When Strangers Call Your Child “Bad”

It was last August, and it still pisses me off.

I was with my sister-in-law and her two kids at one of those questionably sanitary play places with all the giant equipment for kids to climb on. I was with my three year-old (spoiler alert: turns out he has autism, but I didn’t realize at the time) and my four-month-old son. Needless to say, I was tired.

Sidebar: I pride myself on being a mom who diligently watches her child in any group or public setting. I have to. My son is aggressive. He’s been kicked out of daycares (yes, that’s plural). I monitor him closely because I fear for the other children. His aggression is exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and downright embarrassing at times.

Enter cranky old lady shouting, “That boy is hitting her!  That boy is hitting her!”

The pit of my stomach drops. I swear I only looked away for a minute! Gulping, my eyes glance up to the top of the play structure (unreachable for any average-sized adult) and see my oldest son hitting a girl about twice his size. I can guarantee you what happened.  The older girl probably bumped him as she walked by, and he assumed she was trying to hurt him.  In a flight or fight scenario, he’s all about the fight.

Regardless, it’s obviously not okay to hit other kids, so I tell him to come down from the structure and “take a break.”

So while he sits next to my sister-in-law to cool off and calm down, I head to the food counter to order some lunch, baby in tow.  About ten minutes later, as I’m walking back balancing hot dogs, drinks, french fries, and baby, I hear my sister-in-law (bless her heart), talking heatedly to the cranky old lady.

“What’s going on?”  I ask.

The woman glares at me and says, “That boy of yours is bad!  Maybe if you didn’t raise him to hit, he wouldn’t be!”

At this point, I’m visibly shaking with rage.  I imagine myself decking the cranky old lady in the face, then standing triumphantly over her body.

Sometimes it’s so fun to imagine.

Instead, I take the high road and step inches from her face (my son’s not the only one with the fight response).  I say a lot of things I can’t exactly remember anymore, but it is something along the lines of, “Are you kidding?  You think I teach my kid to hit?  How dare you!  He’s three!”

Whatever I said, or how I said it, must have been intimidating on some level because she backed away and didn’t speak to us the remainder of our stay.  She did, however, speak to the two little girls she was presumably a nanny for, calling them “bad” when they made a mess throwing their trash away (clearly cranky old lady has her own set of issues).

Why do I bring up this little anecdote for my first post? Because it is a prime example of what I fear. People judging my son. Judging me. People’s inability to see beyond face value. It terrifies me. It makes me so angry I want to punch something. Hard.

So instead, I write. Writing about that cranky old lady is its own sort of cathartic release.

And please, keep reading.  I have so many more stories to share.

Photo Credit: AbbyD11

Published by Miranda Keskes

I am a freelance writer, editor, and tutor with fifteen years of high school teaching experience. Helping young adults craft their unique writer's voice is one of my passions. As the mother of a child with autism, I also feel compelled to share our story, connect with fellow parents, and raise awareness for a diagnosis that is still quite misunderstood. Learn more at my business site, KeskesInk.com, and my personal blog, MommyCatharsis.com.

8 thoughts on “When Strangers Call Your Child “Bad”

  1. Hi Contemplated, I feel for you! As a parent, the thing I’m most afraid of (my son is 2 1/2) is the Judgy Eye. Before I had kids, I gave it plenty of times myself. You’re doing a great job; don’t let people like Cranky Old Lady get you down.


  2. Cannot STAND when people call young children “bad”! How stupid of them!

    Well, I’ve concluded most people are stupid altogether about what to say and do with children. Sad for us all.

    It’s been awhile. I’d forgotten how well you write.


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