I had an altercation over the weekend at the local YMCA. Altercation might be a tad overstated, but for a conflict-avoider like me, it was kind of a big deal.
My three kids and I are regulars at the Y. They head to childwatch so I can hit a Zumba class, and then we all head off to the “kindergym,” a huge, padded, indoor gym with a trampoline, play structure, and endless opportunities for climbing, jumping, and relatively safe mayhem.
This past Sunday, I dared to suggest that we skip kindergym, as our afternoon was packed with events. This idea was met with resounding protest, and I relented. “But 10-15 minutes, tops.”
They sprinted down the hallway, threw open the door to kindergym, tossed their socks and shoes against the wall, and literally started climbing the walls.
“There are cubbies for your shoes outside,” said a dad I assumed was being helpful.
“Oh I keep the shoes inside. If I try putting their shoes on out in the lobby, one of my kids will run off while I’m helping the others. It’s a disaster.”
I was surprised five minutes later, when a YMCA staff member opened the door, asking if someone needed help; they were told there was “a problem.”
Apparently I was the problem and this man had complained about my renegade shoe placement to the front desk.
Seriously?! “You could have spoken to me if this was a genuine concern.”
“I told you there were cubbies outside and you were pretty clear that you wouldn’t use them. No other parents seem to have a hard time with their children’s shoes.”
That’s when I understood who I was dealing with. When your kid is having a temper tantrum at the grocery store, this is the guy rolling his eyes at you, sending the clear message: “Why can’t this lady get her act together?” And when you applaud yourself for appeasing your kid with an apple instead of caving in and agreeing to buy a box of chocolate-covered granola bars so you can open the box right then and there and shove one in your kid’s mouth, he’s the guy telling management that you stole an apple.
You know the type.
I am completely committing a cardinal sin by telling myself stories about this guy. I don’t know him, and it’s possible that he broke his back as a child, tripping over some other kid’s carelessly placed shoes. Or maybe his child has a tendency to chew on shoes and he rightfully feared the funk found on my kids’ shoes.
But I doubt it. This guy is just an asshole. And he makes parenting harder for the rest of us.
This parenting gig is a doozy. We’re all trying to survive on a daily basis (who am I kidding, an hourly basis), while hopefully raising happy, healthy and kind beings. We torture ourselves with self-doubt and we brutally compare ourselves to others. We need to support one another rather than tattle to the front desk for every rule infraction a fellow parent chooses to make.
Like one father, who came to my rescue outside of kindergym last winter. I was attempting to smoosh six squirming feet into three pairs of ill-fitting rain boots. Boots were flying, kids were running, and I was crying in parental despair. This kind parent simply asked how he could help, and most importantly, acknowledged: “I’ve been there too.”