Let me start by saying, I am not perfect. Nor am I a dog. I am human.
Now that that’s out of the way, I am irked by some things I’ve witnessed in other humans lately and I just need to vent to you, dear reader, about them. Lest I explode.
1. Idling cars.
School just started yesterday and I had forgotten about this idling irritation until my run this morning. As I made my way through my neighborhood—established with many upscale homes, mind you (although we did get in on the ‘relatively-cheap-for-this-hood’ back in ’98 with an older, normal sized home that has no central air)—I was reminded. Kids wait for the bus on corners. Parents wait in cars/SUVs next to their kids. Engines running. One car even had it’s lights on. The kids wore headphones and/or were texting or playing a video game as if the parent wasn’t even there. (Side note: my 10-year old son doesn’t want me anywhere near him when his bus picks him up, which happens to be at the end of our driveway).
Our lovely treed neighborhood has many kids and, therefore, a notable number of idling cars every day. Early morning, when I run, the kids waiting for buses are aged from 6th grade through high school. Are the parents worried about an abduction? And if so, is it really necessary to keep the car idling? My ‘ok-let’s-not-rush-to-judgement-but-I-already-have’ side of me thinks, maybe one of the kids is disabled (although I saw no evidence of that). Another may be keeping their kid from wandering off to the nearest drug dealer. Maybe the parent has a mental disorder and if left at home without seeing their precious cargo board the school bus they will be a danger to themselves and/or society, unable to cope with the unknowing-ness of it all.
One day last fall I ran in the afternoon and guess what? There were parents in idling vehicles waiting for the bus to drop off their kid so they could rush off to a sport practice. (I know this was the case with one mom, at least, because she told me. After a few minutes of chatting, she turned off the engine. She knows I’m the local eco-maniac). Ugh!
2. Kids being driven to the bus stop.
There are many bus stops throughout our neighborhood so a kid doesn’t really have to walk too far—a half a mile in some cases, tops—to get to their stop. I think I’m correct in assuming the kid got a ride from the parent who now sat waiting in their idling car. I didn’t witness this so it is possible the parent drove slowly behind their walking child. It was 70 degrees out this morning and it was not raining. So why not just walk the kid to the stop? There’s an idea! Am I the only one who sees the ridiculousness of this?
3. Idle gossip.
This runs rampant amongst a good number of moms I know. Hold on a second. If it runs rampant, does that mean it’s really not idle? Anyway, I’m sure I’m the topic of a good portion of gossip. I imagine some think I must have social issues because I spend hours on the computer. I write. I tweet. I facebook. When instead I should be available for coffee or lunch or a mani-pedi (would actually love to take breaks, so please ask me). Other possible juicy topics about me: I’m one of those liberal freakin’ treehuggers; I’m raising my son to be a hippie; we fed a maimed mama raccoon for a while. (Side note: one boy was not allowed to run out in our back yard in case this raccoon came after him). Gossip is hardly ever 100% correct, which is why I felt it necessary to write about my husband’s affair. People could just refer others to the link and they’d get the true story.
Sometimes gossip starts with, “I love so-and-so, but…” And just the other day I was talking about how great my son’s new friend is and immediately the mom I was casually chatting with warned me: “Oh… just watch your back with her!” referring to my son’s friend’s mom. And another mom who was there nodded her head furiously then parroted, “Yep. You gotta watch your back with her.” I was so put off by these comments that I didn’t bother to ask why I needed to watch my back. Did they have proof? Or was this something they heard through the grapevine without bothering to research the why’s and wherefore’s? Should I be worried? Did they mean I could be stabbed literally or figuratively? Why did they have to reveal this information to me in such a gossipy fashion? And what were they saying behind my back?
4. Over-protective parents who make me feel like a bad mom.
One could argue that I’m one of these parents who make other parents feel like bad parents based on points number 1 and 2. But that’s just me venting and I don’t walk up to their car and say, “What in the world are you doing? Do you realize that your child is breathing the exhaust from your idling car? And that this protective mode is not going to serve your child well when they go off to college or leave home to live in the real world? I should know because I was fairly sheltered during my teen years—but I could still wait at the bus stop by myself—and went on drinking binges; participated in drunk make-out sessions with frat boys I just met; smoked pot; drove intoxicated; dined and ditched on spring break while drunk and stoned; skipped classes. I’m lucky to be alive!”
