Hey, Guess What, Random Mom? Your Child Sucks!

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I made the grave mistake recently of e-mailing a mother in my daughter’s class and pretty much telling her the truth about her child – that she was a thief!

Trust me, I tried to do this in the nicest possible way. But, as I quickly learned, there is no nice way of telling another mother their child is doing something wrong.

I was nervous to e-mail this mother after my daughter complained to me, for the 48th time, that this child was stealing erasers from her desk. My daughter had been complaining about this for months and I had told the teacher to “maybe watch out for it.” I certainly didn’t want to be the one to tell the mother. Mothers scare me.

I’m not good with telling mothers when their children do something wrong. So, until now, I never have. Usually, I just tell my daughter, “Stay away from that boy who spits at you” or “Ignore that girl who lies. She has an active imagination.” Or if we’re at a birthday party and the children are being mean, we just leave.

Even after this pint-size thief kept stealing from my daughter, I would still say to my daughter, “It’s okay. It’s just an eraser. No big deal, right?” And, to me, at first, it wasn’t a big deal. This girl was stealing Dollar Store erasers and certainly I could and did buy my daughter more. It was almost laughable, this “thing” over erasers.

But it got to the point where, after months of this happening, I had to send an e-mail, because I thought this mother should know. I, for one, don’t give a damn about erasers. But, trust me when I say I spent more time re-reading and re-writing that e-mail to the mother than I do on any article I write for national news publications. The e-mail took me most of the night to compose and it took me almost an hour just to get up the courage to push ‘send.’

In my e-mail, I tried to be cute about the situation. Like, you know, it’s just an eraser and girls will be girls…

I also wrote that I’ve had a discussion with my daughter about “sharing” and if her daughter ever asks for an eraser, my daughter knows gladly to share.

This way, I assumed the mother would think that I didn’t think it was that big a deal– hee hee, we’re talking about erasers here! – and that also, on my end, I was teaching my daughter a lesson: Thou shall not steal. Thou shall share.

As silly as this may sound, I thought perhaps I was doing this mother a favor, or some sort of service, by letting her know that her daughter was a small-time thief. Wouldn’t she want to know this before her child turned 16 and started jacking cars and stealing hubcaps? In fact, I was possibly helping this mother keep her daughter out of jail one day!

I’m an idiot.

Of course this mother didn’t see it this way. She wrote me a nice e-mail back at first. I was happy and thought it was done and over with and that “Grade Two Eraser-Gate” was over. But then I received a second e-mail from this mother, ten minutes later, with a changed attitude. Oh, my, had her attitude towards the situation turned 180 degrees!

I basically got a verbal lashing. Words like “shame!” were used. (I know, right?) Also, she wrote that other kids had been stealing from her daughter all year long. She went on and on and on (and on) about how many erasers she had to buy for her child.

I became irate. I was pretty much at the point of screaming to my computer while reading her response, “Get over the fucking number of erasers you had to buy, for god’s sake!” And, “I never want to hear the word ‘eraser’ ever again!”

I had cc-ed my daughter’s father on the e-mail I had sent, to keep him in the loop, and because he’s one of my main support systems. I knew he’d be on my side (and our daughter’s side). And he was.

However, he did say, when I called in tears reading him the second e-mail rant from this mother, “Well, Beck, what did you expect?”

It’s true. What did I expect? A thank-you card? This is when I tried to really put myself in the other mother’s shoes. As I said, I tried to put the fact that her daughter was stealing from mine in as nice a way as possible. This, I learned, is impossible.

No matter how nice your e-mail or phone call may be, if you complain about another child to their mother, they will not react in the way you want them to. Their backs will immediately get up. I get it. If I received e-mail telling me, in not so many words, that my daughter was stealing, I, too, would probably be all, “Fuck you!”

I’m like a mother bear. This woman was like the mother bear protecting her daughter from the World of Stolen Eraser Accusers (that would be me).

If there is a right way of telling another mother their child is doing something wrong (and, technically, illegal!) I’d like to know what that way is. I failed at it miserably.

But is there a good way? Ever? My friend’s son came home with a broken hand after punching another kid in the jaw. Even she didn’t blame her own son, instead blaming the other kid for egging him on.

It would help if us mothers could be more objective about our children, I think. Of course, this will never happen. We think our children are always angels and that they can’t possibly be doing anything wrong. WRONG!

I know my daughter can’t be an angel all the time, but I also do know she’s not a liar. There is no real end to this story. That mother will now forever hate me, and I will now probably never send a note to another parent again. I’m traumatized.

I may, however, send this mother a box of hundreds of erasers just, well, just because.

(Photo: Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures)