Would You Confront Another Mom for Talking Poorly to Her Child?


I cringed a little inside. I was nervous to have said something so judgmental, so loudly.

"But he needs to turn around." She continued.

"No honey, he doesn't. He's okay. I don't like that his mommy is talking to him like that and we don't talk that, do you hear me?" I said it again, this time in a whisper.

My daughter looked confused. We resumed eating, the mother resumed berating.

When moments like this happen this little voice creeps into my head. It was put there by my mother -- a seething hatred of injustice. Then, that phrase starts repeating in my head; the phrase that always comes up when something feels hard, but right... Be the change. Be the change. Be the person you are trying to teach her how to be. BE the change.

The next time she admonished her son I turned around and said, verbatim, doing my best to squelch the anger and judgement I was feeling, "Excuse me. Could you please be nicer to your son. My daughter is mimicking you."

She looked shocked. I must have too because it was the first time I saw her face. Before I laid eyes on her, I judged her. Now that I was looking at her, sadly, I was judging more. She was young. She had Old English tattooed letters up her entire arm and heavy, black eye makeup. She gave me an awkward half-smile and said in a shaky voice, "Um, okay."

For the next five minutes she was nice to him. She changed her tone. She didn't yell or insult him and he didn't cry. It was an uncomfortable five minutes for me and my husband because I had just confronted a stranger and my husband didn't agree with me on this. We tried to act nonchalant, we barely spoke.

I don't know if I what I did was right. I don't know if there was any right thing to do. After all, I was judging her.

I do know that I wanted my daughter to see me stand up for that boy, because I know that your children will do what you do, not what you say. I wanted my daughter to know that it was NOT okay to talk to anyone like that even if it is your mommy. I wanted her to see me say something, because all it takes for evil to persist is for good people to do nothing. Please do not misread me, I am not calling this mother evil. With a little distance from the situation, I actually feel a quite a bit of compassion for her whatever her circumstances may be.

But in that moment, she was not doing right by her son or my observant three-year-old.

That much I know.

But at the end of this day it's not my daughter that I still worry about. It is that little boy. He's just a boy with bright, baby blue eyes and already too many confusing things to figure out in his world. More than my daughter, I wanted him to see me, to see someone, say something.

I don't know if it mattered. I don't know if it was right, but I do know that I don't regret it.

Because if there is one thing I dislike more than embarrassing myself in public, it is regret over what I could have, should have done.

What would you have done?


Shannon Lell is a writer and mother of two small children living near Seattle. She writes introspective essays on personal and cultural topics at www.shannonlell.com.

Photo Credit: meaganjean.


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