An Open Letter To Young Moms

I’m not a mother and I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t possess a maternal bone in my body.

And even though I’ve never walked in your Payless flats, I have a deep, abiding respect for what you do.  I know how difficult motherhood is and I know that with all it’s dilemmas and sacrifices, it’s also extremely rewarding.  It is also extremely important.

You shape young minds.  You are the first interaction children have with other human beings;  with life,  nurturing, education,  values, manners, with love and affection.    Without those vital components, children grow up to be angry, jaded comedy writers living in Houston.

I will admit that I adore my nieces and nephews.  They’re adults now, but even when they were younger, that was fine because I could give them back to their parents after needing them as throw down progeny for whatever reason, but generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the kinder.   And when they’re loud and screaming and unruly regardless of locale, it’s enough to make me seek copious amounts of Lithium.

Therefore, I must ask, what is it with some young mothers these days?

A few days ago, I was in Target shopping for sundries, but my experience was sullied by a screaming child.   Not just the occasional outburst, this was incessant shrieking.   The phrase, “plaintive wail” comes to mind.  I made my way over the Mens’ Department to take a peak at this erstwhile junior banshee.   It was a little girl, strapped in the Target trademark red shopping cart; her older brother frantically kicking at a display of folded T-shirts as the mom, blithely ignoring her obnoxious charges, rifled through a sale bin.

She was either unable to hear the decibels with which her daughter was screaming or willfully chose to ignore the situation.  I looked for any obvious sign of discomfort.   None that I could see.   Did the child have a disability that was discernible?  Again, nothing that I could see.  All indications pointed to this being nothing more than a very unruly little girl, undisciplined,  unattended and futility demanding attention.

The young mother did nothing to quiet or comfort the child, at least she did nothing during the excruciating 12.7  minutes that I had to spend in the department next to them.    The child was loud, annoying and extremely bothersome.  I shook my head; another shopper covered his ears.   Yet, the young mom seemed oblivious to everything.

Sadly, I’ve seen this scene repeated many times. So, my question is how could this happen?   Why does this happen?

When I was a child, I would NEVER acted this way and certainly had I, the situation would have been handled efficiently.  The fear of my mother’s pinch or slap was as bad, if not worse than the actual physical contact.   Then there was the fear of the dreaded “you just wait till we get home” spanking.  Even when she’d give me that “look”, that was enough to instill the fear of God in me and by God, I mean the fierce, vengeful Old Testament version.

I can’t say every young mother is guilty of this, but obviously, when a young child is screaming, a basic knowledge of biology and gynecology will tell you that a younger mother is usually part of the equation.  Additionally, I don’t know what was coursing through this particular young mother’s mind; why she allowed her child to scream without blinking an eye, but from the perspective of my incredibly victimized ears, I would think her completely selfish.  Her child, her life…everyone else–deal with it.  She showed utter lack of consideration for the shoppers around her.  I would go one step further and say she showed utter disdain for everyone in the store.

I don’t understand this at all.   What happened to respect?  Is good taste now passe?   Has breeding just become another word for procreation?  Has a misplaced and errant sense of entitlement surpassed common decency?

Now, permit me reiterate that I understand the plight of all you young mothers.  You’re tired, you’re frustrated and probably completely unappreciated for all your efforts,  but does that negate appropriate displays of manners, tact and diplomacy?   And didn’t Doctors Spock and Linden Smith tell us time and time again that children need and want structure?

And what about this new mode of contemporary child rearing?   Why aren’t more kids being censured for this kind of behavior these days?   Are we scared that any disciplinary “pop on the butt” could and would be misconstrued as abuse and we’d be reported to Child Protective Services?   And is a liberal, hands-off approach to child rearing working?  How effective are “time outs” and really, is this any way to reason with a young child?

