of help. My friend said, "This is Aspergers syndrome. He is under medical care." I would have thought any decent person at that stage would have asked if there was anything she could do to help. But no, the woman turned on her heel. The notion of drive-by mothering goes some way to helping me understand this interaction. Thank you, Teresa.

#184 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 03:06 AM:

Dan Blum: "I've also seen stores that have special parental shopping carts - they're more or less carts built into plastic cars and trucks that kids can sit in and "drive." Not as effective as the babysitting, but cheaper."

Yeah, they've had those at most of the local big Price Chopper grocery stores for a few years now.
And I have to say, I thought that was an excellent idea. The parents who use those do seem to have the most happy and content children in the stores! I wish they had those when I was a kiddiewink! haha.

#185 ::: Scott Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 03:08 AM:

Janni: Well, my friends *have* always called me "master of the obvious." I've always assumed there must be a reason for it. [g]

Proof that reading labels matters: I myself still drink juice and I feel a lofty desire to clear the name of that sweet nectar of the Gods that has been so defiled and besmirched by the Legion Of Drive-By Parents: Apple juice.

Yeah, OK, so it's not a big deal. I wonder, however, if people know the difference between "5% juice" (largely sugar water) and "100% juice," which usually comes from concentrate and does contain some vitamins (depending on what fruit it comes from) and minerals (ditto). It beats giving your kids Mountain Dew all to hell. Just another reason to read the labels when you buy groceries.

#186 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 05:03 AM:

Interesting. I had seen "crying rooms" publicised just in recent years as a wonderful new idea for cinemas, but checking in some history pages, I've found references to them in movie theatres built here in the 1930s, e.g. one at Bondi, and a pair of Regals, at Gosford (NSW) and another at Subiaco (WA). Perhaps because the only time I've ever heard of me crying (out loud) in a film was my shrieking terror at the sudden appearances of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, so my family didn't use them.

And as for "playing rooms" in stores, it was one of those "Why didn't we ever have those!" moments when I saw a glass-walled room part-filled with multicoloured rubber balls by the food court overlooking the ice-skating rink at Macquarie Centre, the shopping centre near where I started work in my 30s. Then I read that Ikea stores had them too ... but neither let [alleged] adults into them, unfortunately.

#187 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 05:27 AM:

In Australia there is a whole series of specific names for types of drinks that it is a great help to know to get what it is you want. Especially if your eyes have started to go and reading that teensy weensy little print they put the ingredients list in is getting hard. I'm not sure what happens with fruit cordials.

see Appendix B Definitions of Product Names*
Fruit juice (All juice with no added water. May have up to 4g of sugar per 100g of juice (4%));
Sweetened fruit juice (Juice with more than 4% added sugar.);
Fruit juice drink (Fruit juice and water. Contains not less than 35% juice. Because the juice is diluted, sugar is added. May contain colourings, flavourings and specified additives.);
Fruit drink (Fruit juice and water. Contains not less than 5% juice and added sugar. May contain colourings, flavourings and specified additives.);
Fruit-flavoured drink (Prepared from flavouring substance, essences or flavour emulsions derived from fruit, water and sucrose or glucose. May contain colourings and specified additives.)

* There are some specific exceptions.

So you go for "Apple Juice", not "Apple Juice Drink", say. Nowadays they tend to be called something like "Whoppadoozium!!" with the words "Apple Juice Drink" in smaller, low-contrast type somewhere else on the front of the label.

#188 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 09:38 AM:

Fruit-flavoured drink (Prepared from flavouring substance, essences or flavour emulsions derived from fruit, water and sucrose or glucose. May contain colourings and specified additives.)

The pup's favorite right now is a drink pouch that comes with a straw filled with sour semi-fruit-flavored sugar powder. Just in case the drink itself wasn't quite sweet enough.

As we don't do much soda, and he gets caffeine maybe bi-monthly at parties, we cave on this. Mostly he drinks water, milk, sports drinks and real juice. But he probably gets several of these in a week. I have drawn SOME lines, they are just really, really far apart, and hard to see from a distance.

#189 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 10:16 AM:

There are a lot of juices out there that are fortified with extra C and calcium, which makes me feel better about the whole lactose intolerant and not liking soymilk thing.

I let the kid sort out the real juice from the fake. It gives her practice reading labels and she's more motivated than I am (given a choice, I'd stick with Tropicana Calcium and Apple and Eve Cranberry Raspberry).

#190 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 10:20 AM:

"Is that child under medical supervision or is this incompetent parenting?"

Wow. Just wow.

Anything I could have thought of to say would have had to include "what's your excuse?"

#191 ::: Shana Rosenfeld ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 10:44 AM:

As far as lactose intolerence goes, the Lactaid products are very good. The Lactaid milk keeps longer than regular milk, and tastes decent.

My mother and brother are lactose intolerent, and since both of them love cereal with milk, the Lactaid milk has been a real boon.

And it tastes decent enough I have no hesitation in using it if we run out of the regular stuff...

#192 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 11:51 AM:

Aw, Tom. But you're such a gentleman; you've probably increased the probability that both mother and child will return or go to other bookstores.

True Tales of Loud Children: When Julie (now 14) was four months old, we took her west to visit my Aunt in LA, and Danny's sister in San Francisco. The first two legs of the trip were wonderful--not too full flights, flight attendents who wanted to play with the baby, and a child who decided that air travel made her drowsy. Perfect. And then. And then. Our return flight to NY was packed to the gills; it was one of those monster planes with five seats in the middle, and there we were, in the middle of the row. One woman, on arriving and seeing me, Danny, and the (at that point) sleeping Julie, demanded to be seated elsewhere. This was before the plane left the gate.

So: about an hour in, Julie starts to teethe. I swear to God, this child who had rarely had a cranky moment, became inconsolable. I nursed her, which helped, but no one can nurse for five and a half hours (at least, I couldn't). I was acutely uncomfortable with the amount of noise she was making, embarrassed and anxious at what impact this was having on the people around me. It was a bumpy flight, so I couldn't get up (past the two people on my left) and walk her up and down the aisles. It was just miserable. And three rows up and two seats over there was a youngish businessman who kept looking back at me. By the time we reached New York I was a wreck, and all my bad feelings were concentrated on this guy who kept looking at us. Because I knew he hated my child and me and thought (like the woman who had asked to be moved--she actually said this) that families should not be permitted to travel on "business flights."

Finally we landed. The passengers deplaned. Julie, finally worn out from weeping, had conked out. As we made our way up the ramp, the guy approached us. I braced myself for a spill of invective, but what he said was, "I felt so bad for you. My wife and I took our toddler to Europe last year, and he was sick on the plane, and there was nothing we could do for him. Are you okay?"

If Danny had not been standing by my side, I think I would have thrown my arms around this man. He had turned some of the misery of the last five hours around with a couple of kind words. Never doubt that saying something nice helps.

#193 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 11:54 AM:

Aw, Tom. But you're such a gentleman; you've probably increased the probability that both mother and child will return or go to other bookstores.

