Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Last year, I was at a Costco, waiting on a very long line. There was a family ahead of me with two small kids. The parents weren't really paying attention to the kids and I happened to notice that the little girl had peed her pants. There was urine all over her pants and a little puddle underneath her.

I must have stared at that girl for several minutes, trying to decide if I should alert her parents. On one hand, I think I'd like to know if my child was standing in a puddle of her own urine. Then again, I didn't want to be a busybody. Finally, when the parents still weren't noticing, I decided to say something:

Me: "Um, sir... your daughter...."

Father: "Oh, it's okay. I've got my eye on her."

Me: "No, she, um... peed...."

Father: [looks at girl] "Ava! Oh no!"

I guess I did the right thing by telling him, but I immediately felt kind of guilty for making a comment about someone else's kid. Believe me, this is not something I ever do. I was recently at the zoo and stared in agony at this woman who had a one-month old baby with no head control front-facing in a baby carrier, with his head sagging down like it was about to fall off.... but I never would have said anything in a million years. It's none of my damn business.

While I think it's despicable when someone goes up to a complete stranger and tells them not to give their baby a bottle or something like that, I wonder if there are situations where it's appropriate to intervene. For example, would you say something if you saw a woman hitting her child? Or worse?


  1. You could say something warm and empathetic about how hard parenting is, and ask how it's going... An opening in case someone is in trouble and open to a kind ear ora moment's reprieve?

  2. I would want to know if one of my children was standing in a puddle... I once sat in a doctor's waiting room and watched someone feed their 7 month old a nestle crunch bar along with bits of mellow yellow (they filled the lid and then tipped it into the infant's mouth). Outside I couldn't say anything, inside I was screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!".

  3. Thatgirl: That reminds me of a time I saw an infant drinking Coke. Ugh.

  4. I think its kind of sad that we are so loathe to approach another parent with ANYTHING, because we've all experienced so much unwanted judgement. I think there is a clear difference between judging and helpfully informing, but unfortunately that line may not be the same for everyone! "Excuse me your daughter may need to be cleaned up, can I hold your place in line?" is different from "Oh my god! You shouldn't let your child drink soda!". In the first---you are simply stating the indisputable facts. The second involves a judgement--whether or not its based on medical/scientific fact. The baby carrier one is tricky...not sure what I would've done...probably nothing. To you or I, its an indisputable fact that the position is unsafe for such a small infant, but others may not perceive it that way, and in reality, the baby was not in true immediate danger at the moment.

    Its also in the WAY you approach it---its so much less annoying when someone actually offers to HELP you remedy the issue (bring some paper towels, help you re-arrange the baby carrier so your child is in properly) vs. a hit-and-run type assault (you're doing this WRONG, goodbye).

    Spanking is likewise a value judgement in that some people DO believe in it as a form of discipline. However, truly BEATING or otherwise hurting a child is not.

  5. Depends. When it's something potentally helpful like the girl who'd wet herself, I might approach. As for things like obviously harmful parenting (I too have seen parents stick Mountain Dew in a bottle) it would depend on if my husband was there or not. I tend to be fairly outspoken, but more than once he has held me back and done the whole take me outside to rant and vent alone.

  6. I was just at a birthday party where one of the guests fed her FOUR month old daughter bits of frosting off the cake.

    I will give her props to going to her car to smoke as opposed to at the party area (unlike another guest who seemingly didn't care that there were 10 kids around as she chain smoked...)

  7. I've been on the other side as a pseudo-parent. I'm 8 and 10 years older than my youngest sisters, so I've often been confused as their mother (though why someone would think I'm their mother when I look 16 and they CLEARLY look at least 10, I don't know). I was also the perfect babysitter because I was so much older by the time they were toddlers and older.

    Anyway, one day, my mom and I brought my sisters to Walmart to go shopping. Except that my older younger sister was throwing a tantrum and refused to stand near me when my mom and baby sister went to the bathroom. She kept (loudly) crying that she wanted to go to the bathroom. I knew she didn't need to go, as did my mom, which is why she was left with me in the first place. The only reason she wanted to go was because she didn't particularly like me at that moment and wanted to be around our mom.

    After a couple minutes of this and me telling her no, that she had to stay with me, this lady came up to me and yelled at me that I should bring her to the bathroom. I can't even remember how I actually reacted to the woman, but I was in shock that she would actually have the audacity to say something to me, especially in the tone that she used. I think my mom came back shortly thereafter and I scathingly related the story to her.


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