The reality is this:  young children, especially unruly ones have no business being in  public.  Parents have no right to foist ill mannered children on the populace.  Sorry, but this is true.   Young, unruly children should not be  in nicer restaurants.  Young children have no business in theaters, especially during movies not geared for kids.  This is why  Fischer Price and Walt Disney invented babysitters.   If you can’t afford a babysitter, you damn sure can’t afford dinner at a nicer restaurant or the 18 dollars you’d shell out for a pair of movie tickets.

And DO NOT tell me that sometimes children misbehave because they feel bad.  I understand this,  but if that is in fact the case, why then are they out in public and not at home enduring Pink Eye or  teething in private?

And furthermore, if you have no other recourse than to take your child with you, then you should have the sense to train…yes, I said TRAIN your children to behave correctly and respectfully in public.  If they don’t and their behavior is disruptive in any way and you as a parent refuse to handle the situation either by calming or removing them from the premises, then you should be held responsible and fined exorbitantly for disturbing the peace.

As I see it, one of the biggest culprits contributing to this problem is that so many people today have absolutely no class; they’re completely devoid of it.    And let’s get something straight;  class has nothing to do with socio-economic status.  It’s not indicative of where or how you live, the kind of car you drive, the labels on your jeans or the amount of money in your bank account.   Class is demonstrating kindness, respect, proper behavior, reasoned reactions and abiding by the rules and regulations of polite society.   It is reflective in good manners–regardless of situation or circumstance and it’s the willingness to make the tiniest of sacrifices in order to be considerate of others.

Everyone can use a primer in what class is and isn’t,  but young mothers in particular, I beg you to learn the difference.

28 comments

  1. Amen! This coming from a mom of a soon to be teenage girl. I remember the days of dealing with temper tantrums, heck I still deal with them, just on a different level. Fortunately this only occurred once that I can remember and only when I was in the check-out lane at the grocery store. If I didn’t have a cartful of food, I would have left that store in a heartbeat. I’ve never understood why some parents (moms AND dads alike) choose to not discipline their kids. I also don’t understand those parents that do not hold their child’s hand when out in public, be it in the store or in the parking lot, especially when said child can barely walk on their own. What the heck is wrong with these people? It freaks me out to see little kids running around parked cars.

    And don’t get me started on the whole “little kids in the theatre watching movies that are rated R” thing! That is one of my number one pet peeves! Why oh why do they do that?

  2. Ahh… I love the observations of a childless “mom”… I too thought the same thing before I had children. Tantrums happen. It is life. Your child is never 100% of the time dressed in their pristine white clothes with their halo balanced perfectly on their heads – that’s a fact. And discipline and class have nothing to do with it, I can assure you. The most elegant of mothers will have a toddler throw a tantrum, where the most “trashiest” of moms can have a little angel holding their hands.

    And hitting a child is never ever *ever* under any circumstances the answer.

    Good luck in your future, and please post when you have children!

  3. Change, there needs to be change LK. I’m not a father yet nor do I know many that I care about, that needs to be changed. But, change that will bring a better Target shopping experience, change to eliminate all inexperienced mothers, change of all things that need to be changed, change for a dollar, change, but there needs to be change, change we can believe in. Change the everything, change change the change. Change needs to be changed, because in the end the lady probably was wondering why her life was changed in such a fashion and her reality had changed in such a way that changed her humanity that she couldn’t change her situation of dealing with a baby that had changed her life and it changed her at her core and she wasn’t ready for the change, but in the end she changed things because of her end. Perhaps she only had change to buy something from the sale rack that would change her wordrobe for a day because she only had change to feed her baby or to buy some change to make herself feel better. Ahh change

    Or she was just an uncaring bitch who needs to be regulated with a license to have children.

  4. Ah, I love the observations of a “defensive” mom.

    I understand tantrums happen and you’re misguided if you think discipline and class have nothing to do it. They have EVERYTHING to do with it. If the mother had any, she’d remove the screaming,red faced child from the premises.

