Children are NOT Communal
Why do people take it upon themselves to rear children other than their own?
“It takes a village to raise a child.” However well meaning this adage may be, it is sometimes taken too much to heart. Recently during a visit to the farmer’s market my girlfriend and my kids went off in their own direction as I mulled over the hundreds of spices there were to choose from. I was oblivious to what they were doing until I heard what sounded like my girlfriend’s voice at an octave she never uses. I turned to find her arguing with some older woman. All I could make out was the word “Kids” so the momma in me kicked in and I hurried over to see what was going on. It seems my kids had been handling the sprouts and the woman did not take kindly to it.
Now mind you, my poor sheltered offspring have been raised in suburbia where there are just regular staple items all lined up in neat little packages in your tidy neighborhood grocery store. Going to an open farmer’s market where the fruits and veggies are there in bulk for you to stuff your little plastic bag till your heart’s content was quite the experience. This being new to them they were doing a bit of exploring. My daughter asked a question about the sprouts and my girlfriend, an educator by trade, saw it as a great teachable moment. She allowed her to handle the produce as she explained where it came from and how it gets to be on your dinner plate. This is where it gets interesting. See, my children are pale little kiddies with blue and green eyes. My girlfriend is an african-american beauty of deep mocha skin and locks that fall down below her shoulders. So when this woman felt it necessary to say something about the kids handling the food she made no connection between the kids and my girlfriend.
“Please don’t handle the food” she said. My girlfriend standing by doesn’t say anything not realizing the woman was talking to my kids. My kids apparently did not actually hear the lady make her request and she took further offense to that. She quickly became irritated and once again told the kids to not handle the food, except this time she used a harsh and condescending tone. “What? Are you hard of hearing? I SAID! STOP HANDLING THE FOOD!” Well, the devil came down to Georgia at that moment. My sweet-natured and normally docile girlfriend grew horns and spit fire right at this woman. The look on her face as my girlfriend announced, “I AM THE PARENT HERE, they are with me and any comments you have can be directed at me, NOT THEM! You leave my kids alone and go on about your day!” I can’t tell which made a greater impact on this woman; being put in place for scolding someone else’s kid or the confusion of having this very black woman claim these very lilly white kids. Either way, the look was priceless! As tickled as I am by that I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth made this woman think it was ok to talk to my children that way.
This is not the first time that I have witnessed someone take it upon themselves to discipline someone else’s child though it was the first time that it had happened with my child(ren). So my children were handling the sprouts, and by handling I mean they picked up a bunch, looked at it, smelled, put it back and admired how they looked all together in a giant pile. Now when I go to the produce aisle whether it be a farmer’s market or a grocery store, I pick up the produce, I touch and feel it, I may even smell it before I make my choice. What is the difference here? The age? Look around and you would see every single adult in that place doing the same thing.
Folks, adulthood does not come with a special incentive card that lets you be the authority over any and every child around you. Every child does not automatically need to be reared by you simply because you are “Of Age.” You don’t know the nature of what these children are doing or their motivation for doing it. You don’t know how the parents are choosing to raise that child or why they are parenting the way they choose to. There is little else more personal than your child. Don’t always assume that you know what is best for someone else’s kids. My girlfriend and I make it routine to expose my kids to experiences that take them away from the electronic gadgets that so plague young people’s lives today. We want them to experience the world four dimensionally and our trips to the farmer’s market is a part of that. Handling the sprouts is exactly what we want them to do. To ask questions about what they see and encounter as a new experience is the very thing we want to encourage. So, grouchy lady from who knows where, I hope a lesson was learned that day. Stay in your lane and next time you feel you the need to address someone else’s child, think twice! You just never know ;)