WHY I DON’T PARENT OTHER PEOPLE’S KIDS AND OTHER JUDGY MOM MUSINGS

 

Are you a judgy mom? I used to be but I kicked the habit. Or so I thought.

I remember getting off on giving UPA (Unsolicited Parenting Advice). If you were whining about the exhaustion from sleepless nights with Screaming Baby, I’d tell you to STOP GOING INTO THE ROOM or shut the hell up. Listen, I’d say, if you’re going to let a toddler dictate her own meal plan consisting of pizza and M&Ms, don’t cry to me when you’re dealing with an eating disorder. Hello, Working Mom, hello? Can you tell us why you are dragging your nanny on vacation?

I had a lot to say about everything I saw – until one day, it occurred to me that we all do this parenting thing differently, and as you go along, it gets way trickier. Soon, there were an endless number of choices, resulting in endless ways to support or screw up your kids. Judgy Me didn’t always get it right either and frankly, I probably wouldn’t thank you for your UPA. So as my kids aged, I learned to stay mum. I was better off tending to my own backyard and keeping my eyes out of everyone else’s.

Bonus: Being non-judgy is easier. You want to let your kids rule the house? Go for it. Do their homework for them? Your choice. Look the other way while they pack up your booze and head out the door? None of my beeswax.

To celebrate giving us all a break, I created a toast, glass raised, to the Moms of the World: I raise my kids, you raise yours.

I thought I had it all figured out but now that I’ve got teens who sometimes do stupid things, I hear the old Mommy Wars raging in my head.

So I ask you this: Do I have any obligation to other parents, if they are not my friends, to parent their kids? (If you’re my friend, I have an obligation to you by virtue of our relationship, so that doesn’t count).

Do I have to contact you if:

*Your son comes over on a Saturday night sporting a big, fat, suspicious backpack.

*Your daughter confided in mine that she’s been sticking her finger down her throat.

*The word is that your son is throwing a huge open party at your house next weekend when you’re at that conference in New York.

*Apparently, your daughter is gay and is afraid to tell you.

*Your son passed out my basement couch. Whatever he ingested, it happened before he came over.

*Your daughter is known around high school as the Hook-Up Queen.

*Your son is cutting classes.

While these types of dilemmas have given me cause to rethink my own MYOB rule, I have for the most part decided to stay mum. Now, watch out, don’t get all judgy here. Here are my reasons:

1.  Your kids are not my problem. My kids are my problem. I can deal with yours the best way I know how while they are in my house, but beyond that, I lack authority.

2.  If I learn about anything through my kids or their networks, that’s privileged information. If there is real danger involved, I will do my very best to find a way to get your child help. I will also encourage my kids and their networks to help. But I will not break my child’s trust unless absolutely necessary.

3.  Chances are, our parenting philosophies are vastly different. You may already know what’s going on and you may be helpless to stop it, or you may not appreciate being informed or called out.

4.  I don’t necessarily trust you not to spill where you got the information or your kid not to punish mine for trying to help.

5.  Generally speaking, it’s not my job to do your job. And vice versa. It’s hard enough raising and being responsible for three kids of my own. You want to know what your kids are up to? Talk to them, watch them, be honest, get involved.

Got a reaction? Comments? Judgment? Hit me, I can take it.

 

 

 

About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.

Comments

  1. At work the kids always tell me all sorts of things, then wonder if I’ll tell their parents. My philosophy is this. If it’s illegal or going to get them killed, I HAVE TO TELL, and I tell them that right off the bat. If it’s something minor or that doesn’t concern me, I tell the kids THEY can tell their parents if they want.

    Like you, it’s not my job to do their job. With friends it’s different, but I don’t have any friends with teens (which is weird) and my son isn’t that social, so we’ve never dealt with that. Weird. I know.

  2. I have to agree with you. Their job is their job.

    I do “parent” kids that are under my supervision. If a discussion is happening in my car, then I get to participate. I do help my daughter think about how to be a good friend to a person that is making what we would consider a bad choice – dating the wrong guy, etc.

  3. Middle child received a phone in the middle of the night a few years ago, younger (under-age) girls phoned her for help because they were quite drunk and didn’t want to go home. Having a big heart, she let them come to our house. Well the one girl was so drunk, I was afraid, but it was middle child and the girls responsibility to call the parents, not mine, though I would have been responsible (I think). Anyways, middle child convinced them to let her call the parents and that they wouldn’t be mad but happy they were safe. Sometimes you do have to get involved.

    • It sounds as if the middle child was very responsible and didn’t need you to step in – although I agree that if a situation is truly dangerous, it’s your job to do so.

  4. Excellent piece, perfectly articulated. I haven’t begun thinking about these issues, with my three still under 10. I’m still dealing with wet beds and PG rated movies. I think, when mine hit the teens, I’ll be the one binge-drinking, not them! haha.

  5. Ha! No you won’t. You’ll be as involved as you are now but you’ll be giving them longer leash 🙂

  6. This is all very helpful since I’m in the beginning of my teen years with my oldest, now 13. I like the “if it’s illegal or dangerous warning” right off the bat when talking with your kids or their friends. I also think that if it’s happening under my roof or in my car then I have some obligation to keep the children in my care safe. Thank you Randi and thanks to the other mom’s who commented. This is very helpful!! I will be making this a regular stop now!!

    • We’re so happy to have you. To be clear, I talk frankly to my kids and their friends when they are here. We have rules and they understand them. But beyond keeping them safe in my care, I don’t accept responsibility for their parenting or for informing their parents. They need to be doing their own job.

  7. You raise some great issues. I don’t have teens yet, thank God, but here’s how I see it. If I am friends with you and you see my son or daughter doing something stupid and you don’t let me know, I’m gonna be really pissed. My daughter is walking around with a gang of boys all draped all over her? My son is hanging out on the corner with some bad kids (I am African-American so given racial profiling the stakes for this go WAY up)? I want to know. If you’ve been given privy information about your own kid, I think there is a way to initiate a conversation with your own child sensitively. And informing another parent (presumably a friend of your child) that their child has done something dangerous isn’t judging – it is stating facts. The parent can feel judged, or do what s/he will with the information.

    I know there is a lot of gray area here, and I am talking about adults (and presumably their kids) with whom a family has a decent/growing relationship. Oy! Right now, I’m glad my parenting interventions are about someone throwing sand in the sandbox.

  8. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes there are issues that cross those lines, but for the most part we stick with them. I can see already that my 8 yo is going to be one who goes with the crowd, so I do think it will be up to us to keep an eye on the crowd, at least from a distance.

    • Oh, we definitely keep an eye on the crowd and even address the crowd – at least when they’re in my house. It’s contacting the parents of the crowd that’s the hot potato…

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