Archery Lessons and a Test in Self-Control

July 5, 2010

in Parenting, While Perched upon my Soapbox

Archery and a test in self-control.

Last Wednesday was Parent’s Day at my son’s all-boys camp. On Parent’s Day we have the opportunity to attend camp with our kids for half the day. When we moved from Arts & Crafts to Archery, the boys became really excited. We were able to watch the boys shoot first and then our sons would teach us to shoot. While waiting for my son to teach me to shoot, I could not help but overhear a conversation taking place next to us.

Here’s the exchange with a boy and his parents standing next to me after the boy finished shooting:

Horrible Mother (HM): “Why didn’t you do well?”

Son: ” I don’t know.”

HM: “Did you see the boy next to you? He hit the target 3 times.”

Son: “He’s the best in our group mom.”

HM: “Why aren’t you the best in the group?”

Son: “Archery isn’t easy Mom.”

At this point I worked up the nerve to look in their direction. I had not looked in their direction because I don’t have a very good poker face. HM would know exactly what I thought of her and if she made eye contact with me, I knew I would jump in to save the boy from the situation. This would involve me giving his mother my opinion on her parenting.

What I saw was shocking.

Horrible Mother was having this conversation with her son without even making eye contact with him. She was texting on her Blackberry while criticizing her son on his lack of archery abilities. Dad was texting too. With my mouth agape, I continued to listen and watch this interaction.

HM: “Do you even know what you are doing wrong?”

Son: “I guess not.”

HM:”Well, ask one of these counselors to help you. That is why they are here.”

Son: Boy starts to cry…

HM: “Stop crying. We don’t cry.”

Dad: “You are good at everything. What happened today?”

HM: “Yeah, you are good at everything.”

Son: Sobbing now…

HM: “What did I tell you about crying?”

Thankfully I had a diversion and missed the rest of this exchange. It was my turn to shoot. HM and her husband didn’t want a turn (of course) so their son just stood with his parents.

My first thought was to kidnap the child and raise him as my own. He would be happier anywhere other than his own home. He would probably willingly come home with me at pick up; no promise of candy would be needed to lure him in my car. He might not like the Television Challenge happening in our home in July, but overall he would be a happy child. And, for the parents, they probably wouldn’t know he was missing. Or they would be relieved.

Being opinionated is a terrible trait that I have. And, as an elementary school teacher wrote on my report card one year, “Kelly is a champion for the underdog.” This has typically been to my own detriment. Like wanting to steal children from people as a result.

Maybe if I verbally accosted the mother, threw her Blackberry on the ground, stomped on her phone, and then told the little boy that his mother was wrong about everything, I would feel better today. However, as I have matured, I have realized I am not that child in elementary school who can insert myself everywhere as a perceived savior. It is simply not my place. That said, my self-control last week has cost me peace of mind. I am still worrying about that little boy.

Last week I didn’t do what I wanted to do; I wanted to draw back the bow, set HM in my sites, let pointed words fly off my tongue, heading straight to the intended target. Maybe the mother would be a kinder, gentler mom today if I had explained to her what she was doing to this little boy. Maybe if I wrote down the link to my Free To Be You and Me blog post, she would have read it. Maybe I would have shamed her into seeing her behavior as I did: despicable. Maybe the little boy would be happier today if I had said something to HM.

Did I mention he is just 7 years old?

Seriously.

What is wrong with people?


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Libby July 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I feel like such a better mother now. Thank you.

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Leila July 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Wow I can’t believe there are parents out there like that. That poor kid!
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Frank July 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm

What a truly wonderfully written piece. It always amazes me to see parents so out of touch with their children. I am a father of three sons and a grandfather to 2 grandsons and they mean the world to me. To be destructively critical to them has never crossed my mind like that of HM. Terrible. I am much like you in that I would have wanted to say something but would feel it inappropriate but at the same time I would feel sorry for and often wonder about that poor child. Thank you for sharing.
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Naked Girl in a Dress July 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Frank~ Thank you for the kind words! It is hard to stand by and watch such a thing. I was hoping writing the piece would help me to let go of this feeling I have been carrying around with me the last week.

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Momma Sunshine July 5, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Um…wow. It’s so frustrating to see things like that happening. I would have felt the exact same way.

I root for the underdog, too. Always have.
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Jonah Gibson July 5, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Maybe you have to consider that HM was the product of similar parenting. Then you would feel a little sorry for her as well as her child. I say this because my mother died three days ago and I have been thinking about how wonderful a parent she was and how lucky I was to have her for my mom rather than someone like HM. We’re not all so fortunate in the parents we get as I was. My guess is that HM is just passing on the parenting she got from HHM.
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Caitlin July 6, 2010 at 1:15 am

That’s incredibly terrible. Words can’t even describe yet you somehow managed to. I kind of wish you would have told her off, but I understand where you’re coming from. Still, it’s hard to NOT say something in situations like that.
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Ofthesea July 6, 2010 at 10:46 am

Oh my good god.

1. I totally feel for you. I would have also had a hard time restraining myself from force-feeding her that blackberry.
2. Don’t feel so frustrated. There are ways. What about having a word with the kid’s teacher or the school’s psychologist mentioning what you saw? It is THEIR job and responsibility to meddle in cases such as these. And that will have a better chance of helping the boy than kidnapping him.
3. That said, if you go the kidnapping way and need a secret Central American hideout, let me know!