True Tales of Loud Children: When Julie (now 14) was four months old, we took her west to visit my Aunt in LA, and Danny's sister in San Francisco. The first two legs of the trip were wonderful--not too full flights, flight attendents who wanted to play with the baby, and a child who decided that air travel made her drowsy. Perfect. And then. And then. Our return flight to NY was packed to the gills; it was one of those monster planes with five seats in the middle, and there we were, in the middle of the row. One woman, on arriving and seeing me, Danny, and the (at that point) sleeping Julie, demanded to be seated elsewhere. This was before the plane left the gate.

So: about an hour in, Julie starts to teethe. I swear to God, this child who had rarely had a cranky moment, became inconsolable. I nursed her, which helped, but no one can nurse for five and a half hours (at least, I couldn't). I was acutely uncomfortable with the amount of noise she was making, embarrassed and anxious at what impact this was having on the people around me. It was a bumpy flight, so I couldn't get up (past the two people on my left) and walk her up and down the aisles. It was just miserable. And three rows up and two seats over there was a youngish businessman who kept looking back at me. By the time we reached New York I was a wreck, and all my bad feelings were concentrated on this guy who kept looking at us. Because I knew he hated my child and me and thought (like the woman who had asked to be moved--she actually said this) that families should not be permitted to travel on "business flights."

Finally we landed. The passengers deplaned. Julie, finally worn out from weeping, had conked out. As we made our way up the ramp, the guy approached us. I braced myself for a spill of invective, but what he said was, "I felt so bad for you. My wife and I took our toddler to Europe last year, and he was sick on the plane, and there was nothing we could do for him. Are you okay?"

If Danny had not been standing by my side, I think I would have thrown my arms around this man. He had turned some of the misery of the last five hours around with a couple of kind words.

#194 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 12:32 PM:

China was indeed the land of drive-bys. I believe they were generally grandmas. The group was informed that the grandma brigade was out there, so it wasn't a surprise to us. They didn't, however, tell us that our daughter had been raised to despise clothing, especially footwear.

I was in a theater to see BAMBI, and a couple of rows ahead was a child whose every thought passed through his lips without intermediary. This could have been annoying, but I consciously chose to take advantage of the opportunity to listen in on the thoughts of someone else. I especially wondered how he'd take it when Bambi's mom goes. It went something like this. "Bang." "Where's Bambi's mom?" "The hunters shot her." "No they didn't." Shortly after that, grown-up Bambi enters. "There's Bambi's mom." "That's Bambi." "No, it isn't."

The kid made sense. I wish I'd thought to ask him why Bambi was named for a cheerleader.

Shopping carts. Yes, Sarah loves the vehicular ones, and doesn't like sitting in a cart otherwise. I remember entertaining a child at a grocery store by pushing the cart backwards, so she was in front. I see that carts now tell us specifically not to do that. Sorry, Sarah. You'll never know the joy.

Secondhand smoke. Here's my story: I was in a theatre/cafe, in the miniscule non-smoking section, which occupied that rear quarter of the theatre -- worst seats in the house. So this guy had to sit a couple of tables away and light up and start exhaling all over. Cathy and I said nothing, but were relieved when the waitress went over to his table and spoke quietly. "I thought this was AMERICA!" was his witty rejoinder. Then, assuming that we'd ratted him out, he began loudly musing that he might just go to the back of the smoking section and blow his smoke back at us.

(Off topic? We are talking about infant behavior here, are we not, and this angry white moron was displaying it in abundance. A perfect snapshot of the jerk who knows he's entitled, but the Person's Been Keepin' Him Down.)

#195 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:06 PM:

The grocery store where I shop not only has the kiddy-car carts, it has a checkout lane labeled "Attention Parents: No Candy Lane." I found this very useful during the early phase of Atkins, when I craved sugar like an addict in withdrawal. Which, of course, I was.

They also deliver, which has led to me drinking more bottled water (than I can carry home, the previous limit). In fact you can order from them online and they'll shop it and deliver it. This has been a great boon to my stay-at-home-mom friend, whose two-year-old is sweet and adorable and wonderful, but she IS two. And you know what they say about two-year-olds? Can't disprove the stereotype by her.

#196 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:09 PM:

I recall seeing Bambi at a kiddie matinee some years back. Comes the moment when Bambi's mother gets shot. And my sweet little six-year-old daughter (raised to never speak in a theater) cheerily blurts out, loud enough to be heard over the weeping kids all around, "Venison for the whole family!"

#197 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:32 PM:

"Venison for the whole family" cracked me up and made my day.
It's insane what strangers will say to one another. In addition to drive by's are displays of sheer foolishness. When my girls were 2 and 4 they were at least 15lbs. difference in weight and the older looked older than her age. While they were in a double stoller at a mall, a stranger remarked "oh, twins are so exciting".

#198 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 01:56 PM:

and thought (like the woman who had asked to be moved--she actually said this) that families should not be permitted to travel on "business flights."

Oh, lord. And you let her live?

Similar versions of the business traveller's ritual complaint about crying or restless children have moved me to ranting more than once -- usually the rant starts with words to the effect of "Do you really, honestly think that any woman making a long plane trip with one or more small children is doing it for the giddy hedonistic pleasure of the experience?" and goes on from there.

#199 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 02:53 PM:

Just being a drive-by mum here. You would not believe the utter crap that random strangers come up and tell you in the street. I've been stopped countless times by people who've felt it their moral duty to tell me that my ice-for-blood daughter is cold, starting from when she was just a few days old. I've also been told yes, that I'm fat, that she's fat, that the way she's walking means that she needs specialist help for her feet, that I'm not parenting her properly, that I shouldn't shout at her (because, god help me, it will do her good in the long run if she doesn't get to school on time and I miss my 10 o'clock meetings), that she shouldn't eat chips, that I shouldn't let her walk a hundred yards ahead because didn't you know there are predators around, that don't I know it's dangerous for her to walk along reading Lemony Snicket, and if I didn't keep better control of my son that he'd come to a bad end. That last one is true of course.

I'm rarely lost for words but I never quite have the nerve to say 'do you train to be so unutterably rude or does it come naturally?' So I just fume, for about a minute, and then I drop it on the drinking rat poison principle and get on with my life.

Though nothing, but nothing, beats the time when Jonathan (who is four) was dawdling a few yards behind me, walking along his favourite low wall, and as two teenage girls walked past him, one of them pushed him off the wall, just for fun, and they ran off giggling.

#200 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Just another couple of data points for the sociologists out there. I was essentially a SAHD for my son's first year (in theory I was working from home, but was not particularly successful at logging the hours, surprisingly enough). I took him for walks in an urban neighborhood very often, so there were plenty of opportunities for drive-bys.

I cannot recall a single instance of a drive-by. Nothing even approaching it.

Related data point the second, on the issue of "dads with kids in parks trying to pick up women." Well, of course I wasn't trying to, but I have to say that more women initiated conversations with me (or, more often, with my son) while I was walking him than, well, in any other sphere of my life.

#201 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 04:25 PM:

Damn, how did that post come up twice? Apologies.

Oh, lord. And you let her live?

