It Doesn’t Take a Village [Of Strangers.]

Most of the time, I am highly amused at the odd antics of strangers – especially since I seem to attract so many of the especially bizarre.

However, there is one stranger behavior that irritates me like no other – the “volunteering” to parent my children.

I need my friend’s and family’s help in parenting – they see things I do not, their eyes are pointed where mine are not, and they are, in general, invaluable.

However. I have never come across a stranger, who upon foisting unrequested parenting onto my children, were the tiniest smidge helpful.

For example.

One day my children and I were walking at Railroad Park. They always enjoy stopping at the exercise equipment to play on it. There’s a pedal thing, various bars for push-ups and the like – the usual outdoor exercise stuff.

Ali was at a very low bar and was walking on it like a tightrope. The thing was maybe half a foot off the ground – at most. She was also approximately four feet away from me, where I had my eyes pointed in her direction.

A young guy (not the usual demographic of the Awkwardly Intense Busybody Club) turned to Ali and said, “You need to get off of that – it twists around and you could fall.”

SHE WAS MAYBE SIX INCHES OFF THE GROUND.

AND SHE’S TEN YEARS OLD.

AND I WAS RIGHT. THERE.

Indignant rage bubbled inside of me.

But unfortunately, my genteel southern upbringing took over. I simply herded my children out of the area and ignored the man all together.

(Which for the situation, was 120% as polite as I could have been.)

Every time I find myself in one of these situations, I always regret afterwards that I did not explain to the stranger that I shockingly(!!) am able to safely parent my children even when they’re not around and they make me want to approve letting my children play in a field of thumbtacks just to spite their unrequited helpfulness.

Okay maybe I have rebellion problems.

Anyway.

That brings us to this week.

On Monday, my friend Amanda and I took my kids to a small park along the Cahaba River to enjoy the newly crisp fall air. It was a perfectly lovely fall day, giving hope to all that perhaps soon our humid 88 degree days would be but a memory – at least for a couple of months.

The leaves have just begun changing here (fall comes late here BUT IT’S COMING!!), but I noticed that approximately .005% of the leaves on the ground were actually in fall colors. In my most exuberant of mental states, I yelled for my children that we would be having a Grand Fall Scavenger Hunt – and to find as many non-green, non-brown leaves as they could.

As soon as they whooped with joy and set off to run around the small park trying to beat each other to the prettiest of leaves, an older lady in the parking lot, who was in the act of getting into her car, yelled angrily (venomously even), “There are snakes ALL OVER this park!!!”, then proceeded to glare at me, as if I’d just gleefully instructed my children to find and swallow vengefully furious scorpions.

Which led to the loudest 5 seconds of silence in my life.

Because a) The park is a park and therefore meant to be attended by humans (and wasn’t she just here?), b) as stated before, my #1 pet peeve is strangers parenting my children for me (although she seemed to be trying to parent me and not directly my children so she gets half credit), c) The park is 4.7 acres – how many snakes could we possibly find there because d) I do adore snakes – especially snakes I find in the wild, but e) my momma raised me to be polite even to the most impolite people.

I looked at her. She was still standing expectantly behind her car door, glowering at me, The World’s Worst Parent.

So I called back in a faltered but oh-so-genuine voice, “Yes ma’am!”, which satisfied her enough to allow her to sit down and close her car door.

Immediately I said to my frozen-in-place children, “Find the leaves! And the snakes! If you find one let me know! And don’t let it get away until I see it!”

We searched for an hour and only found leaves. My resentment only grew – both still in rebellious annoyance that the lady had attempted to quash my fall joy and because I hadn’t found a SINGLE SNAKE.

We gathered our leaves and I presented Ali with the award of Best Leaf Collector. The children helped me line the leaves up in a beautiful fall bouquet.

171023b Fall Leaf Scavenger Hunt IMG_4907

I kept waiting for the poetic justice of a venomous snake slithering through my arranged ombré of leaves as I was photographing them, but sadly it didn’t happen. So next time I see The Outraged Snake Lady, I’ll be sure to tell her that we looked as hard as we possibly could, but she falsely advertised the features of the park.

Epilogue: Two days later we went out hiking again, found zero snakes again, but did collect the best collection of fall leaves ever collected in the history of hiking dangerously close to life-ending reptiles.
 171025b A Late Afternoon at Oak Mountain IMG_5099

…Also if you illegally download the following photo, it makes a darned good fall phone lock screen photo, of which you can impress your friends by pointing to it with a horrified look on your face and say “There are snakes in that pile!!!” If you can’t figure out how to illegally obtain my photographs, email or text me and I’ll be glad to send it to you.

171025 Leaves in Ombre from Oak Mountain IMG_5089

So basically, my children and I risked all, braved untold dangers, and conquered fall – all for your iPhone’s lock screen.

171025b A Late Afternoon at Oak Mountain IMG_5051
You’re welcome.

