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July 14th, 2008

Heh heh heh. Just got a note from one of the producers at Oregon Public Broadcasting about… “those moments people have in public when they decide to confront a stranger about behavior they find objectionable. I figure this is something that happens to parents at least once or twice in their parenting careers and thought you might have some interesting stories to share about either being scolded or doing the scolding. I realize it’s kind of a shot in the dark, but please drop me an email or give me a call if you’ve got any experience to add to this discussion. And please feel free to pass the idea along! Here’s our blog post about the subject.


Julie Sabatier
Associate Producer, “Think Out Loud”
Oregon Public Broadcasting
7140 SW Macadam Ave. | Portland, OR 97219
jsabatier at opb.org | 503-293-4002

Go for it.

My moments? I’ve been scolded for not keeping my kids at the park long enough (?!?? We had to go! I mean, go. OK?); for not putting a coat on my daughter (both of my kids take after their dad — Too. Hot. Hat is TOO HOT. Coat is TOO HOT. They do not have your thermostat, lady! Back off, honk-honk.) Also? I’ve been scolded for feeding them vegetarian food.

Numerous times.

“Geez, Mom, give ’em a burger why don’t ya?” (Direct quote.)

Me: “I would, if they’d eat it.”


I scold teenagers in public. I do. If they’re cursing, I smile and say quietly, “Grown-up!” or “Language!” or just, “Ouch, my ears…” as I walk by. And they always, always, always laugh and say, “Sorry, sorry little kids! My bad.” Or something along those lines.

My number one thing I go off about though is when someone is hitting or hurting their kids and I see it or hear about it. I don’t mean if someone is giving their kid the hairy eyeball, or if the parent (or parent and kid both) is having hissing fit. I have no idea what someone’s going through, kid or parent. Also, if a parent looks just exhausted and beat to hell, I’m almost always going to cut them slack because, damn. Yes, I can relate.

But I do know that if you physically smack your kid in front of me I will say something, or if I hear you being verbally abusive. (I heard a dad at Legoland go off on his teenage daughter, completely hateful and vicious and yeah, I had to intervene. I pissed off the dad, I pissed off the mom. I didn’t care. The teenager stopped sobbing and gave me the teensiest little smile. It was fast, but I saw it. I don’t care if this teenager was being bitch from hell. I do not care if everyone was having a bad day. I do not care because you know why? She’s the teenager, they were the grown-ups. There is no excuse to talk to another human being like that, ever.)

That’s what a former career in child welfare will get ya — you’re always hoping you don’t have to take a kid into protective custody.

“But what if…?” Yeah, you can keep your what if. You’re an adult, I’m assuming you know how to handle yourself or call a cop. I’ll give you a what-if: What if this kid grows up thinking it’s OK to be hit or to hit? What if this kid thinks everyone agrees with his piece of crap parent, and we’re all thinking, “That’s a bad kid. That kid deserves to get hurt.”

What-if you sent that kind of message to someone? I’ve said things like, “Stop hitting your kid.” “No spanking!” “That’s a really sweet little kid you’ve got there.” If it’s at the store, I’m pretty talented at the Art of Distraction.

I’ll ask the parent, “Did you see the canned chiles? Cos I can’t find them anywhere!” just to get them to stop. You can also write down the person’s license plate number, or address. School secretaries are amazingly resourceful, if it’s a family at school.

Yeah, I’m fine with embarrassing myself in public. It is not even a problem.


  1. The Other Laura says

    Man! We are two peas in a you know what. I try and comment on how beautiful a child is (to the parent) when the parent’s being really verbally abusive. This just kills me and I see it so often and the kid is usually just being a little kid, doing what kids do. Then I come home and hug my kid. I hope I was patient enough when he was little and I hope to remember to NEVER speak to him in such a cruel and nasty way.

    Physical abuse is a bit touchier but I have walked up to a mom who was smacking her kid’s thigh and asked if everything was alright. She burst into tears.

    July 14th, 2008 | #

  2. WackyMommy says

    Laura, it’s crazy, isn’t it? Much easier to walk on by, but then you regret it, later.

    No regrets.

    July 14th, 2008 | #

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