Of course I did, Deb. I was raised to feel guilty about any space I took up at all. Fortunately my children don't seem to have this problem (which seems to cause more drive-bys for me, but may argue greater mental health for them).

#202 ::: MaryRoot ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 04:26 PM:

I am glad to have read this thread while childless, and shall devote time before becoming a parent to developing a repetoire of witty replies for mother drive-bys.

I think I'll start with scanning the skies, muttering about the black helicopters, and loudly demanding "Who sent you! Who sent you!"

Is there a word for self-important ignorance?

#203 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 05:10 PM:

"Venison for the whole family!"

LOL. lol. I SO needed a good laugh right about now.

My last flight was the last leg of a business trip: Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C. I had a choice seat: bulkhead, on the aisle. I offered to trade seats with the guy sitting next to my boss so he and I could talk. The guy said he had asked for my seat; he'd recently had knee surgery and needed to be able to stretch his leg out. Then I warned him that he'd have a baby sitting across the aisle from him and another sitting directly behind him, and he said "no thanks." Both kids screamed all the way from SLC to DC. I was sympathetic, being a mom myself. Poor woman on my left tried everything: she fed the kid, picked him up, put him down, walked him, you name it, she tried it. The kid was inconsolable. As we were descending to land, both kids fell asleep, of course. On the way out of the plane I passed by the guy who had turned down my seat. I just laughed and said "You made the right decision."

#204 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 06:26 PM:

Ah yes, the business traveller who thinks that children should not be allowed on planes that they're travelling in...

These may well be the same people who think nothing of standing in the area near the back by the toilets, having a business meeting, in loud voices, during the sleep period. I seriously contemplated getting up and finding a stewardess to shut them up the last time this happened, and I was most of the length of the cabin section away from them. Other people were talking about them, not in complimentary fashion. They were quite oblivious to the fact that they were keeping a lot of people awake.

I found *them* much more annoying than the crying baby, who could not help it and whose parents were doing their desperate best to soothe it.

#205 ::: Chloe ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 06:45 PM:

Scott Miller: "It beats giving your kids Mountain Dew all to hell."

Hmmm... Maybe that might explain the kids that would repeatedly ram into me with their parents' grocery carts. hehe.

Madeleine Robins:
Just remember, people's disatisfaction about you & your baby's presence, was likely nothing personal. They didn't hate you, they hated the fact that they had to be there. haha.
Also, I think people can't help but look - and sometimes that might seem like they're looking on in disapproval, but perhaps it's just the human tendency to look at the source of a noise, and you saw their emotional reaction, which of course was probably the same as your own. haha.
But if they had any complaints about your presence on the flight - they should've been directed to the airline, not to you!

Alex Cohen: "Related data point the second, on the issue of "dads with kids in parks trying to pick up women." Well, of course I wasn't trying to, but I have to say that more women initiated conversations with me (or, more often, with my son) while I was walking him than, well, in any other sphere of my life."

They may not have been trying to pick you up. That might go towards what I mentioned before. This sexism I suspect that people just assume that men need more help with children. And that on some subconscious level some women feel that they have to rush to your side because you couldn't possibly be comfortable with your role, and couldn't possibly be adequately engaging your child in the process. haha.
In other words, I think it is a case of the "drive-bys". haha.

#206 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 06:50 PM:

MaryRoot: I am glad to have read this thread while childless, and shall devote time before becoming a parent to developing a repetoire of witty replies for mother drive-bys.

They \might/ go away faster if they think you're a fruitcake -- or they might be inspired to interference instead of just rudeness. OTOH, "What planet did you come from?" may be moving from that category to a standard buzz-off. Uf you come up with any good "What's \your/ excuse?" or "And in the morning, I shall be sober." forms, tell us all?

#207 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 07:46 PM:

mary, when I was emancipated to become my brother's guardian, we had popcorn for meals a few times a week. Cheap and filling, as long as you don't open the wrong part of the salt container (my brother still reminds me about that).

Churches used to have crying rooms, too. Maybe they still do.

#208 ::: Jax ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 09:07 PM:

What a great thread!

I've been remiss in my blog lurking lately because I've been busy trying to finish my ms. by July, the 23rd being my due date for our first child. Mad told me about the topic so I thought I'd check it out. I'm so glad I did.

And let me say, the drive-bys for pregnant women are enough! I'm *not* looking forward to drive-by mommy advice.

So far, I've had unsolicited tummy rubs, lectures about how the half a glass of wine I'm drinking (usually to get my mind off of searing pain from sciatica or my failing knees) will unalterably retard my child, how I shouldn't stick my legs in a hot tub for the 5 minutes that I do after swimming, how bacon's going to give my baby cancer, and how lying on my back will kill my child. I get *nasty*, and I mean *nasty* comments of shock when I confess I've been getting my hair highlited during my pregnancy (I'm 20 weeks along), and if all that's not enough, I get pre-parenting advice from people I could give two shits about.

The worst of this advice came from the wife of an ex co-worker. The co-worker I know well, we hang out now and then, I'm like one of the guys. The wife I barely know, but she's got four kids and *the* right method for raising all of them. So, the story goes: I'm instant messaging with my buddy (co-worker) and I tell him I'm pregnant. Not two minutes later do I get a call from his wife congratulating me. And the next HOUR AND A HALF I spend on the phone listening to a lecture about how all the popular methods of raising a child are wrong and how I need to never let my child cry, never put her down (yes, it's a girl), have her sleep in the family bed (with me and my husband) until she's a teenager, and breast-feed until she's 6 or 7; how my husband should only play with her and I should only nurture her, and blah blah blah...until I wanted to runaway to one of those homes and have the baby in secret, bring her home and never tell anyone we have a child. (Note, I'm not knocking *anyone* who uses the above method with their children. I'm just knocking the imposing of that method on me)

My neighbor and her newborn are constantly getting parental drive-bys. One in particular struck me. The baby was crying in a crowded restaurant with TVs (read: overstimulation) and the drive-by comes up to her and says, "Have you heard of the Shushing method?" You know, like Shhh, shhh, shhh.

So, to combat the drive-bys I'm considering some comebacks of my own:

Pregnancy Drive-By:

Drive by: You shouldn't be drinking, you know.
Me: Yeah but it's the only thing that helps with the shakiness I get from crystal meth.

Drive by: [Unsolicited tummy-touching] Aw, a baby!
Me: Actually, no, it's a tumor. The doctor says it's contagious.

Drive by: You shouldn't be eating that [bacon, soft cheese, etc]
Me: Oh, I know, but I'm part of this new Stanford study of pregnant women who eat nothing but carcinogens and unpasteurized cheeses. They're paying me *a lot* of money! I just missed out on the opiate study. [Mad contributed to this one, I think]

Drive by: You shouldn't be putting your legs in a hottub!
Me: Well, I got really faint after having been in the steam room for so long and I had to sit down, but I also had to pee, and the hot tub was right here, so I figured two birds with one stone...come on in, it's warm.

Drive-by: I can't believe you're getting your hair colored. All that bleach can hurt the fetus.
Me: [I'm blonde] Like, oh my gosh, are you, like, serious? Cause, like, the Vetriginarian that I talked to said it was, like, totally OK.

