wow estelle

Yesterday, a stranger felt quite comfortable recommending that I medicate my son.

Usually I'd say something like "to be fair... [insert kind excuse on behalf of strange woman, perhaps something about how "high energy" Chicken is, or how, yes, okay, he did try to push a little girl out of the bouncy house.]"

But today, no. I'm not going to be fair.

I'm not going to err on the side of kindness and the smothering of my intense feelings in order to make sure that everyone has a nice time.

No, I'm not just going to assume that I misunderstood her, that she didn't mean it that way. I'm not going to tell myself that she's old so it's okay for her to use racial slurs and make haughty proclamations about what's wrong with Chicken, and what's wrong with me.

No. Not today.

Here's how it went down.

We were at the community center where, on Fridays, they put up two bouncy houses in the gym, and scatter around a bunch of cars, tricycles, scooters, toy lawnmowers, and an oversized foam block set. It's called Toddler Gym, and it's $3 a kid, and when it gets too full it reminds me of battle scenes from Braveheart. But yesterday, it was pretty quiet.

I released my krakens. Buster beelined for a lawnmower. Chicken tore away to the bigger bouncy house and threw himself headfirst through the doorway. I posted up in classic mother-of-two triangulation position, and sipped my coffee.

All was quiet and lovely for a few minutes.

Then I turned to my right and met the glaring eyes of a snowy-haired septuagenarienne in a white turtleneck, pancake-colored polyester slacks, and navy blue Seahawks jersey. I immediately knew two things:
1. I would call her Estelle, and
2. Estelle hated me.

I scanned the room for my kids. Buster had his finger in his belly button. Standard. Chicken sat on the pillowy bouncy house floor, red-cheeked, panting, taking 5 (seconds) before he resumed bouncing.

I looked at Estelle again. Her owlish stare remained locked on me, her even-more-owlish pointy, not-quite-accurately red-liplined lips pulled down in a disapproving purse. I checked over my shoulder to see if there was something offensive going on behind me -a homeless man masturbating, perhaps, or a mother giving her child a non-organic juice box. Nope. Definitely me.

I got up and walked over to Chicken, who had finished his break and was back to bouncing. "Everything going okay in here, baby?"

From the blur of cartwheeling limbs, I heard him bellow, "I AM A TIGER WHO CAN FLY!"

"Alright, cool. Rock on."

I sat back down and checked in with Estelle again - yep, still glowering at me like I took a dump on her face after eating shellfish paella when I KNEW FULL WELL that she didn't care for Mexican food.

Maybe that's just what her face looks like. 
Maybe SHE is the inventor of Resting Bitch Face. 

So anywho, a few more minutes passed before I saw the beginnings of a kerfuffle in the bouncy house.

Chicken had been playing nicely with a little Asian girl in an adorable Tea outfit. I mean, nicely for a 3-year-old, which is basically not tackling, and occasionally screaming at her to watch him because he is a tiger who can fly.

Chicken decided that she was not sufficiently impressed with his tiger flying, and (I'm not even kidding) said, "I think it's time for you to go." Then he took her hand with his hand, placed his other hand on her back between her shoulder blades, and began to lead her, really quite gently, out of the bouncy house.

It was adorable, but I'm no squirrelly amateur. I could see where this was headed. I headed over to the bouncy house at a brisk clip.

She didn't want to go.
He really wanted her to go.
She pulled away.
He pushed back.
She sat down.
His gentlemanly escort turned darker, and he legit started to drag her by one arm to the door.

We talked it out.
He let her go.
He returned, sweaty and panting, to the important work of pioneering tiger flight.

The little girl's mom never even wandered over, and honestly, I didn't give the incident another thought. Yo, this is what life IS when you have two toddlers. My #1 job responsibility is murder prevention.

UNTIL we were packing up to go and Estelle walked up.

Estelle: You should medicate your son for ADHD.

Me: What?

Estelle: I've been watching him, in that air house. He's...  you should really medicate him.

___

Let's just step outside the moment here and recognize a few truths.