    Again, do not misunderstand what class is. As I wrote in my post, it has nothing to do with social strata. It is the demonstration of respect, manners, consideration and appropriate behavior and and responses to every situation. And for any mother to allow a screaming, trantram addled child to carry on as such while blithely ignoring it, clearly indicates she has none of it.

    Good luck in your future. Please comment again in about 15 years when your ears are no longer conditioned to tolerate poorly behaved children.

    LK

  5. And class gets you what???? The ability to say and define class?? To deal with people that have enough Botox in them that they are a walking study of Botulism or maybe it is the fake tan people with white palms that define class. I agree that any person has the ability to be non-bothering to any social strata, but real class comes in the acceptance of those that are perceived to be below them whence one has no idea of the circumstaces that led to this defineing moment of complete self serving skippyness. Used uteruses rule.
    You go Sandra.

  6. Oh boy, can I relate to your “Young Mothers” article.

    Once, at Target, a little girl was doing this same exact thing…only the mother wasn’t so young. Well, when the mother wasn’t looking, I meandered over and in a very stern voice I said to the little girl “STOP THAT WHINING!!!!!” The mother didn’t hear me but the little girl did.

    Believe me…she stopped.

    (p.s. I am the mother of a very well behaved 20 year old son…I know what I’m talkin’ about!!)

  7. Where in the hell does Botox and fake tanning come into play here? Is Kelly really trying to make a salient point with any of that nonsensical crap?

    If you’re being serious, Kelly then you have obvious issues reading and grasping . What LK wrote was fact. Class isn’t about money or social level. It’s a mindset and anyone can have it. Money and position are merely means used to more easily aquire some. I agree that the mother who allows an obnoxious child to scream and wail in a public place has none. She herself was probably raised the same way. Children have to have peramters. I’m not talking about severe whippings but in my book, there is nothing wrong with the occasional light swat on the bum. Negative behavior has to be negatively reinforced and if you omit a swatting from the situation, there’s nothing at all wrong with being sternly told no and having that child know exactly what NO means.

    Don’t make this an argument about the rich and the poor. It’s not about that and if you think it is, you’ve missed what LK was trying to say. This is about those who have respect and consideration for the fellow citizerns of the world and those who don’t. I agree completely inconsiderate parents who raise bratty kids with no rules or regulations are classless and society pays the price, one way or another.

  8. The issue is not one of whether children have tantrums or whether or not parents can control a child.

    Children do have tantrums and there are times parents cannot control their child, That is all part of the parenthood process. Those kinds of bad behaviors are not the fault of the parent or child- those behaviors are a part of the challenges every single parent on the planet faces.

    What a parent can and should do is to make sure, to the best of their ability to avoid situations that are both stressful to them and others.

    That’s what babysitters are for.

  9. Mothers need a stradegy BEFORE taking their little darlings on a trip to hell. After you have carefully put them in the shopping cart or stroller, all you need are a couple of toys and maybe if they’re old enough to do this, a tootsie roll pop to suck on to keep them quiet.

    It does work but it takes planning.

    Better yet, hire a damn babysitter for a few hours!!!! That works the best.

  10. Edward, Eddie, Ed, Eduardo

    It is not a lack of grasping the point or not being able to read. I met someone today that was in the realm of what Ms. Kendrick dealt with that was botoxed to hell and had the fake tan and the white palms and her kids were more behaved than her, whilst she tried to betray ‘class’ while yelling at a clerk in a Gelatateria because her double scoop of chocolate was messy to her and they didn’t have Limone today and her driver lead her the back of a really tricked out Benz. I merely had that in my mind while I read LK’s column today and prattled out some bits, personal experiences Eddy and the schism to realize that. I agree with you Ed, whack the kid in the ass, let em know who is boss and pray they shut the fuck up unless they are spoken to. Eddie, Ed, Eduardo, class is common sense and making sure that one walks with grace and love in their heart and their head held high and hopefully those around them including their kids can cop to that. The kids have to be taught, the rest have to deal with what got them where they are and it is up to us that have class. And therein lies many more paragraphs of nonsensical bits.

