I feel as though I’ve earned a new Badge of Motherhood. I’ve conquered many things in my almost 10 year mothering journey – nursing, sleeping, potty-training, nightmares, tantrums, weaning, boo-boos, screaming, tickling, giggling, play-dates, slamming the doors, drama, fashion disasters, tears, homework.
But until this weekend I’ve never had to deal with other kids. Kids that I don’t even know. Kids that did something wrong. Kids who went home and got their mom to talk to me – ‘The Mean Lady’ – you know me. They don’t know me.
It was a place I never wanted to be, but as a mother I felt that I had no choice. It was unfamiliar, uncomfortable and slightly awful. But it brings up the question…what’s really my role in this as mother – when I’m not their mother. What are my boundaries and what responsibility do we have to raise good kids as a community?
And did I totally mess it up.
We had our yearly block party on Saturday night. I watched as three kids, all about 7-9 years old that I had never seen before and did not live on our street, walk up to the table and help themselves to some food and then walk towards the other end of the street – near my house. I asked a neighbor if she knew the kids as I knew they did not live near. As we were chatting, two of the kids got on my kid’s scooters and took off around the corner. I ran down the street and the kids were long-gone so I asked the little guy left behind(collateral!) where they were going on our scooters. He said that they were going to the grocery store about four blocks away, which is also across two very busy streets.
In the meantime, Eloise ran over to me and asked who those kids were who just took their scooters. She said that the girl came over to her and her friends and asked them who had the two purple scooters, so Eloise told the girl that they belonged to us. Then the girl asked if they could ride their scooters ‘for a few minutes.’ Eloise assumed that maybe they were just new kids down the block and figured that they would just ride the scooters up and down the block as the kids had been doing all during the party.
So I sat and waited for 30 minutes(with collateral!) until these two kids came back with our scooters. I stopped them and asked who they were. They would not tell me their names. I asked who gave them permission to take our scooters and why they would even take a stranger’s scooter at all. They said that one of my kids told them they could ride them. I asked “to the grocery store” and they said “no.” And then I said that when I saw them take-off with the scooters without permission, and since they were kids I had never seen before in my life, I thought they were stealing them and my first instinct was to call the police…because what they did was kind of like stealing. And then I said “and what if you had gotten hit by a car crossing one of the busy streets while riding something that was MY property or what if one of the scooters was stolen while you left them outside the store when you went in to get a movie?”
I was angry. And while I purposely did not raise my voice, I wanted them to know that this was not okay. So then I asked them for their names – which they refused to give me again, and asked for their address because I would either follow them home now or would come talk to their parents later. After giving me their address they both took-off. About 30 minutes later they were walking back with their mom.
And the mom’s first words to me were “Did you threaten to call the cops on my kids?” and I said “Oh yes I did.” It turns out they went home and told their mom that they had permission to ride the scooters to the store and yet I was angry at them. So after the mom heard the whole story she called it a ‘big miscommunication’ and I told her that no, it wasn’t a ‘big miscommunication’ – but that her children ages 7-9 were walking 1/2 a mile in the city to the store by themselves, came upon a block party and helped themselves to some food without asking permission or saying please or thank you, and then took something from a complete stranger without permission, and thought absolutely nothing was wrong with it to even offer up an apology. And thinking back now, maybe I really should’ve called the cops because I truly do believe that they still don’t think they did something wrong.
And then she said “Well you really scared them and I need to you know that you should not have scared them.” And I said “Well believe it or not, I’m glad they are now scared.”
So yes, big deal – a $40 scooter. But in my eyes – that’s really not the point. Is helping yourself to a $40 scooter when you’re 8 the same as helping yourself to a car when you’re 15? Is taking food without asking permission when you’re 9 leading to shoplifting when you are 12?
I don’t know the answer to that – but for now I won’t feel bad for scaring a few kids so that if there is a next time – maybe they’ll remember that the mean lady on the next block is watching.
What would you have done?
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