1. It's called a BOUNCY HOUSE. Or maybe a JUMP CASTLE. But air house? Air house, Estelle? COME ON.

2. Have you ever met a three-year-old who wouldn't literally bounce off the walls when presented with an otherwise empty bouncy house?

3. It's always open season on moms.

This isn't the first time someone has offered an unwelcome, asshatted opinion about my family. I think people look at the way I try to handle my two wild children, with soft hands and patient words, and assume I am either nice or stupid.They formulate an opinion. And obviously, since I'm nice and/or stupid, they must share it with me.

My default response has been to politely but coolly thank them for their concern, assure them that I'm not an idiot and that I make informed choices, say "have a good day," and then call my mom and say "GUESS WHAT JUST HAPPENED."

One woman at the park: "That baby carrier you're using is really selfish. Facing him in like that only feeds your need to be needed by your child. The best thing for him would be to face out so he can develop self-reliance. Oh, God, no, I don't have children myself. Just corgis," she said, half a dozen beige sausage dogs with smartass grins winding a leash web around her legs.

Me: "Thank you for your concern, We picked the Ergo after doing a lot of research on both the psychological and physical benefits of different carriers, and we're happy with our choice. Have a good day."

Another woman in a Target: "You'd better put a hat on that baby, now! He'll just freeze!"

Me: "Thank you for your concern. We're actually inside a heated store right now, so he would overheat with a hat. Also it's May. Also, he's a year old. So... have a good day."

But this time it was different. Estelle wasn't judging me. She was judging Chicken. She saw his zeal, his energy, perhaps his totally normal selfishness when he escorted the other little girl out of "his" house. She saw the same things I did, and where I thought, "that is perfect joy," she thought, "that boy ain't right."

And then she decided she'd better do something about it, and walked up to me, and told me to medicate my child. Buckle up, we are stepping back inside the moment:

___

Estelle: You should medicate your son for ADHD.

Me: What?

Her: I've been watching him, in that air house. He's...  you should really medicate him.

Me: I'm not concerned about ADHD. His level of energy and focus is developmentally appropriate.

Her: My son was just like him and we put him on ADHD medication and he calmed right down.

Me: I'm sure he did.

Her: He got a lot easier to handle.

Me: I'm sure he did.

Her: You should consider medication.

Me: I heard you the first time. I will not.

And then I took my boys and left.

I knew I still wouldn't say all the things I wanted to say.

I knew I wouldn't say, "Oh, Doctor! I'm so glad you're here. Listen, I think my toenail fungus is infected, could you take a look?"

I knew I wouldn't say, "I think you should medicate yourself until you lose the urge to comment on children you don't know and who aren't hurting anybody."

I knew I wouldn't say, "Fun fact! Bouncy houses were invented by parents of hyperactive children to level the playing field. Another fun fact! The kidney punch was invented by mothers of young children who wanted to teach strangers to butt out without leaving a bruise. You feel me?"

I knew I wouldn't say, "Since we're offering opinions on each other's appearances today, pull up a chair Estelle. I'd like to talk to you about panty lines and lip liner."

I wouldn't say any of that stuff. Anything I said that was snippy or defensive would only confirm her presuppositions about me and mine. But I knew I'd be damned if I'd thank her for her concern, or wish her a good day.

I don't think that ADHD is a flaw, and I think that people who decide to medicate their kids, including Estelle, deserve the benefit of the doubt and the right to make their own choices. Today, a day later, I can see that perhaps Estelle thought she saw a kindred spirit in me, someone who needed help, someone whose kid desperately needed assistance. I think I would be able to be kinder to her if she hadn't given me the stank eye for like half an hour before she walked up to me and told me, without any kindness whatsoever, to sedate Chicken.

If I thought Chicken needed help in order to focus, learn, and play happily, I would get him help. If that help was medication, I would absolutely consider it.

But...


someone medicate this child
for being
too
spectacularly
into
the number 1

Nah.

Walk on, Estelle. Good luck with all your future endeavors.

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