Parenting Drive-By:

Drive-by: Have you heard of the shushing technique?
Me: Is that like the breathing technique? Cause I'm just not a fan of either.

Drive-by: [About crying baby] Maybe your baby's hungry? Have you fed her?
Me: She had some beer earlier. It's pretty filling, I gave her a stout.

I hope to have the guts to use the comebacks because it seems to me there's no stopping the drive-by, so why not at least have some fun with it.

jax.

#209 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 10:01 PM:

Jax:
Drive by: You shouldn't be putting your legs in a hottub!
Me: Well, I got really faint after having been in the steam room for so long and I had to sit down, but I also had to pee, and the hot tub was right here, so I figured two birds with one stone...come on in, it's warm.

Heh. BTW, an anti-drive-by: my wife and I spent a fair bit of time researching the whole hot tub/pregnancy issue, and she asked her OB about it too. It's really not a big deal as long as you don't boil yourself. All the identified risks are from raising your core body temperature several degrees, especially early in pregnancy. We simply turned our hot tub down to 98 degrees (still feels quite warm in winter) and Anna doesn't sit in it longer than ten minutes at a time. Simply sticking your legs in for a few minutes ought to do nothing at all.

#210 ::: Jax ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 10:18 PM:

Steve,

My doctor basically told me the same thing. As long as your temp doesn't get above 102 and you don't feel faint you're fine, and that's riskier in the 1st tri. You'd think these drive-byers assume you've never read a book, never talked to a doctor, basically never stepped foot outside your cave of ignorance to experience this strange thing we call reality.

If only these people really knew how much a mother-to-be (and I'm sure how much a mother) worries about anything and everything that could possibly affect her child.

jax.

#211 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2005, 11:51 PM:

Jax: I'm sorry you have to deal with idiots. :-( I like some of your come-backs and wish I'd thought of some of them myself.

Mine was an initially unwanted pregnancy (birth control failure) and I had one of the worst nightmares of my life out of worry over the lizard-thing.

I figure humans have been spawning for thousands of years, under sometimes horribly adverse conditions and uncontrollable circumstances and divergent social constraints, and the species is still around (whether or not you think of that as a good thing), and there are lots of decent human beings walking around no doubt raised in very different ways.

I wish you all the best, Jax!

Of course, in the anti-drive-by arena, during the summer job when I was pregnant (but was keeping it quiet to avoid annoying questions), I was hanging out during lunch hour with one of the instructors and a tutor. They were both smokers; they asked if I minded. I appreciated their asking, which they were not obliged to, but I said please don't go out of your way to spread it around, but I'm pregnant and I don't feel comfortable being around cigarette smoke and I may have to go somewherre else. (I also have near-allergic reactions to cigarette smoke, independent of spawning.) They were very kind, apologized although they certainly didn't need to, given that they had been the ones being considerate in the first place, and elected not to smoke at that particular lunchtime. I kind of doubt that fifteen minutes' exposure to cigarette smoke would have done measurable damage compared to, I dunno, the general air pollution.

#212 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 12:38 AM:

Yoon Ha Lee:
I figure humans have been spawning for thousands of years, under sometimes horribly adverse conditions and uncontrollable circumstances and divergent social constraints, and the species is still around (whether or not you think of that as a good thing), and there are lots of decent human beings walking around no doubt raised in very different ways.

That's what I tell myself too. What my wife and I are doing has been done successfully billions of times, and almost all of those billions were achieved with less knowledge and fewer resources than we have. We're intelligent, we're healthy, we can afford to feed, clothe and educate a kid, we love and -- even better -- like each other, and are prepared to give the same to our child. All of which ought to give us a head start against the inevitable surprises.

The smoking thing: Very nice. If all smokers were that cordial, the habit might enjoy a better reputation. (Which, come to think of it, may not be a great thing.)

#213 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 01:18 AM:

Apologies if this already was pointed out, but it's hardly only mothers who do drive-bys.

Jax, perfect your Charles Manson stare. I found that a hostile, silent, "did it just get colder in here?" stare worked very well to get people to STFU and move right along. That, and don't bother to be 'nice'. Why on earth would you sit and listen to an hour-and-a-half lecture?

#214 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 01:44 AM:

The handful of Unitarian Churches I've attended have usually had a line in the bulletin asking parents with crying children to bring them into the narthex. I had to look that one up to make sure that it wasn't some sort of dismal chamber filled with emaciated, screaming orphans.

The church in SF also asked people to skip the perfume and cologne, and not to sit in the first 10 rows if they had been smoking before church. I didn't like that congregation very much. I got the feeling that you had to be a member of at least two oppressed "communities of identity" to be truly welcome.

By the way, during the airplane incident I started out trying very hard to be nice - mommy and son were just beyond dealing with. (FWIW, the kid let out a blood-curdling shriek when the wheels touched the ground. Never heard anything like it on a plane before or since.)

It's hard to travel with kids. Once, when I was flying from Newark to SFO there was a couple with a little girl (maybe 2 years old) who got violently sick on the woman sitting next to them, and then on the people in the row in front of them. I was sitting one row behind them, across the aisle. At one point they picked her up and all I could do was smile at them and think, "Don't point that thing at me."

I do feel compelled to point out that I like kids, and on the whole they tend to like me, too.

#215 ::: liz ditz ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 03:44 AM:

I was looking for something else, and found a 2003 version of the whole thing for daddies

http://www.beingdaddy.com/archives/000666.html

Being Daddy Investigation Follow-Up

Last week's "investigation" (into the frequency of unsolicited help from strangers when dealing with an upset child) illicited many responses. The good news is...

A) Most people have experienced the exact same "help" that I have, and ...
B) The behavior does not seem to be restricted to the men. Mothers appear just as likely to recieve unsolicited childcare "assistance" as the guys.

Unfortunately, the early data also seems to suggest that THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY DAMN BUSY-BODIES AROUND.

#216 ::: Jax ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 04:49 AM:

Why on earth would you sit and listen to an hour-and-a-half lecture?

Well, first of all I had no way of knowing the lecture was going to last that long. But most importantly, because she's the wife of a dear friend, and when you're a woman who treasures her guy friends, you know that with some friendships one bad word from the wife can make you lose all that...so you respectfully put up with crap sometimes because the value of keeping a friendship is sometimes worth the occassional lecture. Doesn't mean I can't bitch about it later, though.

And honestly, when you're pregnant with your first child, no matter how old or young you are, there's a whole lot of overwhelming going on (am I going to kill my baby before she's born, am I going to be able to keep my baby alive after she's born, will I be able to keep from killing my teenager when she turns into a nightmare, and please don't let me outlive my child...) You sort of fall into the trap of thinking maybe there's something of value in this sermon only to realize that's an hour and a half of your life you'll never get back. Live and learn, I guess.

jax.

#217 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 05:51 AM:

I can't understand this intolerance from business travellers towards children on planes, and I've done my share of business flying.

After all, as a business traveller I am travelling in the course of my job: I am getting paid to travel, and to put up with the annoyances of airports, hotels, and yes, toddlers on planes.