Here are some examples of parents making me feel like a bad mom:
A walk to the park. This spring I let my son (10) and his friend walk to the park, which is about a half mile away. No busy road to cross, unless you consider our road busy. (Side note: I call it a road, mind you, because it’s labeled road). All within the ‘hood. It was the very first time I let my son venture out that ‘far’ and I have to admit, I was nervous. My husband was home so we could support each other in our worried-yet-trying-not-to-be-overprotective-parents form of parenting. This was a big step. As it turned out, the boys didn’t go to the park and instead my son gave his friend the grand tour, pointing out where some of their other school friends lived. At some point, another mom called to let me know they were at her house and she fed them lunch. She was totally cool with it and made me feel better by telling me she let her 10-year old venture around the neighborhood.
(Side note: When I was a kid—even younger than 10—I’d roam around to various friend’s homes. Heck, once my friends and I were going to put on a play and walked from house to house inviting people to come and see the show. No parents involved.)
I kicked myself for not calling my son’s friend’s mom before letting them out of my sight. What if she never let her boy out of their yard? Shoot! Would she ever let her son play at our house again? I did call her after the fact and, fortunately, she was totally cool about it. Or so she said.
Another friend: aghast. Upon learning the news about this adventure around the ‘hood, another mom friend lectured me about how I should be more careful. She told the story of some high school girl walking along with friends on a much busier road. Said girl dropped her cell phone, bent over to pick it up and was hit by a car. Killed right there on the spot. “Are you sure you should be letting Ethan walk like that?” Our road does happen to be one of the busiest roads in the ‘hood. For instance, not one car has driven by since I started this paragraph. I’ll let you know when one comes. “Make sure you tell Ethan to not bend over to pick something up just in case a car is coming…. And you never know if someone is just totally not paying attention.” Blah blah blah. There are hills and curves to our roads. Trees and bushes that can hinder a driver’s view of a child. I was at another mom’s house one day and guess who sped by in a big SUV toward a supposedly safe cul-de-sac? That very mom who lectured me about how perilous it could be for children to walk in our neighborhood! And I’m 99.9% sure she was on her cell phone—no hands free device. Oh dear, one car just drove by my house. Be careful! Of course, I’m not ignorant to the fact something can happen. I tell my son to keep to the side of the road and not stop on curves and be aware that many moms (and dads) drive while talking on their cell phone, not thinking about the fact there could be a kid walking as they speed around a corner. Even though we live in a neighborhood with lots of kids and many of the drivers are parents.
Life-threatening bike rides. My son rides his bike with his buddy who will be 12. Earlier this summer, they decided they wanted to use their lemonade stand money to treat themselves to a hot dog at the hot dog place, which is located in a strip mall about a mile away. And they wanted to ride their bikes. Just the two of them. The first time they asked, I refused. The second time they asked my husband and off they went. There are back roads to the strip mall and getting to the hot dog place requires some maneuvering through parking lots. Mind you, his friend has his own cell phone and I’m not yet allowing my guy to ride to the strip mall area alone. Some may think that’s over-protective. I just don’t trust my son enough at this point to have him go it alone.
After much hand-wringing, the boys made it back alive! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Ethan that excited before! They ate outside at the hot dog place and carried some leftover fries home. That was the cat’s pajamas. The elephant’s instep. E talked about it non-stop for hours. In the days that followed, they hit other fast food joints. I wasn’t thrilled about those particular choices, but it was his money and he argued that Wendy’s and Culver’s are much healthier than McDonald’s. Whatever. If they had money in their pockets, they were off. The novelty of hitting any fast food joint they felt like wore off and soon they were spending money on useless plastic action figures from The Dollar Store (yes, I informed him ad nauseam about why those things only cost a dollar). Then it was PetCo to buy equipment for a hamster or gerbil or… mouse. I ended up happy when they chose a little white mouse, saving him from an ugly demise as snake food. They bought a second mouse and the first mouse killed him then died of unknown causes a few days later.
My little guy was gaining independence and confidence! He wanted to hop on his bike every day. I was tickled when he learned on his own that a Dollar Store watch isn’t meant to work longer than a minute or two, if at all.
Here’s a mom’s reaction: “You let him ride all the way over there? I heard a story about a kid who rode his bike within just a couple miles of home and he was abducted and murdered.” Really? Wow. Was I being too lackadaisical? Was he too young to be riding off on his bike? What if????