    I just lost $28,000 today because of political ‘class’ and bravado and trusting in ‘class’ and some fuckfaced bailout, these dorks are full of ‘class’. The dumbasses I’m watching on CNN try to purvey ‘class’. Either one really cares about their neighbor or they don’t. If one cares, that is class, if one doesn’t, therefore you have a mother in
    Target with a screaming child.

  11. Before anyone can procreate – I believe they should have to take Parenting 101…if there is anything in this world people should be trained in is rearing a well-disciplined child. PS – following thru on a those “pop on the bum” threats works – let them test you once or twice and believe you me, they won’t push it a third time.

  12. Look, people. This is elementary. If a child is allowed to throw tantrums, scream and demand their way at home, how do expect them to act nice in public.

  13. HOLY CRAP!! I loved the post, then as I began to read some of the comments, my head literally started to split in 2. I quickly grabbed the duct tape and strapped it around my head and chin before it actually exploded. I have 3 kids and a wife who is a wonderful mom. And let me tell you this–it is NEVER acceptable for one of my kids to throw a tantrum or scream in public or anywhere frankly. And by God–they know it.

    When they begin, and I mean within 10 seconds or less of the beginning they are immediately escorted off the main premises to either a bathroom or the car outside or somewhere private–there they are told that (and this is a dramatic paraphrasing)-they will be praying for Satan himself to adopt them if the screaming and trantrum doesn’t cease immediately. They are told that it is embarassing and disrespectful–and they are given one chance to correct the ridiculous behavior. If, by some sheer moment of utter stupidity they chose to fly back into the tantrum–they get a spanking.–Sorry folks–but this “it is never okay to hit a child” idea is overbroad. Yes, striking or hitting a child is never okay. Spanking a child on the butt is sometimes appropriate–it does not hurt if done right but does let the child know there is a consequence to disrespectful behavior.

    I will say that I have RARELY had to go to step 2–my power of persuasion on step 1 usually does the job. And–since my kids have crested 6 years old–I cannot remember ever having to go to step 2.

    I have seen the result of children raised without learning respect for their parents and others. I used to see them all the time when I was a prosecutor.

  14. I had this great comment all ready about the difference between a well-behaved child and a brat, and their parents thereof, but then I figured that any adult who doesn’t already know how to train a child wouldn’t understand it anyway. Laurie rocks. Brats do not, and neither do their parents.

  15. You know I love you Laurie, but I’m going to go off here.

    Well, my kid has a neurological disorder and used to have the endless tantrums that went along with it. Believe me, people thought I was a terrible mom, that’s why I stopped leaving the house with her. Is that the solution though? When you’re stuck in the house with a screaming child that no babysitter can deal with? When you have to lock yourself outside so that you don’t hurt them?

    It just pisses me off so royally when people say “My wife is a great mom, therefore we have great kids.” I want to say “Screw you. I’m a great mom too.” There are moms out there doing their best for very little reward, who happen to have very difficult kids. They need help, not criticism and sanctimony.

    It’s easy to be a great mom when your kids are “good”.

  16. I’ll add that she doesn’t look like a child with a disorder, and no, I never ignored her tantrums like the Target girl, but you simply couldn’t make her stop once she started.

  17. Michelle,

    You know I love you too, but I counter with this. There ARE bad moms out there and just because a child is well fed and relatively clean and dressed, doesn’t negate the fact that it could be neglected. The mom in Target was not only neglectful of her child, but rude and inconsiderate to everyone around her.

    Had the child been disabled, she wouldn’t have treated the little girl that way. At least, I would like to believe she wouldn’t.

    And if your child started an unstoppable tantrum? What did you do? Ignore it as this woman did or did you remove her from the public place?

