What do you do when family members, friends, or for that matter, strangers, start to correct or discipline your children when you are standing right there? I nearly had a melt-down the other day when a complete stranger corrected my five-year-old son for saying the word “stupid.” Now, I don’t particularly care for that word and try, when using it, not to use it in reference to people. I teach my children the same practice, but sometimes things just don’t go the way you planned, no matter how good of an example you may be around children. My son came out with “That man is acting stupid, Mama,” when he witnessed a man cussing at the gas pump at our usual fill-up station. (Must have been the gas prices, but I digress.)
A lady stepped up, leaned over, and went to work on my son while we were waiting in line to pay. “Oh! You shouldn’t use that word! You could say he’s acting poorly. Doesn’t your mother tell you not to say that word? How would you feel if you were called stupid? You really need to learn better.” Aside from my temperature rising to the degree of the fires on the sun, I literally couldn’t get my jaw up off of the floor. Excuse me? Did I really just hear that happen right in front of me? By the time I gathered my wits, the lady was looking me up and down as if I was a Jerry Springer Mama. I took a deep breath, telling myself it wasn’t worth a fight and told her that I appreciated her concern and it’s always good for my son to hear from someone else exactly what I have said in the past (There was a part of me thinking; Geez! He didn't say a four letter word, it's not like he dropped the uh, queen mother of all dirty words!). I also queried, “However, would you have permitted someone you didn’t know to correct your child while you were standing right there?” Well, dang me for opening my mouth. She made a “Humph” noise and wrinkled up her nose like she smelled something bad and actually said I should be grateful for the help as it didn’t look like I was going to say anything, anyway. Being me, I couldn’t help myself. I laid my hands over my son’s ears and told her, with the biggest grin on my face, “Ma’am, you stepped in where you weren’t needed, asked for, or wanted, and honestly, how could you be so…(wait for it), stupid?”
The two ladies who work the counter in the store started laughing. They know me well (small town life will get you that), and have a fairly good idea of what kind of parent I am. I’m not the best or the worst, but they know I work it every day. They also knew this lady got off easy. Oh I ruffled her feathers and she left with a whole lot of muttering going on under her breath. I may have stepped right into the “lowering-yourself-to-their-level” playing field, but you don’t mess with my child right in front of me and expect to get away with it. Being football season with the Super Bowl just around the corner, she’s lucky I didn’t run the field for a major tackle. Just sayin’. Now tell me, what would you do?