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Comments

  1. Thank goodness I’m ridiculously polite, so I haven’t actually been the stranger trying to parent your children. But, oh my goodness, I’ve seen a lot of accidents and hurting children. So I see danger EVERYWHERE ! Even though I used to let my children run and play and all. But now that I’m older, I too would be worried about someone walking on a pipe that I knew twists around. Or if I had seen a snake I would have also warned you. (I worked very hard to NOT transfer my fear of snakes to my kids. I succeeded too much, because they love snakes. Sigh…)

    Anyway, I’ll remember your story and keep my mouth shut. But man ! Those parents who let their kids do acrobatics on the bars at the ice cream place ! I am always sure the kid is going to fall on his head on the bricks and there will be blood. And it will ruin my treat!

    Thanks for writing — love reading your blog.

  2. Jen near STl (6 more months!) says:

    At least the BB’s are providing you with great blogging material! I’ve noticed, in the last few posts, that Ali is suddenly looking older. My girl just turned 16 though so I might be hyper aware of time passing.

  3. Repeat after me….
    “She’s fine”
    “If he can get up there, he can get down”
    “It’s a good thing kids bounce then”
    “A little dirt never hurt anyone”
    “Cool, we love snakes/insects/spiders/wild bears – thanks for the info!”

    Of course, I’m a rude northerner. :)

    We once got an anonymous letter from “concerned neighbors” complaining that we were letting the grass in our side yard grow too high. (I’d been doing it deliberately because there were a lot of wildflowers in there and it was good pollinator habitat) One of the arguments meant to scare me into mowing? “A neighbor saw snakes in her yard recently!” We live in MD. There are only two venomous snakes in the state.. Neither of them are going to be found in a suburban neighborhood. Obviously the anonymous letter writer has no understanding of my personality, or they would know that my typical reaction to finding a snake is demonstrated by the time we found a 4 foot long black rat snake in the side yard – “Hey kids, quick, come look! Be sure to give it some space, but check out how cool the (feature x, y, z) is!”

    And bonus points for correctly using “venomous” vs “poisonous” in reference to snakes. Though I expect as much of a home school nature loving mom. :)

  4. Beautiful fall pics! Oh you had me at ” If you can’t figure out how to illegally obtain my photographs, email or text me and I’ll be glad to send it to you. “. Thanks for sharing! Pun intended.

  5. Mary @ Parenthood says:

    LOL. I would not have herded my kids out; just said something like “Good thing she’s being careful then”. One thing to note though, when I was about Ali’s age I broke my arm falling from a high of about 5″ when tightrope walking on a pipe that unexpectedly moved on me. We’d successfully walked over that thing so many times before too, which is probably why it happened as I got careless.

    So while I wouldn’t have assumed Ali was in danger nor would I have directed her to get down, it’s possible if I had been there I might have been the awkward stranger telling her to be careful because in the situation where it moves and she wasn’t expecting it she could indeed fall. I tend to pass on information but try not to cross the line where I’m actively instructing strangers (unless they are interfering with my kids, in which case I might content myself with telling them off. If they are really being unsafe and bring out my mama bear? All bets are off. I’m not going to wait for a parent to come and deal with their own kid who is trying to knock my 2 yo who JUST recovered from a concussion off the play structure, for instance, even if that means I need to physically block your kid from attacking mine. But I feel like that’s fairly universal :)

    I had my own run-in with some random passerby the other day who felt that my four year old was too far ahead of me (on the way to the school bus). He was fine! He was actually doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing, if dawdling a bit and therefore not obviously together with big sister who he was following! I didn’t end up saying what I felt to her, because I don’t really want to be reported for child neglect but I completely understand your rage in these situations.

  6. I may be wrong here, humble Northerner who has rarely encountered snakes, but don’t snakes tend to move away from children crashing through leaves? So, you’re welcome, park goer.

  7. Lauren Kelley says:

    Beautiful pictures! Those leaves look amazing as phone wallpaper. Just guessing, Not that I personally copied and immediately set it as my wallpaper. I love that you were going to give bonus points for finding snakes after cranky pants left.

    We have a pet snake. And we take him in the backyard occasionally to feel the real grass. (I just hold on to his tail so he doesn’t get away.) My older cranky neighbor looked over my high fence one day…nosy… and said Omg (except she said the words instead of the initials, which at this point would have been shorter to type) there’s a snake and he’s about to get you! I picked up Cornelius and put him around my neck and said “Awesome! New Pet!” And went inside. I heard her shrieking. as I went in. My kids got a kick out of that.

  8. Beautiful pictures! I love the colors of your leaves!

  9. Lynn Kahkola says:

    Loved the post and can totally relate. Our youngest of four (had my hands full too) was always climbing trees and anything else he could. One favorite was a bridge on the college campus where we live. He is often yelled at to get down by well meaning people, but we’ve tried to inform them that he has parental permission.
    The worst though is when people tell us he is being a bad example to other children. It baffles me that in this day, it is considered bad to climb a tree, but playing on a phone in a beautiful park would be perfectly acceptable.
    Thanks for the gorgeous leaf pics.

  10. I love reading about the busybodies that you seem to attract like a magnet. :) Also, I need to know where to find this park!

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