    I understand that children are children and that they misbehave and at unfortunate and inopportune times, but when they do, you remove them. You don’t leave them to wailing and flailing strapped in a shopping cart at Target while you continue blithely shopping for shirts!

    I can only imagine how difficult it must be to have a child who cries because he essentially, has no other recourse. I would imagine that even though you love him to death, there ARE times when you have to leave the house to keep from inflicting harm on him or yourself. My heart goes out to you. I can’t even imagine the emotional physical burden involved and let’s be honest, there is a burden.

    But I’m not talking about disabled children; I’m talking about unruly ones with mother’s who don’t give a damn about the fact that they ARE unruly and disruptive to everyone around them.

    In respect you and love your brilliance Michelle and now that I know, I also respect your strength and your situation. So, disagree with me if you must, but these women are inconsiderate and rude and I can’t and won’t debate those points.

    LK

  18. I’m not really disagreeing on your main point. I too have problems with lazy people who have kids who are perfectly trainable, who sit back and let them devolve into brats. I’m a strict disciplinarian at heart and work hard with what I’ve got. There are kids who are neglected out there, who would turn out so well if their parents just took the time to give them some attention. Some parents just don’t appreciate what they have. So we’re on the same page there.

    It’s the “proof is in the pudding” comments that I have a problem with. There are good moms out there who have kids whose out of control behaviors simply don’t reflect the herculean efforts that their moms have put into raising them. They have diagnosis that don’t show, but we still have to go to the grocery store. Our kids look normal, but act insane.

    Now that she’s matured, is on medication, and is homeschooled, things are almost normal. That’s why I have so much time to be lazy. I get told how well I’m doing with her- that I’m a good mom. I really wish I had that kind of support when she ended a day of screaming and hitting by falling into bed with me and telling me how she wished I was dead so she could have daddy all to herself, and I told her how nice that would be.

    All done.

    I’ll send you a picture of my stigmata if you like:)

  19. I hear what you’re saying.

    I’m not a mom, Michelle. I don’t know about motherhood. A car accident in 1991 rendered me incapable of carrying and delivering, so perhaps my view of this is stilted a bit.

    I just think unruly children should be dealt with…away from the point of audible impact. If a child starts a tantrum in the middle of a department store, the child should be removed…taken outside until he or she calms down. I think it’s an affront to society if a screaming child is ignored as this mom in Target did. She was rude and extremely inconsiderate. She had no right to disrupt anyone’s shopping experience.

    I’m glad to hear that things have settled down in your. And never say you’re lazy. I refuse to believe that. Having kids in A-typical scenarios is difficult enough, but when you had other issues to the mix, I can only imagine how trying that must be; how trying that must have been. You have stars in your crown.

    And you have my admiration and respect.

    LK

  20. > And hitting a child is never ever *ever* under any circumstances the answer.

    Then you deserve the obnoxious children you have. The rest of us don’t.

    Pain is one of nature’s most powerful and basic negative reinforcement techniques. To exclude it as an option is imbecilic at best. It should not be done in anger, and it certainly needs to be measured so as to not induce permanent physical damage, but use of it on occasion early on results in a remarkable amount of disciplined obedience and a LACK of need to use pain later on.

    A consistently applied spectrum of punishments is the main thing, but physical punisment is always the final resort when “soft power” comes to naught.

  21. I’m not a father–at least, no one can prove anything–but I am an uncle and I have friends who have had small children.

    I am absolutely unqualified to comment on whatever disorder your daughter had, Michele. But was it not possible to step outside or move to some place where she wouldn’t be inflicting herself on everyone else? Even if you’re at the market, you can push the cart to one side and let a cashier or someone know you’ll be back.

    But generally, assuming that a child is not someplace where small children simply don’t belong, like a tony restaurant, and further assuming that for some reason you cannot remove the child immediately, for pity’s sake at least the mother can do something, can make an effort, can show the hapless people around her that she’s trying to do something.