I am far more disturbed by the prospect of getting on a charter flight when I am supposed to be going on a relaxing holiday, am paying for it out of my own pocket and the plane is only half full of crying kids, with the rest of the seats taken up by people singing "Torremolinos, Torremolinos", drinking Watney's Red Barrel and squirting Timothy White's Suncream all over their puffy faces because "You don't want to overdo it on the first day!".

#218 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 06:46 AM:

Jax -

The shushing thing made me think of this:

Drive-by: Have you heard of the shushing technique?
VoDB: Yes. [To Drive-by] Sshhhh.

#219 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 12:21 PM:

Jax:

drive by: Don't worry. Babies don't explode, they are remarkably resiliant, you will love yours, you will not break it, it will grow into a fine woman, gorgeous like her Mom, and you will have made the world a better place thereby. /drive by.

signed, been there, doing that

#220 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 01:12 PM:

Oh dog, I have to bring my two kids on a plane in a couple of weeks. Around 2 hours each leg, with a 2-hour layover. Danged Hub-and-Spoke airlines.
(Kid 1 will be fine, I think, but kid2 is 3.5 ... *shudder*)

#221 ::: Northland ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 01:23 PM:

Lenora Rose: Put down that Sun right now! Are you trying to give yourself a coronary? ::shakes head sadly:: And stay away from Lindor Reynolds' columns too. It's a toss-up as to which of those two so-called writers has more empty space between her ears.

Jax: Congratulations and good luck. You can do it. FYI: Our midwife prescribed a double shot of vodka (for me) early in labour for relaxation purposes. Worked like a charm.

#222 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2005, 08:35 PM:

Niall mused:

I can't understand this intolerance from business travellers towards children on planes, and I've done my share of business flying.

After all, as a business traveller I am travelling in the course of my job: I am getting paid to travel, and to put up with the annoyances of airports, hotels, and yes, toddlers on planes.

I think you must be a lucky business traveller then. When I'm flying on business, my company typically expects me to be absent for as little time as possible, and to be useful for as long a time as possible. This very frequently means early morning or late night flights - and often means that the only chance for a nap or relaxation is on the flight[0].

A screaming child (or an adult that insists on reading the newspaper with two lights on during the redeye) can really make the next day more of an ordeal than it already is, especially if there's a change in time zones involved.

I understand that kids and flying aren't always a great combination - and do empathize. It doesn't stop me from the occasional [internal] seethe.

The fright that was full of junior-high basketball teams (both genders), still stands out in my memory as being both wretched and thankfully short.

[0] Never mind trying to actually get work done on the flight.

#223 ::: Sally ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2005, 02:06 AM:

I have just caught up with this discussion
Just a couple of points
1)To Mary :What a lovely thing for your son to say -good on you both.
2) Parenting other people's children is far easier than your own (it's so much easier to see where they are going wrong Ha Ha)
3)My Mother always says that "Bachelors wives and spinsters children are always the best". (Think about that people)
4) last but not least a very special friend once reflected after going to a funeral service that it was a shame that we seem to wait until people die to say good things about them, so I try to make a point of saying nice things (even to strangers) when I notice them, you never know how good that will make someone feel.It certainly seems to be the case when you do a "reverse drive by" -would like to hear a better name for that "warm fuzzy anyone"?

#224 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Sally wrote:
4) last but not least a very special friend once reflected after going to a funeral service that it was a shame that we seem to wait until people die to say good things about them, so I try to make a point of saying nice things (even to strangers) when I notice them, you never know how good that will make someone feel.It certainly seems to be the case when you do a "reverse drive by" -would like to hear a better name for that "warm fuzzy anyone"?

Just call it what it is. A compliment.

#225 ::: Sally ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2005, 03:01 PM:

Thanks Steve.
Obvious when you think about it.
I encourage all parents out there to just continue to do what you do best i.e. the best job you can at any given time with the information you have.
We all make mistakes, but keep in mind that if you don't make mistakes you can't learn from them.
Be kind to yourself (and your offspring,spouses etc....).
And try to keep in mind that you can't (and shouldn't) always know what is going on in someone else's life that can colour the choices that they make.

#226 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2005, 01:20 PM:

Sally:

These days, plenty of us spinsters are having/adopting kids . . . .

Interesting sentiment, though.

#227 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2005, 04:32 PM:

Now I remember, because I should be doing something else, that I meant to ask: what is the shushing technique?

I've never heard of it. And I spent several years as a caregiver for toddlers and infants and preschoolers, read everything that came down the pike, gave some classes, and wrote a childrearing column for a feminist monthly for five years. So it must be something from Somewhere Else or something from the last five-ten years. right? Or did I just miss it somehow?

#228 ::: Sally ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2005, 07:14 PM:

Hi Melissa
point taken - no offence intended
"spinster" in my Mum's context meaning - a woman who has never had a child (however that may come about)
Just making the point that emotional"disconnection" from any thing allows us to see things more clearly (or so we may think).
e.g. obviuosly a bachelor by definition doesn't have a wife, so any observations he may make about how "his wife" - would/should/could do anything are all hypothetical and very simple.
I am also intrigued by the "shushing technique"

#229 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2005, 06:42 PM:

xeger, your company's travel people need to take a chill pill, I think. How can they expect you to control whether the flight is relaxing? If they want you to step off the plane fresh as a daisy, dammit, they should pay for you to fly first class and have a personal attendent. In my opinion.

But most importantly, because she's the wife of a dear friend, and when you're a woman who treasures her guy friends, you know that with some friendships one bad word from the wife can make you lose all that...

Real friends don't expect you to put up with stupid crap from their wives. Again IMO.

#230 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2005, 10:45 PM:

Lucy - the "shushing technique" comes from Harvey Karp, who wrote a book called The Happiest Baby on the Block. He teaches a system of calming tiny babies (it's for the "fourth trimester," the first three months of life) that relies on the 5 S's, which are, um, swaddling, swinging, side or stomach lying, shushing, and sucking. In this case, "shushing" isn't just telling the baby "Shh!" - it's making rhythmic shushing noises that supposedly mimic the sound of the mother's heart.

Lots of my friends with babies swear by Dr. Karp.

#231 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2005, 11:21 PM:

(waves at Rivka) All my friends with new babies think swaddling (or, as they call it, "baby burritos") is the greatest thing since breast pumps. Apparently it works a treat for colic. But I'm confused--isn't putting a baby on its stomach a no-no because of SIDS? Or is that for older babies?

I think it's a good thing I'm going to be Auntie Mame instead of an actual mother.

#232 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2005, 01:06 AM:

Yes, the current thinking is that babies should be placed on their backs to reduce the chance of SIDS.

The medical advice has reversed in last decade or so, so mostly people are just confused and anxious on the question; and well-meaning people of different ages give contradictory advice based on what they themselves have been told.

The best current advice on the topic is here:

http://www.nichd.nih.gov/sids/sids.cfm

#233 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2005, 09:26 PM:

Oh, swaddling, rocking, and making little rhythmic noises -- brand new techniques unknown anywhere in the history of humankind!