According to a recent article in the New York Times, “The crimes that spur public outrage—the abduction, rape and murder of children—are exceedingly rare. Statistically, a child’s risk of being killed by a sexual predator who is a stranger is comparable to the chance of being struck by lightening. The reported incidence of most forms of child abduction, including the most serious, has declined since the 1980s.” “…most perpetrators of sexual abuse are family members, close relatives, or friends or acquaintances of the victim’s family. In 70 to 80 percent of child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect, a parent is held responsible.” Read the rest of the article here.
So these moms should be more concerned about leaving their kids at my house. I could be a perpetrator!
The treehouse. Ethan and his friends built a tree house this summer. It’s not exactly to code. In fact, the codes were not even taken into consideration. My husband guided them to a point and it’s a bit wobbly, but not too high off the ground. Recently the boys added 5 or 6 steps up a trunk to a height of 15 feet or so. What if a kid falls off? This makes me a bit apprehensive since we can’t afford a lawsuit. Nor do I want anyone to get hurt! Something serious could happen. I toyed with the idea of having parents sign a waver. I will ask parents if it’s okay for their child to climb on the tree house. If it’s okay, great. But I’ll be crossing my fingers that they’re not litigious. A kid could get a splinter and that could get infected and…. If I don’t have permission, the tree house is off limits. It’s not even a house, really. But one shouldn’t take chances when it comes to other people’s kids.
I have learned from these experiences. Always ask the parent first if it’s outside of the realm of your yard, the earth in your yard, the people who live in your home… I’m really not sure where to draw the line.
I’m protective, too. For gods sake, I never want my son to get behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle! Not now, not when he’s 16. But it’s inevitable. I worry. I don’t want my son going to some kids house and playing video games rated T for teen. If my son is playing at your house, I hope you’ll refrain from allowing the T rated video games. Or watching an inappropriate movie. If it’s R rated, please ask and I’ll say no. Please hide the beer. My first taste of beer was 12 during the school lunch hour. I don’t want my kid sneaking beer, although I know that day will come. I don’t want him hanging around with the kid whose parents let their 12-year old drink near beer (yes, I know parents who allow this). Nor do I want him climbing up on a steep roof or playing with broken glass or fire. Did I mention I’m not too keen about him climbing over the fence into a pit of lions? And please, feed him whole grains and only 100% real fruit juice. Preferably no soda or candy!
5. I forget.
I had a number 5. But now I’m drawing a blank. Well, how about I just toss in the one about humans who absolutely refuse to believe there is a even a remote possibility that humans have something to do with global warming. I’m talking accelerated global warming. We’re pumping horrendous amounts of CO2 into our atmosphere, plowing down forests at an alarming rate (is it me, or is it cooler in the shade versus standing in a parking lot?)… would you close yourself in a house that had CO2 being pumped into it? I think not. Unless, of course, you were planning to extinguish your life. I’m not a scientist and I’m open to listening to any and all arguments against the human induced climate change theory, but I believe it’s pretty darn likely that humans have lent a helping hand. ‘Nuf said. For now.
6. Just remembered what #5 was supposed to be.
People who anonymously hate on the internet. If you can’t say it with your name attached to it, take a moment and breathe. What do you hope to gain from this bad mojo? I’m not saying you don’t have a right to your opinion, just… be as courageous as the writer and put your name to it. If you’re on witness protection or something like that, fine. Otherwise, why not use that energy to help someone in need?
7. Seemingly good friends who drop off the face of the earth.
This is a topic that requires its own space. But how does it happen that people you consider really good friends stop returning calls and/or emails? If I have a problem with a friend, I tell them. I don’t just disappear. And if I have disappeared from your life, please tell me and I’ll explain. For those of you who have dropped me, I’d really like to know what happened so I can work on it for the next friendship. Or maybe your husband didn’t like my husband. Or your other friend thinks I’m strange or boring because I don’t dance wild or drink more than one or two (maybe I should drink more so I can dance wild). I realize some friendships just aren’t meant to be. Others just run their course. But we’re human. Let’s act it and leave with grace.
Thanks for reading this. I feel so much better now. What’s been bugging you about humans lately? And what bugged you about what’s been vexing me?