What Are You Staring At?


Teghan in Bed

As I was waiting in line at the bank this morning, a mother and her daughter came in behind me. The daughter was about three years old and ridiculously adorable. While her mother was filling out a deposit slip, the little girl asked if she could fill one out, too. The mother said “not this time” and they stepped into line.

They ended up with the teller next to mine. The little girl wandered around the chairs in the waiting area, and her mom told her to stay close by. When she wandered back to the deposit slips, her mother spoke more sternly with her. She told her that if she did not stay where she had asked her to stay, they would immediately go home (instead of wherever they had originally planned on going). This made the little girl upset. She started to cry and yell, “No, no mommy. I am staying close by!” The more she attempted to reason with her mother the louder she became, and the mother turned her full attention toward her daughter to calm her down.  

The mom glanced in my direction, and of course I was watching. I smiled and turned back to my teller. I could tell that mom felt judged by me. I could see it in her face. I didn’t really do anything to make her feel that way, but I get it. That paranoia you feel whenever anyone is watching as your child is acting less than perfect?

Lady, you have no idea how much I understand.

I thought about what I might do if she called me out on it. What would I tell her? Because the truth is, I wasn’t judging her at all. In fact, I felt incredibly envious of her. From the moment her daughter asked to fill out that deposit slip to the way they debated her behavior and consequences– I was jealous.

Luckily, she was not the type to ask others “what are you staring at?” while her child was screaming. But she could have been the type. And then what would I have said? Not the truth, that’s for sure. The idea of why I felt so interested brought tears to my eyes, right there in the bank. And I am embarrassed to share that with you. I am not a crier.

Not every typical parent-child interaction I encounter in public has an impact on me. It almost never happens to me at all. I don’t even know what made this one different. I think it was the way the mom looked at me. She was wrong about me, and I made the case for myself mentally.

Teghan wouldn’t have been simply trying to steal a few deposit slips for some pretend bank game to be played later; just letting go of her hand could find her standing on a banker’s desk, tearing (and eating) whatever paper she could find in the blink of an eye. I would have already had to pick up all of those deposit slips off the floor at least once. She would have grabbed them immediately, yelling excitedly as everything in sight went flying. If I made her pick them up, she might throw herself on the floor in a fit of screams, or try to hit and pinch me.

There would be no option of discussing behavior or suggesting consequences with my five year old, because she doesn’t understand language at that level. She looks “so normal” you know…. I would certainly get some judgmental gawking from others.

I imagine, anyway. I have never actually taken Teghan into a bank. Why would I do that? I have become quite skilled at predicting behavior and keeping things from getting out of control in public, but it’s stressful. I don’t take chances if I don’t have to.

So, to the mom in the bank, that is what was going through my mind when your daughter was screaming and our eyes met. I was thinking about how lucky you were. I wish we could have cleared that up, but I am also kind of glad we didn’t. I am not looking to make anyone walk away with a new “what I take for granted” story. I don’t know your world. Everyone has their share. Everyone has their own rules for normal. Your daughter was delightful, and what you did looked so easy. I want you to know that my mentally cursing your great fortune was nothing personal.


7 thoughts on “What Are You Staring At?

  1. I always smile watching people interact with their NT kids and even their kids that aren’t. Either because I can relate or because I’m so astounded by the little things that look so easy to me. People are always commenting that I have so much patience with little ones. Like when watching somebody elses kid that starts screaming in time out and I just say “Well my kid can scream much louder than that it doesn’t bother me.” I hope that the parents don’t think I’m judging them, mostly I hope they don’t think I’m creepy for smiling when their kid is clearly throwing a fit.

    • Elizabeth – hehe i often think how inappropriate i must look as i smile at children misbehaving! my smile is meant to be an encouragement to the parents that I’m not judging them, or tempting them to see the funny side of whats happening. or its because I’m genuinely glad that other children behave that way so my son doesn’t stand out so much! but i doubt its seen as any of the above. but i still figure its better than frowning at them. best would be to tell the parent “hey your doing a great job” but I’m usually in too much of a rush to get out before my son has a meltdown, becomes overwhelmed or wees on the floor. 🙂 “creepy” made me chuckle! thanks

    • I suppose the paranoia we feel while our child is out of control probably makes us jump to all sorts of conclusions about what others must be thinking 🙂 I bet other parents seldom suspect that others are thinking about how easy their situation looks. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  2. Banks… mmm, recipe for disaster. Thankful for 21st century online banking. Or, on the incredibly rare occasions we brave them, double buggys.

  3. I think the important point here is that you never know what someone is thinking. There are times when there is an obvious sneer or a rolling of the eyes and you know. But many are far to quick to judge a look. If we don’t want others to judge our kids, we shouldn’t judge those who simply look.

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