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.

What was Said at Arby’s.

WHY ARE CRAZY PEOPLE ATTRACTED TO ME.

Like, for reals. If I had to rate myself on a scale of Super Approachable to “Hazardous Area – Stay Away”, I’d be on the “Nuclear Waste – Clear the Area” end of things. Not by choice or plan – I just think my resting unapproachable face scares people away.

But not the crazy people. For them, I’m like an out of context bible verse Facebook meme. I’m like aluminum foil and newspaper clippings. They can’t help but be drawn to me.

Today, I took my children to Arby’s, because I told Ali that she got to pick where we’d eat lunch because we were leaving the Orthodontist and she had a sore mouth. Furthermore, I broke one of my highly held tenets of my Motherhood Theology (my expanded Motherhood Statement of Beliefs and Doctrine will be coming soon to a post near you) and actually took my children inside to eat at a fast food restaurant.

My justifications for this unpardonable sin were tri-fold: it was ridiculously hot outside, we had a bit of time to waste before an appointment, and I was hungry and therefore weak in the faith. I was ripe to be tempted. I was in the wilderness. And I failed.

So we went inside. I ordered our food, gave Ali her cup, fixed mine and Noah’s cup, and grabbed our order from the counter. Noah had already found us a table and was waiting calmly. This is one of those moments where I remember yet again that 9 and 5 are seriously good ages.

But yet, despite the general helpfulness and calmness of my children, as I was passing by a table of paint-splattered blue collar men, one looked up, gave a low whistle, and said, “My GOODNESS does she have her hands full.”

Now if he meant literally, I guess he was right. I had a tray in one hand and a drink in the other.

But people never mean that literally. They’re always talking about the fact that I did what people have been doing for centuries and actually gave birth to miniature humans, and was, in fact, not afraid to venture into the outside world with my inconceivably difficult lot in life.

Every time someone says this to me, I really feel the need to stop and tell them about my friends who have five, six, and even SEVEN children, in hopes of making them pass out right there in the middle of their roast beef sandwich.

But nevermind. That guy wasn’t the crazy person that this story is about.

A couple of bites into our lunch, I heard a raving voice. It was a very distinctive voice – kind of hoarse, but overly loud. A minute later, the voice rounded the corner.

It was an employee.

She walked up into Arby’s curious little mezzanine so that she was directly above our table. She leaned over the railing right above our food and yelled in her hoarse, carrying-across-the-restaurant voice.

“You have some good kids!”

“Thanks…” I tried to take a bite of my sandwich and move on.

Then she pointed to the table ten feet from us.

“Those over there aren’t good. There are too many of ‘em. They’re too much work. But you have some good kids!”

I tried to disappear into my sandwich unsuccessfully. She walked away, and I stole a glance over at the “bad” table.

It was a mom, a dad, a grandparent, and three little boys – a baby, a toddler, and a kid Noah’s age. One entire mini human more than I possessed. They were all sitting there quite calmly, eating their roast beef and trying to pretend they hadn’t just heard Arby’s Insane Employee Of the Decade.

While we ate, I tried to pay attention to the goings on at their table, looking for clues as to how I’d so easily risen above them in the Arby’s Circle of Excellence in Children.

I couldn’t figure it out. They had a 1:1 adult/kid ratio, the baby had a couple loud noises but nothing unexpected and not even anything that could be considered a cry. The toddler was sitting in his chair better than Noah was (who spent most of his meal sitting above his seat on the Mezzanine floor, resting against that gold barrier that had blessedly been strong enough to keep Batsoid from falling onto our table during her rant.

A few minutes went by, and Nutty Beeffessor was at another table ranting, again about the bad table.

“Somebody needs to tell that Momma and Daddy that those kids need to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!!”

I looked over.

The kids WERE sitting down, and fairly shut up.

I was so confused.

Is this what too much Arby’s Sauce does to a person?

Or had too many people rung that bell at the door for good service and it had blown a circuit in her cerebellum?

Or….wait a minute…could she be seeing a table full of children that the rest of us couldn’t see?

This became my best theory.

In her head, the long table between me and the very quiet “bad” family was actually full of invisible brats – throwing chicken strips and squirting Horsey Sauce. They were screaming and jumping on the table top and practicing Pommel Horse on the sauce counter. They were walking that golden mezzanine railing like it was a tightrope, then falling off into people’s sandwiches!

It all made perfect sense now.

And could someone please sneak some antipsychotics into the Jamocha Shake machine?

Arbys Ring the Bell

The Awkwardly Intense Busybody Club: Corporate Edition.

The Awkwardly Intense Busybody Club used to be my favorite bizarre occurrence to report on, garnering itself its own category on my blog. But now that my kids are older (the AIBC tends to be more magnetized to babies), it’s been a while since I’ve had a stranger tell me what I ought to do as a parent or that my kid isn’t being careful enough. From telling me that my baby is going to choke and die, to being very disturbingly inquisitive as to why my children aren’t in school, I’ve nearly missed the AIBC telling me what I can and can’t do.