Sorry for the sarcasm. But those are as close to instinctive behaviors as we get, and the only reason we don't do them universally and automatically is because our whole nature is to be cut loose from instinct (not to not have instinct, but to be only tenuously attached to instinct).

#234 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2005, 10:30 PM:

Northland: Thanks for the chuckle. I did say it was the worse of our two papers. (and Lindor Reynolds is a bubblehead at best) Given my druthers, I'd be nowhere near it. but it's what one of my co-workers picks up, and if there's somethng newsworthy happening, I sometimes read a page or two to get a handful more details.

#235 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2005, 10:31 PM:
Alex Cohen::"Related data point the second, on the issue of "dads with kids in parks trying to pick up women." Well, of course I wasn't trying to, but I have to say that more women initiated conversations with me (or, more often, with my son) while I was walking him than, well, in any other sphere of my life."
Chloe::...I suspect that people just assume that men need more help with children. And that on some subconscious level some women feel that they have to rush to your side because you couldn't possibly be comfortable with your role...

My assumption has been that I'm just less threatening (and thus more approachable) with a kid, but I may be atypical--either because I look really comfortable with my son, or because normally I look really scary. I'm a little over 2m tall and mass about 115kg, so the latter wouldn't be entirely unreasonable. And I have had people cross the street suddenly when I approached in the past. None since I've had a baby in my arms, though.

#236 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2005, 09:06 AM:

Anne - you put babies on their backs to sleep, yes, because of SIDS. But if you're holding a baby, trying to get her to stop crying, it's perfectly safe to put her belly-down in your lap.

Lucy - well, you know, a lot of people's mothers are passing on advice like "don't pick that baby up, you'll spoil him." So some of these species-typical nurturing behaviors do get lost. My mother works with pregnant teenagers, and she has handouts explaining how to play with your baby - because a lot of the teens she sees just have no idea of how or why you should do it. To me, playing with an infant is spontaneous and natural - but it's natural to me largely because I grew up around good models.

Speaking of ancient childcare traditions, my mother also has a whole riff on the baby Jesus, who is routinely pictured as swaddled ("wrapped him in swaddling clothes...") and sleeping in his own bed ("and laid him in a manger...") on his back. Long before the re-discovery of back sleeping as a SIDS preventive, Mary - and thousands of artists - apparently knew better than to place the baby Jesus on his stomach.

#237 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2005, 04:05 PM:

Rivka - does it literally say in the Bible that she laid him on his back?

Because otherwise, you know, from an artistic point of view, people want to look at Baby Jesus' behaloed face, not the back of his swaddled head (which I guess would also be behaloed).

#238 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2005, 10:25 PM:

Rivka - does it literally say in the Bible that she laid him on his back?

Laura - Shhhhh. Don't spoil a perfectly good riff. ;-)

#239 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2005, 11:06 PM:

Rivka: I've taught teenaged mothers too. And yes, they're not the only ones without the full complement of good baby care techniques. I wasn't objecting to teaching people to do those things: I was objecting to putting a fancy name on it. Which was probably wrong, too, now that I think about it.

But it's still funny.

#240 ::: Ananke ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 03:47 AM:

I'm not a parent but I remember several people snarking at my mother about my hair - "why do you let her do that?". Apparently it's better for a clumsy child to have long hair than short and mistaken for a boy...

Her response? "If Ananke wants to look like an idiot then she can."

Probably not the nicest thing to say but it stuck with me - how much fun is rebellion if all your mother says to any 'outrageous' style is "well if you wanna look like a dork..."??

#241 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 06:35 AM:

Well, Chez Miscarraige quickly removes any posts that they don't like. I can understand a person being annoyed when someone sticks his nose in where it doesn't belong, but quite often I see parents that need far more than a stern look or rude comment. Here's the scoop: Please tell junior it's not nice to spit on his playmates. I really don't need your germs making my family sick. Please be advised that killing hamsters is not an amusing hobby, no matter how young you are. I'm sure Ted Bundy's parents thought he too was gifted. Please don't moan to me about your hard life because you're a "single mom." No one said the job was easy. That doesn't mean you get to drop your unruly brats on the rest of the world to raise. I didn't get you pregnant. I'm particularly annoyed when I hear the single mom whine coming from a woman who intentionally became a single mom. Hey, if you're that arrogant that you think you can do better than 2 parents and think men are so unimportant they have no real role in a family, then deal with the consequences of that choice. And please, keep those consequences in your own yard because personally, I'm tired of replacing all the broken windows/toys/lights/deck boards that your kid destroys and you can't afford to replace because you're "a single mom." Of course, you couldn't possibly teach him to be civilized because you're too tired, too stressed and what's the point? After all, he's a boy, and you've already told him males are not that important.

#242 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 06:47 AM:

More morning words of wisdom: For kid 1, we went by the rules. Sorry, not quite all the rules, I never laid a baby on its tummy, we used the side rolls method. But, we put him in his own room, didn't run to him every time he cried and our life was hell. He was up every 40 minutes for a feeding until he went to high school. Along came kids #2 and #3. Hey, guess what? By this time I realized we were the only culture that put kids on their tummys, that left babies alone at night and that didn't carry small infants around most of the time. So, these babies slept with us. If they cried, we went. And guess what? They slept through the night from day 1 (had to woke to be fed), voluntarily went into their own "big kid" rooms and beds, and were far better adjusted, calmer, independent, confident little people than the first one. Mother nature has been around a lot longer than the "experts", listen to her. You know, some societies don't even have ADHD and boys are actually allowed to squirm after sitting on a hard wooden chair for 5 hours and no one drugs them for it.

#243 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 10:40 AM:

Worddude:
Well, Chez Miscarraige quickly removes any posts that they don't like.

Or, perhaps, posts that missed the memo.

#244 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 10:59 AM:

You know, some societies don't even have ADHD and boys are actually allowed to squirm after sitting on a hard wooden chair for 5 hours and no one drugs them for it.

Can you document this? And if they accommodate fidgiting etc., how do they know that their society is free of ADHD?

I firmly believe that people with ADHD could get along without drugs if society accommodated us (yeah, us) as much as it does, say, left handed people (which is not too bloody much). As it is, I'm not able to; I take Cylert every day and haven't been fired from a job since (used to happen a lot).

Such accommodation is not the same as society "not having ADHD," however. Could you clarify which societies you're talking about, and how we know that this particular alternative brain formation does not exist in them?

#245 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 11:44 AM:

worlddude's post reminds me of a drive-by I got in a locker room at one of my son's hockey games.

The kids were seven-ish, and were playing a team with a few female players. The coach came into the locker room right before the game and said, in order to adequately motivate the boys, "There's girls on this team. You wouldn't want to get beat by a buncha girls, wouldya?"

My mouth fell open; my husband, who was tying D.'s skates, gasped and looked at me to measure my reaction. I turned to D. and said, "Now really, if the girls are better than you, and play harder, and win, do you think that's bad?"

D. said, "Nope."

And I said, "Do you think it makes you a worse hockey player if you get beat by a team with girl players than if you get beat by a team made up of all boys?"