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Melanie July 6, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Good for you for not aiming at HM instead of the target!

Totally reminds me of standing on a ferry, with a father and roughly-7-year-old daughter next to me. Daughter says she wants to be a biologist when she grows up. Father makes a noncommittal sound, then comments about something bizzarre, like a chip in the paint on the boat docked next to us. “Where?” Says girl. Father won’t tell her where, again and again, not nicely challenging her to find it (we’re talking on the side of a boat roughly the size of two city blocks). Finally, in a well-duh voice, “It’s right there on the F in the BC Ferries sign, Ms.Biologist. You can’t be a biologist if you’re not observant. You should pick something else.”

Me to child as father walks away, “Hi, I’m a biologist and a damn good one. I couldn’t see it either.” I settled for this, as my other option was dumping the father off the side of the boat.
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Naked Girl in a Dress July 6, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Good for you! I am so mad at myself for letting this one go without comment.

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SuzRocks July 6, 2010 at 8:26 pm

HOLY CRAP!!!! What absolutely awful parents! That is so reprehensible. You should’ve have stolen the kid.

Next time you can say something. If my parents had treated me like that growing up, there is no way I’d be where I am right now. They thought I did awesome at everything (even when I knew I sort of sucked).

At least your kids aren’t going to need extensive therapy when their older (at least for this reason…) :)

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Elizabeth Flora Ross July 6, 2010 at 9:06 pm

OMFG! Some people really should never be parents! That poor kid! I have seen the totally detached parents before. Always texting or talking on the phone, not paying the slightest attention to their kids (especially in situations that require close parental supervision). But this takes the cake! Un-frigging-believable! My heart breaks for that little boy.

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Stretch July 7, 2010 at 12:18 am

How awful! There are some seriously deficient people/parents in this world. My heart breaks for the little boy.

I, too, tend to voice my opinion often when I perhaps shouldn’t so am not sure what I would have done given the situation. I liked how Melanie handled the one she found herself witness to.

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Alex@LateEnough July 7, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I love this post. I understand that parents can be like this. But I am SO grateful that we aren’t!
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Justthisguy July 9, 2010 at 3:25 pm

This post has been noticed by Kevin Baker, over at The Smallest Minority. (smallestminority.blogspot.com) I left a comment on his post about witnessing bad parenting in the other direction, that is, being very involved, but in a mean and nasty scary bullying way. I, too, failed to intervene, and still to this day, 40 years later, feel guilty for not having intervened.

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Gerry N. July 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm

That kid didn’t have parents. He had an incubator and a sperm donor.

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Firehand July 10, 2010 at 6:02 pm

After the divorce, could never spend as much time with the kids as should have/wanted to, and you always wind up wondering if you taught them enough, taught them right, didn’t accidentally teach them wrong.

Then I read about something like this and decide “Must not’ve done TOO bad a job.” Damn. That poor kid’s got a lot to get through growing up.
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gypsy July 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Loved this article!
I was referred to this, as I too have always fought for the under dog.

As a kid, I was shredded by parents and beaten up in school, but somehow found the desire to protect others.

So, yes folks this breed of birth-giver exists.

My parents would complain how my brothers and myself ruined their lives, because we chose to be born. There was not pride, everything we did or could do was not enough or good enough. My one brother always condemned for ONLY getting 2nd place in races.

Sadly my masochistic brothers insist on maintaining a relationship with parents who have nothing but contempt for them..

so yes folks, I know this breed..

BUT.. sadly hoping such people can receive a reality slap and acknowledge what they are doing.. it does not and will not happen. I have long since had the desire to wake people up, but if I worked on it 24/7 till my last breath I would not even come close to reaching a minute fraction of the population that harbors such hate (or to a lesser extent, indifference) for their own children..

again great article.. thank you!!

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stowawway July 17, 2010 at 8:46 am

it was very interesting to read.
I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?

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Erica M April 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm

So sad for that little boy. I’ve stopped judging other parents—this parenting crap is hard enough without outsiders jumping in with their two cents—but I do hope this little one has loving grandparents, uncles, cousins and friends. He has a tough life lesson in front of him, and I wish him well.

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jacqui April 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Thanks for writing this. It’s always hard to know what to do in this type of situation. You want to stick up for the child but you don’t want to unintentionally embarrass him or make things worse for him. It’s sad.
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Jenn April 18, 2011 at 11:44 am

Tell those parents off the next time.
When we make jerks ashamed of their behavior, they usually think twice about what they are doing. I’ve stood up to parents like that more than once. It may not always make a difference, but you wouldn’t believe the gratitude in a child’s eyes when another adult stands up for them.

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Chunky Mama July 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Feeling really conflicted about how I would’ve reacted to this situation.

I understand the reasons for wanting to tell the parents off, but I feel it is completely inappropriate to criticize another parent, especially in front of their kid. None of us is perfect, and even if these people were the epic assholes you’ve described, we have no idea what goes on in their every day lives. Maybe they are decent parents who were making some incredibly harsh and stupid decisions in that moment.

That being said, I probably would have said something in passing to the kid or to no one in particular along the lines of “Wow, I had no idea archery was so difficult! I bet that kid over there has had a lot of practice. He’s too good!” in an attempt to shut the parents up.

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