Yesterday, Tom and I were reminiscing about bad parenting and I was reminded of this incident that could go down into the record books as one of the worst parenting moments of all time.
Two years ago, we had an opportunity to buy ten tickets to the Indians game for the price of five. At the time, Carson was going into fifth grade and she was starting to develop a social life. Thus, we decided to bring two of Carson’s friends Megan and Valerie, and Megan’s mom Katie. We left the tenth seat free to have some space for everyone to move around and feel comfortable.
We got downtown and the girls were so excited to be together. They walked arm and arm from the parking garage to the ballpark. Of course, Maggie, then seven, felt like she was being ignored by her older sister and her friends. She wanted nothing more than to be part of the group, and I could feel the tension build in my head as I knew I would have to balance making Carson and her friends pay attention to Maggie with allowing them enough freedom to be the big kids together. Thank God Lizzie didn’t seem to care about who talked to her or who she was walking next to. Only five years old at the time, her only concern was how long before she got a hot dog and a soda.
We weren’t in the ball park five minutes when Lizzie said, “I’m hungry.” We found our seats, situated the girls, and Katie and Tom went to the concession stand to buy some food, soda, and a couple of beers. I stayed back with the kids to keep them in order.
In all honesty, they naturally picked seats that were conducive to conversation and which allowed Maggie to feel included. The three girls sat together and Maggie sat next to Carson’s friend Valerie, a very pleasant girl who didn’t mind talking to Maggie or including her in the conversation. Lizzie sat next to me complaining about how hot she was and how hungry she felt. I counted the minutes until I had a beer in my hand.
Ten minutes and eighty dollars later, Tom and Katie returned to the seats with seven hot dogs, three hot pretzels, nachos, six sodas, and two beers. It was a smorgasbord of ball park delicacies. Tom started doling out the sodas.
“Val, Carson, and Megan, I got you each a Coke,” he handed each girl a cup. “Lizzie and Maggie, I got you Sprite.”
My stomach clenched. Sometimes fathers do not think about the dynamics of a situation. Sometimes fathers do not pay attention to the nuances, the body language, the longing of one child to be older and fit in.
Thus, what my knotted stomach expected to happen, happened.
“But Dad, why do I have to have Sprite and they get Coke,” Maggie whined with tears welling in her eyes. “It’s not fair.”
Just like fathers do not always understand the dynamics of a situation, they often miss the moment to offer sympathy and an encouraging word. Instead, they react in a very typical fatherly fashion.
“Maggie,” he said sternly. “Just drink it. It’s fine.” He sat down, unwrapped his hot dog and took a bite.
But it wasn’t fine, not to a middle child who didn’t bring any friends to the game. Not to a seven-year old who desperately wanted to be like the big girls. It wasn’t fine at all. Maggie started to cry.
Seeing those tears in her eyes, I should have leaned down and hugged her. I should have marched up to the concession stand and bought her a Coke. I should have shown all the motherly love that I could muster to this dear child who wanted nothing more than to be like everyone else.
But I didn’t. None of those delightful momisms entered my mind. In fact, the exact opposite happened. I snapped. I lost my proverbial shit . It was a someone-might-want-to-call-696-KIDS-kind-of-parenting moment.
I stood up and reached for her cup, startling her out of her self-pitying trance. “Give it to me. Give it to me, right now,” I said in a mommy dearest voice that brought the attention of many spectators.
My shaking hand was outstretched, and I must have had smoke coming out of my ears because Maggie went from looking weepy to looking kind of frightened.
She put both hands around the cup, shielding it. “No Mom, it’s fine. I’ll drink it. I promise.” She cowered slightly in her chair. I think she thought I wanted to rip her face off she was pleading so earnestly.
“Give me the cup,” I said as slowly and as pronounced as I could. “NOW!” She looked to her father whose mouth was dropped completely open back to me. She didn’t know what to do so she gently inched her hands up toward me. I grabbed the cup out of her hands as I felt the anxiety rise. I needed to get rid of this abhorrent liquid immediately. If I had had ice-nine in my pocket, it would have been so much easier, but I didn’t. I desperately looked around. No one was really sitting in the rows directly in front of us, so I chucked it. I took a $4.00 twenty ounce soda and threw it in the general direction of row three.
A collective gasp released from our section. 40 or so people just watched a crazy lady throw pop out in a not-so-nice way. I looked around and people avoided my eyes. They didn’t want to own up to the gasp or the judgement. The girls were stunned. Tom was stupefied. Katie was surprised. I was out of my mind with distress. I turned to Tom demanded his Coke, poured the majority into Maggie’s cup and said, “There, now you have Coke, too.”
I sat down and took a long sip of my beer.
“What the F– was that?” Tom whispered exasperated. He did not want to bring anymore unnecessary attention our way
“I should ask you the same thing,” I said defensively. “You watched how Maggie was on the way in, and then you don’t buy her exactly what you are buying Carson and her friends!”
“So it’s my fault?” He was in total disbelief that I had the audacity to turn the situation around and deflect the blame on to him.
“Well, I didn’t make her cry,” I retaliated.
He just sat staring at me through sunglassed eyes. It felt like minutes went by. Finally he spoke. “I’m married to a crazy lady.” He grabbed the beer out of my hand and chugged it, obviously trying to drown out the reality that when I snap, I lose my mind!
Bad parenting? Absolutely.
Funny in Retrospect? Truly!