But oh.

This week the AIBC went corporate. And it went corporate with flair.


I’m not a helicopter parent, nor am I a free-range parent. As in most areas of life, I fall somewhere in the murky in-between, or the “logical middle ground”, as I often like to think of myself with perhaps a smidge of superiority.

I have the personality of a paranoid parent mixed with the philosophy of a free-range parent, making me a strange and perfect hybrid. I almost always know where my kids are, but I am also more than happy to let them take risks while exploring their surroundings.

Sure! Climb that tree.

Want to jump on your bed? Why not?

Of course playground equipment is there for you to climb on top of and make the playground helicopter parents uncomfortable!

This philosophy of mine, however, is aided in its smashing success by the fact that I have two extremely over-cautious kids. They weigh risks, they take their time climbing on something risky, and they rarely get hurt. In fact, they get hurt way less than their mother.

All that to say…

We bought a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe a few years ago when Noah was younger. Over the life of the coupe, 80% of the usage it has seen has been on its roof – which apparently is way more entertaining to sit on than inside the car. I’ve watched both my kids climb on and off that roof so many times that I tend to forget that the car even has an interior. And, surprisingly, considering its tall proportions, the Cozy Coupe has never tipped over. That thing is sturdy. It’s bottom heavy, and it doesn’t even wiggle under the load of rooftop passengers.

So, this Spring when Noah decided that he was brave enough to climb up onto the car and then jump, I might’ve flinched the first jump or two, but I didn’t discourage him. He was good at it, he added his SuperNoah cape to the performance, and so I decided it deserved a slo-mo video.

It was even more fun when I took a still from the video, edited out my neighbor’s house and the Cozy Coupe, and presented it to Noah as his Superman photo.

Noah Jump Little Tikes
Perhaps not quite as good as his Iron Man shot from a few years ago,

Flying1

But that’s hard to beat.

So anyway.

The video, I felt, caught the essence of childhood – adventure, experimentation, thrill, and joy. Plus a really good excuse to use that House of Pain song.

Until I got shamed.

…Not by other mothers.

…Not by over-cautious grandmothers.

…Not even by those annoying non-parents that feel they have the right to tell parents what they should do – you know the type.

No.

Little Tikes themselves commented on my video, basically telling me that I needed to be a better overprotective parent.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 4.30.41 PM

Seriously.

Seriously??

Yes. The makers of Cozy Coupe themselves felt it best to warn me of the dangers of enjoying childhood, and also their product.

(For some reason the comment doesn’t show up every time for other users. Maybe they only wanted to privately shame me, not publicly. Maybe they were trying to give me the opportunity to secretly repent of my grievous parenting sins.)

I get that this was probably some legal move on their part to ensure that I couldn’t sue them if Noah broke his fingernail next time he tried this oh-so-dangerous trick, or perhaps to keep viewers from doing the same. But it’s not like this video had gone viral. It had a measly 115 views when they felt the need to parent my parenting.

It hurt, guys.

I flung myself on my MacBook and wept giant tears of sorrow from their between-the-lines accusations against me.

Okay maybe not. But I still felt like I needed a hashtag.

#FreeTheCoupe

or

#JumpTheCoupe

or

#CoziesAreForClimbing

And in protest, we should all have our children jump from their Cozy Coupes and share the videos on the internet. Flood the YouTubes with dangerous Little Tikes play, people*!!

And for Little Tikes, I offer this letter.

Dear Little Tikes,

First, I’d like to apologize for damaging your clearly quite fragile sensibilities of what childhood should look like.

I can only assume that your Social Media Monitoring Intern is a Millennial who was Helicoptered all the way up into his/her teens, only allowed to color, eat kale, knit beanies, and things equally as unhazardous.

Thanks for your concern over my parenting decisions. My kid is okay. I promise. If you think he’s not being careful, you really should meet his cousin Eli, who, if given 7 Cozy Coupes, would have them all stacked up in a Nice Cozy Totem Pole – and he would be the head at the top of the Cozy Totem – before you had time to finish your judgey comment. But besides that, please read this article about parenting and get back to me.

And in the meantime, let kids be kids. Or quit making toys and find a safer product line – like bean bags, maybe. Oh – no – someone could suffocate. How about microwavable containers? Nope – someone might get their finger pinched in the lid. Perhaps water bottles? Oh wait! e.Coli might grow in them.

You know what – you might just want to quit making things.

Sincerely,

Rachel
#FreeTheCoupe

* Rachel assumes zero liability for broken hair follicles or anything more severe from her clearly quite hazardous advice. After all, Rachel is a bad mother and should not be listened to. Just ask Little Tikes. However, if your kid actually finds joy and excitement from jumping off their Cozy Coupe, they can write a thank you note to Rachel anytime.