D. said, "Nope."

And I said, "Is there any reason you can think of that you should be better than the girls just because they're girls?"

Just then the other coach, who was sitting on the other side of us in the locker room, leaned over and glared at me, and said, "Well, why don't you just emasculate him right here, MOM?"

He plays on a different team now. The coach's daughter is their center. She's one of the toughest kids on the team. And when D. plays against girls, he doesn't underestimate them and he's not afraid to play physically against them. I told him if he doesn't play his hardest against them, he's insulting them and being sexist.

I don't think all of this feminism is emasculating him. He seems to be growing quite comfortably into his maleness as he approaches his tweens. I have to say, though, that the biggest challenge my spouse and I face raising a boy is combating the cultural machismo hang-ups he's exposed to daily. We get quite a few drive-bys regarding our efforts to deal with the omnipresent sexist and heterosexist indoctrination.

#246 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 11:48 AM:

er, worddude, sorry about getting your name wrong. That's what I get for posting hurriedly at work before drinking coffee.

#247 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 12:55 PM:

Xopher, I think you've got it exactly right about ADD (add and subtract initials as the fashion dictates).

There is no slack at all for what kind of person you can be and make it through school and in work in our society. Parents drug their children so that their children can survive here.

When I was interviewing homeless for a city council taks force, over and over again I realized I was talking to a person who once was the personable, squirrely kid who couldn't sit still in class, who was perfectly normal or extra bright cognitively but couldn't get a grade to save his life because he couldn't bear the conditions of school.

For a while there we were encouraged to find curricular solutions to this (activities including movement and personal choice, assignments tailored to the kids at hand), but "education reform" has put the kibosh to that. And the number of kids diagnosed with a mental disorder increases, and the number of kids doped to save their lives increases.

And you know what? I don't believe in it, but I might drug my kid if I had to raise an active, magpie-minded one under the current circumstances too - I've considered drugging myself for the same reasons.

#248 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2005, 02:03 PM:

he couldn't bear the conditions of school.

I hated the conditions of school. Hated, hated, hated them. I'm over 30 and I still occasionally have nightmares about school.

But, I was capable of sitting still, and I didn't talk much. So, as far as the teachers were concerned, I was not a problem. (I'm not saying I was "good" and kids who can't sit still are "bad".)

My brother, OTOH, was labelled "hyperactive." This was before the age of ADD and medication, so they didn't do much except complain about him. What would they do with him now?

#249 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2005, 06:23 PM:

Okay, perhaps there IS some very tiny, small, percentage of people with something that is ADHD or ADD (hey, I worked with these kids for years), but I have to tell you, I doubt it. Children and adults are not suppose to sit on their behinds for 5 - 10 hours a day reading. This is not natural. If these same kids lived even 50 years ago, where they'd be out chopping wood, farming, painting, sewing, cooking, fishing, raking, etc. they'd be fine, believe me. Heck, they'd be walking - instead of driving everywhere. They'd be healthy, sleep well, have no weight issues and no "anxiety attacks". Everyone is not an academic, but our society DEMANDS they become one to succeed. The mind can only take so much torture. Everyone does not have the lack of physical energy required to sit on his or her ass for 5 hour stretches - the body rebels, it wants to burn calories, to exercise muscles, to get the heart pumping blood.....that's also why we're all so damned fat!! Nothing with a heart beat is suppose to "work" under these conditions, then eat fast food, pop a pill to go to sleep, a pill to be able to sit still, a pill to reduce stress. Life just doesn't work like that. Anyway, not sure if this is still the case, but back in the '90s we learned that Eastern Europe, Latin countries and Middle Eastern nations had no ADHD or ADD and they also had no crib death (to speak of). As I said previously, mammals don't usually take their newborns and plunk them in a dark room alone for 8 hour periods, either. Even primates have enough sense not to do that. But heaven forbid we do what nature tells us and not what Dr. Spark suggests. You know, most of these pearls of wisdom for child rearing came out the same decade when it was suggested "difficult teens" get lobotomies. And how many kids got part of their brain disconnected because of being a pain in the ass to their parents?? Too many to count. Now we have a pill to do it, it's so much more civilized that way.

#250 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2005, 06:29 PM:

XOPHER WROTE: I firmly believe that people with ADHD could get along without drugs if society accommodated us (yeah, us) as much as it does, say, left handed people (which is not too bloody much). As it is, I'm not able to; I take Cylert every day and haven't been fired from a job since (used to happen a lot). /QUOTE

XOPHER. No one needs to accommodate you, you simply need to find a job that's "natural" for you. Maybe our egos insist we be PhDs, but our physical beings may need for us to be wood choppers. You're not "abnormal" you're perfectly normal, you just happen to be trying to fight your own natural physiology.

You know, they give nurses and other shift workers (including airline pilots and military types) drugs, so they can stay awake during the overnight shift (most, but not all of the population, has a real struggle with this). It's simple physiology. You can't do it, cause your body was never built to allow you to do it.

#251 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2005, 08:40 AM:

worddude, the more physically active society of old you describe is, in fact, one which was more accommodating of ADHD/ADD. The fact that it made a better accommodation for this condition doesn't mean that the condition didn;t exist, just that it was less likely to create adjustment problems. A condition that doesn't cause much of a problem is less likely to be noticed, diagnosed, or worried over. That does not mean the condition isn't there. In fact, ADHD/ADD may have been a good quality for survival at one point, just like the human metabolic type designed to survive famines in times past, and now at great risk for obesity.

Xopher: check out the article in this week's Newsweek on the advantages of ADHD/ADD, if you have not read this already.

#252 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2005, 11:44 AM:

We call people with ADHD "hunters" and people without "farmers." Diffuse attention, hyperalertness, hypersensitivity to environmental changes, and the ability to snap into the hyperfocus "chase mode" are all advantages in hunting (many of these are also advantages in gathering, which was the MAIN food source of preagricultural "Hunter-Gatherer" societies).

All of these are grave disadvantages when you have to plow a straight furrow from dawn to dusk, and do the same tomorrow and the day after that (the hyperfocus doesn't last that long). I would contend that the reason hunter-brains are the minority today is because the invention of agriculture made it harder for us to find a place in society, and made society less willing to put up with our more irritating traits (emotional volatility is just one). We got killed a lot, and had trouble supporting families, etc.

worddude, I'm well aware that I'm fighting my own physiology. I generally try to have multiple tasks to do, so that I can switch between them, and I make clear to my bosses that I need to do that. That's the best I can do in today's society.

By "less accommodating" I mean that there are not enough jobs that are appropriate for people with ADHD. I.e. there are fewer "hunter" jobs than there are "hunter" brains. And the brighter you are the worse it gets; bright people are expected to be "farmers," as is everyone, but the brighter you are the stronger that expectation is.

Being a wood-chopper would frustrate me to the point of suicide within days. I'd like to point out that "hunters" also make good sports players, rescue workers (especially firemen), and combat soldiers. The sitting around and waiting part of these jobs is still tough for the hunter-brain, though; that's why they get in trouble or self-medicate with alcohol.

