A few nights ago, Matt and I were watching Mad Men. If you've never seen that show, it's about an ad company in New York in the 50's. In this particular episode the main character's family, the Drapers, were having a birthday party. A little boy was running through the house and knocked over something breakable. A dad, who was not that boy's dad, grabbed him by the arm and told him off telling him he needed to be more careful and that he should be taken out back for a whooping. Soon, the boy's father walks up and where you would expect the dad to be horrified that another adult was touching and disciplining their child, he wasn't. In fact, without even knowing what happened, he quickly asked his son what he did wrong.
This, of course, would be the grounds for a lawsuit had it happened in today's world. The boy's parents would swoop in as helicopter superheroes coming to the rescue of their scorned child. "What did he do to you?" "Are you OK?" "HOW DARE YOU DISCIPLINE MY CHILD!" These questions and accusations would come whether the child was guilty or not. Obviously, their parents didn't see it so it didn't really happen right?
Unfortunately, this happens more often than not. Case in point...
I was at the park the other day with my kids. It was a park geared mostly to toddlers, smaller play structures, completely fenced in...a mother's dream park, really. Aside from my kids, there were two other moms with kids there, probably 1.5 years old and 3 years old. Shortly, a group of kids showed up. I would say they were about 12-14 years in age and there were four of them, three girls and a boy. They were playing off to the side away from the little kids being completely pleasant.
However, about 20 minutes into their visit, they grouped together where I heard one of the girls drop the eff bomb. I turned quickly in their direction, glared and then went back to watching my kids dig in the dirt. I said to myself "self, maybe you heard wrong, they couldn't possibly have just said the F-word in this park, in front of another adult and four small kids, they look like nice kids, you have to be wrong. But, if it happens again, you have to call them out on it."
And what do you know, about 5 minutes later, I heard it again. I turned to the kids and said "hey guys, I hope I didn't just hear what I thought I did, but I would appreciate it, if you didn't use the eff bomb at this playground when my kids are in earshot, they will repeat it because they heard you say it. Thanks." And I went back to my kids.
Sure, they could have said "ducking" or "sucking" or "mucking" but I am pretty sure those aren't the words they were saying. They huddled together and whispered back and forth with each other and soon, they were gone.
Naturally, about 5 minutes later, their mom showed up.
"Hi, I live next door and my kids just came home to tell me that you thought you heard them using foul language and asked them not to."
"I sure did. I heard one of them say the F-word twice and after the second time I asked them to please not talk that way with my kids around."
"Well they are horribly embarrassed and I am sorry, but they just don't talk that way, so I am not sure what you heard, but it isn't possible that is what they said."
"Hey, look, mother to mother, I appreciate you coming over, and sure, maybe I was wrong, however I am pretty sure I heard what they said and I just don't appreciate it being said around my kids. I am sorry if I misheard them if they truly didn't say that. But, kids will be kids."
"Oh yea, no thanks for bringing it up, but they really are good kids and they just don't talk like that."
"I am sure they don't."
And she walked away.
I have to say that if our roles were reversed I would have apologized for my kid's potty mouth. I would express my embarrassment on behalf of my kids and ask them to go home. I would then tell my kids, that even if they didn't say that word, someone thought they did and that is enough for me to give them the lecture of how that language is inappropriate, especially in a toddler park setting. I mean this is a talk that needs to happen regardless, so what a great time to bring it up.
And look, none of us moms are perfect, and most certainly our kids are not. I'm usually the mom that has to leave because her anti-social, speech delayed toddler is expressing himself physically instead of using his words or walking away. I never question the fact that he got pissed because another kid just ripped a toy out of his hands, because, to me, hitting is hitting, regardless of why my son did it.
Would it annoy me that another parent corrected my child, sure, but mostly, because there would be a need for the correction, not that they had to do the correcting. And maybe this mom was embarrassed for her kids and wanted to believe that they would never use language like that instead of admitting that there was a possibility they could do such a thing.
A friend of mine used to tell me years ago that perseption is reality and that is something that I have held close to. If I heard the kids using foul language, then chances are, they said it. Instead of denying or protecting, let's correct the behavior, move on, and have another cup of coffee.