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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Those Who Don't Know

On Saturday, I was at a hair salon for the first time in a long time.  A little boy came in.  He must have been about three.  He walked in with his mom, a frazzled-looking woman holding a big soft drink cup - I assume a reward for the haircut.  He was cute.  He was smiling.  He was lovely.

His mother sat him up on the high salon chair.  Immediate chaos.

"No, mommy.  No, mommy!  Down.  Please, down, mommy, please down!  Down!"

My heart broke.  I was almost in tears for this little boy who was obviously scared out of his wits.  But I was alone.  The salon workers, all of them, were laughing - laughing out loud at this little boy.

He began to scream and cry and wriggle.  A few agonizing minutes later, the mom finally gave up and took him outside, where he continued to scream and cry for a long time.  She must have been trying to convince him to come back in.  The callous laughter continued.

These people must not have children, I thought.  How could a person be so cruel as to laugh at another's raw fear?  Would they laugh at an adult suffering a trauma to that degree?  I doubt it.  What makes it okay for adults to belittle children, to minimalize their feelings?  Just because the adults don't necessarily understand the logic of a child does not give them the right to ridicule a very real reaction to a very real fear.  My sadness turned to disgust.

A disgust that only thickened as their laughter turned to judgement.

"She must let him run wild."

"What a spoiled brat.  Bet if daddy took him to get his hair cut, it would have been totally different."

"That woman is hardly fit to be a mother, I'd say.  Look at her kid.  Causing such a fuss.  I'd be so ashamed if I were her."

Truth is, kind and loving hairdressers, that the woman is ashamed.  Parents cannot help but be ashamed when something like this happens in public.  I pray she never finds out your take on it because your take on that situation is my worst nightmare.

I spoke up.

"You don't know why that baby was screaming like that.  You don't know why he was scared.  You don't know his past.  You don't know if this is commonplace or rare with him.  He's clearly very upset.  I don't think your laughter helped."

I was an instant fan favorite.  (I'm lucky they didn't mess up my hair, I think.)

After some hemming and hawwing on their part, I continued.  "And really, how do you know that the kid would be better behaved with his father?  How do you know he was even misbehaving.  It was very brave of that woman to take her kid here by herself, and I'm sure she's doing the best she can.  A screaming child does not make an unfit parent, you know."

I don't think I got through to them.  And sadly, the message I took home from this experience is that, yes, if you think someone is judging you, they are.  If you think someone thinks your child is out of control or spoiled, they do.  If you think someone is mentally calling you a bad parent, they are doing exactly that.

So, stand tall.  Stand tall, stand proud and ignore them.  Continue to tend to your child as best you can.  There is only so much we can do, after all, and if we let every critical eye interrupt our parenting, we'd be reduced to screams of rage and fear, ourselves.

Remember, the judgements are coming from those who don't know.  Either they have yet to have kids, or their kids were miraculously angels at all times.  Those who don't know can judge, but their judgements will never matter.  It doesn't matter what they think of you.  It matters what your child thinks of you.  And, screaming or not, your child thinks you're doing a pretty darn good job.


  1. Good on you for speaking up. I wish I were so brave in situations like that. The poor kid and mom :(

  2. It's the first time I've ever spoken up. I think the stark contrast between my empathetic reaction and their unknowingly cruel reaction plus the lack of sleep I operating on helped me. Unfortunately, like I said, I don't think they cared.

  3. I have a disabled son; he doesn't look disabled, but he is. I get so sick of comments from people who *think* they know the whole story and comment on our parenting and what we SHOULD be doing. Ugh. Thank you for speaking up-more people should do that-my son screamed his head off for the first four years of haircuts-with or without his daddy there.

  4. Is this a chain or an independant salon? I would write a letter of complaint to the corporate office (or to the salon's owner) detailing what happened and how it made you feel, and if this could influence your decision to recommend this place to friends or to return. As they say, one vocal unhappy customer equals ten silent, and since this is a business that relies on customer recommendations they should take your letter very seriously.

    It really is sad that people leap to meanspirited conclusions rather then extend compassion to someone who is battling to get through her day.

  5. I agree with starcrossedlady - write a letter of complaint if you can. And thank you for speaking up! I empathize with that mother as my kid hates haircuts, too. :(

  6. Is there any way you could clue us in as to where this is? I'm sure I'm not the only mom who would like to be sure we aren't giving our money to these misogynist creeps.

  7. My husband left for Navy boot camp when our toddler was under 2. I had her, her older brother, and was 9 months pregnant. He was gone for 5 months and she handled it well...for her age. There were still problems. She clung to every adult man that paid her any attention and her public tantrums became impossible. She would SCREAM every time I sat her in a basket and went shopping and I was lucky if she had stopped by the time she was leaving. Most people would say that's when you just leave and go home. But by myself with three kids, one a newborn and one a toddler just at the beginning of terrible twos, what was I to do? If I didn't shop we didn't eat, as it was, I tried to avoid going to stores as much as possible but it had to be done. When my husband returned, and as everyone got used to everyone again, her behavior got better, now days she clings to daddy at the store, sometimes she's good just to walk around, but a lot of times she demands he hold her.

    Those 5 months, though, they were hell, I felt like breaking down and crying, but I kept my head up and smiled and tried to act like nothing was happening and everything was okay. But inside I was embarrassed...horrified...I got dirty looks, I could hear whispered comments about her being a brat. Sometimes I wished I could just yell at them that she's just having a hard time adjusting to life without her daddy and with a new baby all within a few weeks time. Think of how hard that is on a little child. She's a wonderful and sweet child, and these terrible people just stood around and stared at us and judged us.

  8. It's an individual salon here in Gainesville. It's not part of a chain, so far as I know. If I have time tomorrow, I'll write a letter to the management. That's a good idea.

    @Savanah: It's truly amazing how callous people can be when they assume they know the whole story. They're usually nowhere close. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

  9. You know, your response was a hell of a lot nicer than mine would have been. I have a bad habit of saying "Well, you know, that child will likely grow out of the temper tantrum stage. When will you grow out of the asshole stage?"

  10. At the risk of getting my head bitten off I'm going to have to make a plee for the childless on this one. Not for the witches in the salon, no excuse for them, but for the rest of us that get the filthy 'don't you dare judge me' looks from mothers when their kids act up, when we aren't doing anything of the sort.

    NOT everyone is judgemental. I'd hope a lot of people are sympathetic. Some of us are aware that kids are not always little angels, and parents are not always terrible just because their kid is screaming in the check out aisle.

    Anyone judging a parent in a situation like this needs to reflect back on the stories about them when THEY were toddlers, and get off their high horse.

  11. No, you are absolutely right! Not every childless person - not even half of them, I would bet - judge mothers or children. And judgement can come from all sides. Mothers most certainly can write a childless person off before giving them a chance, believing that they are being looked down on for their crying kid when they are not.

    I think, the main point here, is that if everyone were a little more understand, life would be easier on all. But since that's not going to happen, if you're feeling judged for whatever reason, try not to let it affect you because it has more to do with the person doing the judging than it does with you.



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