For various reasons (including both the ideological and the physical) none of those jobs is suitable for me. In fact, I doubt there's any job in today's society that, without my medication, I could do well without being frustrated to tears or rage.

I don't think you were really saying that I should go chop wood for a living. But I can't escape the sense that you think I should take a low-paying, low-status job rather than take the medication I need to function at my current job. Think Cylert=wheelchair and you'll see why I don't agree.

fidelio: thanks, I'll be sure to check it out.

#253 ::: shannon ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2005, 08:18 PM:

Then one day we couldn't do that any more, and only found out the hard way, when we took her someplace she'd been fine a dozen times before and just was not fine THIS time, thank you.

Oh god... Yes. This happened to us too. Our daughter was the most well-behaved child to take to any type of adult event. I mean, we took her everywhere (I took her to my University classes in a snugli!). Then one day, we took her to a play, and she would not stop whining. This simply was not her way. She'd been to dozens before, no problem. And believe me, I would have taken her out of there in a heartbeat if I could have. But the theatre was designed in a way that I would have had to have crossed the stage to get out! Oh man... 8 years later, and I'm still embarrassed!

Now, as for drivebys, there've been a few. I homeschooled for a couple of years, and therefore my child is maladjusted, stupid, illiterate and utterly dependent *snort* But the worst is "When are you going to have another?" or "Why didn't you have more?" and "How selfish of you not to give her a sibling!" Um, bite me. I usually reply, "I'm still recovering from the first birth". Which is true in that it did a major number on my health, and is funny enough to most people that they drop the subject. One of these days I'm going to burst into tears and demand to know why she's asking such horrible insensitive questions. :)

#254 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 12:23 AM:

Shannon, I hope your are not the fan woman I've seen at a couple of world-cons that had her beloved late-life baby and now has to use oxygen because it damaged her so. I think she was not very young when she had her baby, and it wrecked her physiology.

If you are, my heart goes out to you. That has to be one of the worst places to be. (have a beautiful, happy baby, not be able to enjoy raising the child...)

#255 ::: Sturf ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2005, 11:29 PM:

I don't want rude drive-by's or "positive" ones either from some stranger I don't know. The rude one's piss me off, and the "positive" ones are condescending, at best, from a complete stranger.

I'm a natural child birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, work outside the home, sometimes yelling, sometimes spanking, tell my kids I love them and give them lots of hugs and kisses everyday and I really need you all to mind your own f*&#ing business kind of Mom. I had an incident with one Mom being snotty to me, once again, this evening and found this site... thank goodness, or I was about to e-mail her a nasty note telling her what she could do with her snears and snyde, unsolicited, un-kempt stay-at-home Mom b*&*#$@.

WHEW... that feels a lot better. Boy, was I angry. I'm glad to hear other people have to put up with this crap. Not glad, but it does make me feel less alone and less "Am I crazy or did that crazy b#@*! just say that to me?!?!"

Thanks for letting the steam out of my ears.

#256 ::: Karen ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:59 PM:

Hi. I just read the topic about "mother drive-bys". What an astonishing realization - that other women have been targeted - just as I have been. I have five daughters, all now grown. I have been a stay-at-home mom and a working mother. Both are challenging jobs. When the girls were little, people would say the most amazing things to me. "Did you really mean to have all these kids - or were they just accidents?" (delivered in a voice filled with incredulity) was one of the more common ones. One well-meaning older woman came to visit me when I was expecting my third child. I was so sick with "morning sickness" that when I stood up, I inevitably vomited. (Sorry!) I lost 20 pounds within the first trimester. She entered my dark living room and proceeded to advise me on what my trouble was. "You know, the reason you are so sick is because you really, on some level, do not want the baby. That is your problem." Amazing. Fortunately, I never took these jabs to heart because I really, truly love being a mother. Even when I was so tired that I yelled at them, even when I sent my oldest to school without her lunch (forgot it), even when I accidentally left one at church...., I came to realize that I was just as human as a woman could get. But they survived my sometimes inept mothering - and they still want to come home for Christmas. A small miracle, don't you think?

#257 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 04:43 PM:

Puppy leaves without a lunch at least once or twice a month.

And I think further up the thread (I think I posted it in this thread, but maybe not), is the story about how when Puppy was in third grade we dropped him off at school one icy morning, only to have a good samaritan call my office later to inform me that I'd dropped him at a closed, empty school. In January.

He's turning out okay despite me, and its probably healthy for a ten-year old to have at least one fail-safe guilt-trip teasing button. And I LOVE being a mom, even when it's overwhelming and I'm working too many hours and he's doing that sulky, almost-11 thing.

#258 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Karen wote: even when I accidentally left one at church
I'm delighted to read this, as I've always believed I was the only person in the history of the planet ever to have been accidentally left at church. I was the third of five children, and was accidentally left when I was about 10 years old. When my parents eventually came back for me, my mother said, "We didn't forget we had you. We just forgot we had you with us." It took me years to understand that remark.
The event rated exactly zero on the trauma scale.

#259 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 07:07 PM:

My parents forgot me at home. When we were all there. And I was in the room with them.

I found ways to be sufficiently irritating as to be unignorable. This valuable skill has stayed with me to the present day.

#260 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 09:30 PM:

Xopher: I've never met you; I live at least an ocean away from you; I am or at least was completely out of sympathy with the idea of Wicca; yet as far as I'm concerned you've achieved your goal of being unignorable, indeed unforgettable. When you were away from Making Light for a couple of days recently I began to pine.

#261 ::: Patti ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2010, 02:53 PM:

It has already begun for me.
My husband and I got married in Oct.09 and at the reception, people asked when we were going to get pregnant, when I said we were going to wait a while and just enjoy married life (leaving out the fact that we're not even sure if we want to have kids... I just didn't want to get into that argument at my wedding reception) I was told I should hurry up because I'm not getting any younger (I'm 27! LOL)
People also constantly ask me if I'll stay vegan while I'm pregnant and if we'll raise our children as vegans. For now I just say "we'll cross that bridge 'if' we come to it" then, of course the lecture begins "what do you mean 'if'?"

I think (hope) I'm well equipped for "drive-bys" because as a vegan I commonly have people telling me I'm unhealthy and lecturing me on what I "need" to be eating. (Sometimes they're really angry about it, as though eating vegetables is a personal insult to them), I usually just tell them that I'm not commenting on their food or trying to force them into my way of thinking so please show me the same respect.

I'm hoping that this tactic will continue to work if or when we decide to have children.

#262 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2010, 03:09 PM:

Patti@261: That's very strange; I've always considered vegetarians and vegans (from when I learned the term) to hold the high ground in terms of healthy diet (sure, it's possible to eat a high-cholesterol vegetarian diet or a protein-deficient vegan diet, but that's not the norm or the goal). So, if a carnivore (like me) gives you sh*t about being vegan, just smile and ask them about their cholesterol levels; or their carbon footprint.

But really, we carnivores have all the good slogans. "Plants aren't food; plants are what food eats."

#263 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2010, 04:45 PM:

The perfect diet: whale blubber with a nice crust of finely ground multivitamins and Lipitor. heh.

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