Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The nerve of some people

We went to a new pediatrician today to get the hepatitis A vaccine. My doctor’s office was decidedly unfriendly when I asked for it (I may be taking River to Russia next month) and this office was friendly and accommodating. It’s a few blocks further away, which I didn’t think would be too much of an issue – except that one have only one car and it’s cold.

This morning I asked Mark to drive us there so we’d only have to go outside in one direction. That meant we arrived for our appointment over an hour early, but fine. River got his shot, which caused him a cry a bit more than others. The medical assistant said it could cause pain and fever and I should give him Tylenol or Advil.

Then we head out to our bicycle. It was chilly, but nothing was falling out of the sky this time and River was dressed appropriately. However, we had the bad luck of a flat front tire, which apparently Mark didn’t notice when loading and unloading the bike. Because of the flat, I couldn’t ride the bike, but could only walk it. That meant a ride that would have taken about 10 minutes would be about a 40 minute walk.

I find such situations frustrating, but I also realize that the best I can do is to just get through it. I put River in the carseat and began walking. I nixed my plan to stop by tea – better to get him home as soon as possible.

He was fine for at least half of the trip. Then he started to whimper a little. At a busy intersection, he cried. I spoke to him and told him we’d be home soon, but there wasn’t anything else I could do. Taking him out of the seat would only extend the time we’d be outdoors.

We were only six blocks or so from home when a lady slowed down her car on the other side of the street. It was a ratty dark blue car. She was in her 40s or 50s, with a weathered face and unkempt hair.

She stared at River intently, enough to freak me out. Even though she was on the opposite side of the street, I feared she was somehow going to jump out and try to grab him. I tried to think quickly what to do in this situation. Moving fast wasn’t an option on the broken bike.

“He seemed to be crying pretty hard back there,” she said though the open window.

“Yep. We’re heading home,” I said.

“You know, if you let the baby cry on purpose you should be subjected to a mental health evaluation. You should be reported to the authorities.”

“OK. Thank you very much,” I said. She eventually had to move because cars were backing up behind her. I imagined her calling the police, who would find the mom and baby with a broken bicycle pretty easily.

Rationally, I knew she was probably the crazy one. I knew that should a police officer come by I could easily explain the situation. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. Nevertheless, having someone on the street tell me I’m a mental case and a bad mother hurt emotionally, no matter how crazy she herself appeared.

I also realized that criticizing a random stranger on the street does no good at all. It does no more than to increase stress and doubt. It also helped me to remember how difficult it is to know the full picture and how one should avoid jumping to conclusions. How could she know that I’d spent my morning taking him to the doctor so that he can get immunizations individually, that my bike tire was flat, that the Hep A shot seems to affect him more than others or that he’s had a charmed first year filled with love and individual attention? She couldn’t, just as I can’t imagine all the circumstances of others lives and need to hold off on judgment.

What kind of comments have you received on your parenting? How do you handle them?

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