    I was at the public library’s periodical section about a year ago and a mother came in with her child. She was blithely reading a magazine while the kid was running around the area quite noisily. His circuit took him near me and at one point he kicked me; I’m not sure if it was intentional.

    I grabbed him by the arm and loud enough for his mother to hear I asked, “Young man, how old are you?” He told me he was five. “If you want to live to see six,” I growled, “you will never kick me again.”

    At that point his mother rushed over, glared at me, and rebuked me. I pointed out he had kicked me and was disturbing everyone else in the library. “What do you want me to do?” the mother asked. “I asked him to be quiet when we came in.”

    I have two nieces and two nephews. The youngest is now a junior in college but I was out with them and their parents often, and occasionally took one or more out myself..ball game, circus, zoo, a movie, that sort of thing. And if either of my sisters-in-law had learned that I had allowed them to act improperly in public I would not have been allowed to take them out again.

    Of course it’s irksome and frustrating. Those are among the conditions you accept when you become a parent. What child is not from time to time virtually intolerable? Well, all right, I’m sure I wasn’t, even though my parents seem to have had different memories.

  22. Can I focus on the other side of the coin here. There is nothing more delightful than seeing a child helping its mother select apples at the supermarket or carefully handing objects from the cart to be put on the checkout counter. I always smile when I see a mom explaining why she is choosing one item over another. And just a short while ago, there was a young couple at the market with their baby, just a few months old. Suddenly there was a rather loud sound, and after a bit it was repeated several times. It took a few seconds till people figured out that it was a baby laughing. Even folks in different aisles that couldn’t see him stopped and smiled. So please moms, don’t feel like you are totally under attack. You and your children also brighten our lives.

  23. I would really like it if you would babysit a two year and maybe a four year old then maybe you could get it. yes i understand that it is so annoying when kids freak out in stores. i work at claire’s so i deal with a ton of crazy children. i do have two kids my self i am only twenty. married so don’t judge. my two year does have his moments but do you really think that if i were to spank him or yell at him in public that i wouldn’t get called in the child services or something. really think about it.

  24. CJ,

    I’m not judging. I’m not saying spank the child in public; I’m telling mothers/grandmothers/caregivers to remove the screaming, tantrum having child from the premises. Deal with a screaming child in private; a dressing room. Just DO NOT let a child scream and offend everyone around them.

    They don’t have a place shreiking at decibels in public places. Sorry, but on this, I won’t negotiate.

    LK

  25. I am a young mom myself, but I feel that my kids are very well-behaved. There is the occasional temper tantrum, but usually that is quelched pretty quickly. I do have to say however, that there are times when it is impossible to find a sitter—not because I can’t afford one, but because no one is available! My kids are with me 365/24/7, but they have never had such a tantrum that I couldn’t get them to stop within minutes, and I have never left my children in the cart while I looked at anything farther away than arm’s reach—and while I can understand that it’s hard to deal with kids by yourself, this kind of behavior can’t be blamed on the dad not being in the picture. (My husband is deployed, and my kids still listen to me). And there are times when you just have to walk away (usually I walk outside on my front porch while the kids are in the house) for a few minutes to cool yourself down before returning to deal with misbehavior. Maybe I’m not part of the “norm” of young moms because I was raised “old school” by my grandparents and my aunt & uncle, but I do know many young moms who are wonderful parents! And, to respond to one of the earlier posters, who said something about inexperienced parents and needing to take a parenting 101 class—no 2 kids are alike, they don’t come with manuals, and all parents are inexperienced at some point! Parenting is a learning process that is made harder by today’s society and CYS (or the equivalent of) that can be called on you in a moment’s notice by some stranger who feels that you’re not using proper discipline on your child (i.e. if you threaten to spank your child). So, for those of you that do not have children, please don’t say things like “leave them home until they’re 21” because that is just impossible, and that, my friend, is also a form of neglect.

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