Dear Woman in the Pink Shirt at the Craft Store,
Forgive me, but I don’t know your name. I don’t know anything about you, in fact, except that you and I happened to be in the same Michael’s store at the same time today, that you witnessed me speak sharply to my twelve-year-old daughter, and that you felt compelled to pull up behind me in the parking lot while I was buckling my four-year-old in, roll your window down, and tell me what a shit mother I am.
You don’t know me, either. And that’s the thing: you don’t know a thing about me. You don’t know what I’m dealing with, what preceded my admonishing my daughter, what my relationship with my kids is, what our family dynamics are, what sort of kid my daughter is, what kind of behavior challenges we may deal with, what kind of support we may or may not have – nothing. You don’t know how many times I’ve asked her to stop doing certain things (like find her amusement in antagonizing her little sister, which is exactly what she did in the store by scaring her with a fake spider – you must have heard the blood-curdling screams coming from my four-year-old while you were lurking a few yards away in the store), and why it sometimes comes down to me raising my voice to her.
Let’s be clear, Woman in Pink: I didn’t scream at her, I didn’t curse at her, I didn’t threaten her, I didn’t call her names. I heatedly told her again to stop antagonizing her little sister. And she argued the point with me. My mistake was probably in engaging in the argument with her. Have your kids never pissed you off? Utterly frustrated you? Have you never yelled at your kids? Or maybe just not in public? I think there are a lot of people who yell at their kids in private and then just pretend that they never yell at their kids because it gives them a false sense of superiority. Is that you? Or maybe you don’t even have kids. Which would mean you really have no idea.
I would like to know, Woman in Pink, when yelling at one’s kids became taboo. I don’t hit my kids, I don’t berate or insult or demean them. For the most part, I champion them. But sometimes kids act like obnoxious little buttholes, and parents lose their patience with that nonsense. But we seem to exist in a culture nowadays in which any attempt to keep one’s kids in line, any words spoken to them in anything other than a soft, gentle voice is viewed as bad parenting. As if there is one, right way to raise kids. And so continues the perpetuation of unrealistic parenting (mainly mothering) standards and judgment passed out like Halloween candy. I’m sorry I didn’t live up to your standards, Woman in Pink. I fear I never will.
Listen, Woman in Pink: I was the product of abusive parenting. And I can tell you as sure as I’m sitting here that it wasn’t the yelling that damaged me. It was the smacking and beating, the belittling, the mocking, the name-calling, and so much more.
Parenting is a hard enough undertaking without people like you, all full of self-righteous indignation, making snap judgments about complete strangers based on a brief snapshot. And do you know what, Woman in Pink? You pretty much ruined my day. You shamed me and made me feel like shit. Because of course I often harbor doubts about whether I’m a good mother. Most mothers do. I’m sure you do, too (assuming you are a mother). So, kudos to you, Woman in Pink. Mission accomplished. You might like to know, though, that my twelve-year-old daughter is just fine. She carried on with her day as full of laughter and mischief as usual.
Woman Who Yelled At Her Daughter