Speaking Up is Hard To Do?

rocketI know that speaking up is hard to do. I think it’s only in recent years when I have actually found my voice and started speaking up more–especially when anything happens around my three-year-old daughter. Take this for instant.

The other day, I took her and my stepson (13) to this cool park in the picture. We were having a pretty good time, which can sometimes be hard with a three-year-old after nap time and before dinner. Then some kids–brothers and sisters ranging in age from about 13 to 4–started throwing these little gravel rocks at each other. They were throwing the rocks in the same direction as the rocket playground, and so rocks were flying everywhere, just waiting to hit some kid in the eye. No parent stepped up to tell them to stop, and so I said, “Stop throwing rocks.” The 11-year-old girl turned to me and said, “I’m not throwing them at your kid.”

So, I should tell you I used to be a 5th grade teacher. I’m used to this kind of talking back and reasoning from this age group, but still my daughter was on this playground and having fun, and I didn’t want her to get hit with gravel. So, I said, “That doesn’t matter. You are throwing rocks where other kids are playing. You need to stop.”

She didn’t. And so I asked the little sister about 6 who they were here with and she said their dad who was on the phone in the car. After I threatened to go get him and her brother threw a rock that actually did hit Katie in the head, they stopped.

Now, hearing this story, you might think I WAS THE ONLY ADULT ON THIS PLAYGROUND. But sadly, I was not. And at one point, I even turned to a couple other parents (DADS) and said, “Doesn’t this bother anyone else?” NO one else even said anything to me or smiled at me or acted like they cared that rocks were flying all around. Some kids were LITTLE–younger than 2. I was upset.

Is speaking up hard to do? Why are we scared to speak up for what is right? To protect our children? In this case, I’m not sure, but no one else wanted to even look at me. We wound up leaving because I was just mad.

In my middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburgthe main character, Anna (13 years old) has trouble speaking up through most of the book. It’s probably her biggest character flaw and the thing she has to work through to become  the person she is at the end of the book. She allows the antagonist in the story to treat her and her siblings unfairly during the Siege of Vicksburg (Civil War). In the very beginning, she doesn’t tell her mom how she really feels or what she likes. I think I could write Anna so well because this is how I used to be. I don’t think I’m like this anymore and I’m glad. And I want to teach my daughter to speak up for herself too.

We don’t have to do it in an unkind way. For example, a lot of people speak up too much online and very rudely. But I think we have to stand up for what we think is right–from people being treated unfairly to protecting our kids and everything in-between.

What do you think?

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from a Protestant pastor, Martin Niemöller, who opposed the Nazi regime:

5 Comments

  • Great post, Margo. Online comments can be mean and rude especially when they can be made anonymously. What makes me sad about your story is how the other parents stood by and watched. Seems to me that by not respecting your opinions themselves, they were setting a bad example for their kids. Teaching them via inaction that it’s OK to disrespect other adults.

    I don’t have kids yet, so it’s hard for me to know how I’d really act in such a situation. But I’d like to think if another parent was upset about rude behavior like rock throwing, I’d step up.

    • On the way home, I tried to explain to the kids why I was so upset. I said I wasn’t as upset about the kids throwing rocks at each other or even the girl talking back to me. This is pretty typical kid behavior, especially among siblings. But I was more upset that no one–male or female–dads/moms/grandparents–backed me up or even smiled at me or anything. I kept thinking, “They can’t wait for the crazy outspoken lady to leave.” :) I told KB and LB to always stick up for little kids if someone was doing something that could hurt someone else. So, maybe a life lesson was learned.

      @Tricia: Have you seen those restaurants where they are now giving families a discount for well-behaved children? I can’t say that KB is always well behaved–she’s 3–but I would DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT if another customer had to tell her to SIT DOWN or if the way I decided to make her behave was to tell her to shut-up. My go to in a restaurant when she is getting worked up is to play: I SPY. Call me crazy. 😉

  • Oh, this is my pet peeve. Whether it’s at a park, a restaurant, or really anywhere in public where kids are misbehaving and the parents are either absent (either physically or mentally) or just plain are oblivious. It’s not our responsibility to babysit other peoples’ kids, but it happens all the time. I sat at a restaurant the other day and watched two different tables. Both had two parents (Or at least adults) and two children. The one table everyone ate and talked and included the children in all aspects of the conversation. No one spoke over a normal in-a-restaurant voice. When they left, both children folded their napkins and put them on the table. There was not a speck of food on the table or floor. The bus boy had the table cleaned in a couple of seconds to accommodate other patrons who were waiting to be seated.

    The other table… mom was on her cell phone. Dad on his tablet and the kids were throwing food, screaming, running around the table and terrorizing the other diners. Mom never spoke to Dad and vice versa the entire time they were dining. Nor did they once look up at their children. Every once in a while they’d tell the kids to sit down or shut up (yes…shut up) but did the kids stop or shut up, NO!

    When they left the table, it looked like a herd of pigs had dined there. The boy had dropped a dinner roll and ground it into the carpet while waiting for dad to pay the bill. It took two bus boys and a manager to clean up after them, including hauling out a carpet sweeper and wiping down all the chairs. Makes me wonder who cleans up after them at home.

    Oh, and I’m not talking about McDonalds. This was a restaurant where adult entrees typically sell for $20 and up.

    But I do have to say on two occasions diners at neighboring tables told the children to go sit down. YAY!

  • I HAVE had to discipline strangers’ kids if they are interrupting me (at a movie or something) or misbehaving around my little ones.

    The heart of the problem is that those kinds of parents just don’t want to be parents. They are too busy, exhausted, sidetracked, or scared to discipline. I know some moms in the “too scared” category whose kids literally run all over them just like something out of Super Nanny.

    Setting boundaries and parenting takes work and some parents just don’t want to deal with it, so they hunker down and ignore their kids’ out-of-control behavior. Unfortunately, those kids will probably grow up to be out-of-control adults.

    Good job, Margo, for standing up to the aloof adults. At least this bad experience gave you a good teaching moment for your own kids.

    • Parenting is exhausting. I agree, but like you daid, if we had them, we have to raise them. I have become such a mama bear. And I hate to judge anyone–I don’t know that dad’s story and I never had to go to the car to tell him his kids were throwing rocks because they did eventually listen to me. But still. . .I just wanted some support from the other parents. I wanted someone else to speak up.

So, what do you think?