I was so proud of my son at swimming class. He did great, despite getting nervous right before class started. He even swung from the rope swing into the deep end twice, while sitting on Mr. Nathan's lap of course.
He came up with an analogy for the whole experience. "It's just like when I wanted to ride the log ride at Sea World but I was scared. But I was brave and did it anyway. And it was so much fun."
But something happened after class that had me seething. At a complete stranger.
I can count on one hand the number of times I've yelled at a complete stranger. There was that one time when a woman cut in line and then proceeded to be excessively rude to the clerk. And there was that one time I yelled, "That's some great parenting right there! Why don't you blow some more smoke in your kid's face!" to the pregnant woman who was blowing cigarette smoke right in her toddler's crying mouth. Repeatedly.
It took every ounce of my considerable restraint not to scream at the mother in the dressing room who was smacking the shit out of her kid.
I had noticed the kid earlier when he had kicked and then hit a teacher, not because he was scared, but because he wanted another turn on the slide. He was standing on the edge of the pool and kicked the teacher right in the mouth.
His mother grabbed him and dragged him into the restroom. I was hoping she was dealing with his behavior right there (but doubting it).
A few minutes later my daughter and I were in the changing room. This mother-of-the-year and spawn came in and the mother was giving him a calm talking to.
"We're leaving right now. You can't act like that and expect to stay. You don't yell at me like that. Ever."
I was ready to give her the benefit of the doubt. We've all been there, when our kids behave in a way that completely baffles us. But she was doing and saying pretty much what I would do and say.
And then she smacked him.
She'd smack him and then he'd scream. And then he'd smack her. And then she'd smack him. And this went on and on over and over. At least fifteen times.
You know, I don't care what your parenting philosophy is. I don't care if you have, "Spare the rod and spoil the child" tattooed across your chest. You do not expose my kid to that kind of violence. Especially in a situation like we were in where my daughter was desperately trying to change clothes so we could get out of there.
I was pretty much just mentally rolling my eyes at the whole heart-warming mother and son scene until my daughter looked at me with tears glistening in her eyes. She felt bad for the kid and uncomfortable with the whole situation.
I grabbed her clothes and wrestled her into them myself. I grabbed her shoes and loudly told her, "Let's just get out of here and put your shoes and coat on by the front door."
It was only the fact that my daughter would have been so upset if I had yelled that kept me from laying into this woman.
In the car, I sat my daughter down and had one of those talks with her. I can remember my own mother teaching me about being a mother in the same kinds of moments.
"When you're a mom..." I started.
What that mother was doing was not discipline. Not in my book. She probably thought it was, but whatever. It doesn't matter. If my father had been there, I can tell you exactly what he would have done.
He would have got all big, pointed at that woman and bellowed, "If you hit that kid one more time, I'm going to knock out all your teeth!"
It scares me that I was so close to doing the same thing myself.
Restraint. Discretion. Sometimes it is the better part of valor. The best I could do for my kid was to get her out of there and explain what I thought of the situation.
And I'll fantasize about yelling every quiet moment I get.