Wednesday, February 27, 2008


What's weird, is that when you're a teacher, kids can sense it. They just ... come up and talk to you. They just know, somehow, that you understand how they see things. So when I'm in public, I feel like I practically have to hide from strange kids, so that the mother or father doesn't yell, "Don't talk to strangers!"

Last year, and this drove me nuts, a mother literally chased me through two WalMart aisles, insisting that she knew me. We had discovered that we did NOT know each other, but she continued to interrogate me, to the point where I was about to tell her to go on her merry way. I just knew we had nothing in common and that we'd never met. I could tell she was doing something manipulative, and it was pissing me off because I didn't know where she was going with it.

But when you're a piano teacher, you have a certain public image to uphold, just in case, you know? One of those things is to be nice to every parent you meet in the community.

So I tried to be pleasant as possible, and you know what she did?

After, literally, ten minutes of chasing me with questions and not letting me go on with my shopping, her daughter started talking to me.

THEN, she yelled at her daughter for talking to me. "Don't talk to strangers, not even if Mommy talks to them!"

So, basically, this lady hounded me, bothered me, for the sole purpose of teaching a lesson to her daughter.

I was pissed.  If her daughter hadn't been with her, I would have given her a piece of my mind. Don't use and manipulate me to teach your daughter a lesson. Period.

Anyway, I'm even more leery of talking to kids in public, now. They approach me, but I end up avoiding their eyes. It's weird. I hate it. Why can't I just talk to them?

What's worse, is that if you don't talk to the child who approaches you, parents will think you unfriendly. Some parents will actually think better of you if you have a conversation with their child.

It's the same with hugs and touching. There's a local elementary teacher who gives each child a lipsticked kiss every Friday afternoon. I am SO jealous of her. I abide by all the "rules" of don't touch a kid. Don't hug them.

And who gets hurt? The kid. Sometimes they need a hug. Sometimes just a touch on the shoulder would do so much.

But if the cost is some wacko taking it too far, I guess I'm okay with no hugs.

I do touch their hands. That's breaking the rules, but tough. I can't figure out a way to make them use the correct form and technique, without teaching them how to use their muscles.

Still. It's sad, what society has come to, sometimes.

I think it might be worse in Ohio, but then, Ohio is number one for child abductions by wackos. Scary, that.

And you know what? Grown-ups are so damn complicated. There's a reason I spend all day just talking to kids. Their rules are so much easier, and they make a hell of a lot more sense. If I have to talk to a stranger, I'd much rather it be a child.

13 bonus scribbles:

Susan Helene Gottfried 2/27/2008 10:31:00 AM  

Yeah, I know.

At least I can say to parents, "I'm A Girl Scout Leader" now.

That Mom was WRONG, though, in how she handled her daughter. There are levels of strangers; it's okay to say hello to someone at the gym, or leaving the post office (I use a small, neighborhood office). It's not okay to say hi and jump in their car.

Hang in there.

Aimless Writer 2/27/2008 11:26:00 AM  

The mom in Walmart was crazy. Just plain crazy.
When people do that stuff to me I always start (very politely)questiong them. "If you think I'm a stranger why are you questioning me? Do you do this to others? Do you live around here? Can you give me your name again? Are you married? Do you shop here often?"
This usually makes them back off in a hurry. And I feel justified because they bothered me first.
If you really want to freak them out pull a pen and pad out of your purse and start writing down their answers. lol

Anonymous,  2/27/2008 12:54:00 PM  

One of the reasons I got serious about my husband was how awesome he was with kids who would just walk up to him out of nowhere, on the beach or wherever. Just to chat, show him something they were doing, whatever. He is really good at showing his interest without being "weird" about it.

That said, one of the major reasons he teaches high school is that the older kids recognize boundaries (by and large). The little kids he student-taught always wanted to sit on his lap or get his hugs, and it really bothered him not to be able to oblige them.

On the flip side, I saw an item today that some students are retaliating against teachers by posting fake websites and other info... you can imagine what kind. :( So boundaries are more important today than ever....

conley730 2/27/2008 07:55:00 PM  

My kids are still in daycare, but their teachers hug and kiss them. Riley won't leave at the end of the day without his hug from Ms. Pat. I'm sure that will change once they get into Pre-K and elementary school, but it's nice for now. I personally don't think they're crossing any lines, but other parents might. I'm glad that they seem to genuinely care for my children.

mom2brie 2/27/2008 09:42:00 PM  

What a bizarre Mom - oh the intricacies of people - such fun. I'm going to teach my little one that when she is with me (when I'm right next to her) it is ok to talk to strangers, but when she is by herself then she should not talk to strangers.

Kids are attracted to me too - I think most children have good instincts - I think we lose some of that was we age.

spyscribbler 2/27/2008 10:31:00 PM  

LOL, Susan. I should just start saying that whenever a kid walks up to me. Eh, really, it's that time of month, and the dance just irritated me, LOL.

spyscribbler 2/27/2008 10:32:00 PM  

Aimless, that's brilliant! I really wish I had thought of that, I really do!

Man, I never think of that stuff until after the fact.

spyscribbler 2/27/2008 10:35:00 PM  

Freelancemother, I can understand that. At the last recital, one of my third graders came up to me, and made a motion as if to hug me, then stopped, as if she thought she'd be rejected or that was a boundary she couldn't cross.

That sucks, because I've known her for six years now. It really sucks.

I'm a bit the opposite of your husband, though. My high school girls do hug me, and my adult women students. I'm comfortable with that, but I consider them to be pretty much adults.

The boys, however ... I stay ten feet away from them once they hit 8th or so grade, LOL.

spyscribbler 2/27/2008 10:39:00 PM  

See, Conley, I'm so jealous of that. Somewhere along the line, someone must have put the terror of God in me about being sued for hugging a child. It's different, though, because it's generally just me and the student in the room. I think that's why they tell music teachers not to touch.

Heck, do you know that somewhere when I was becoming a teacher, I saw a list of sexual harrassment. On it, was that you should call the police if your music teacher asked about your boyfriend or girlfriend! Can you believe that?

My students tell me everything about their lives. I think kids need a non-parent adult to talk to. For most of my high-schoolers, we spend half the lesson talking. I was the same way when I was their age. You just need that, you know?

spyscribbler 2/27/2008 10:42:00 PM  

Nanc, I didn't tell you that story? I'm surprised, LOL. It really made me angry, but it also hurt my feelings and made me feel like she was accusing me of being some evil person. I don't know. It didn't feel good. I'm not good at letting stuff like that go, LOL.

You're so right about the instincts. They just know! I don't know how, but they do. Or I guess, all of them don't, if some get kidnapped by strangers.

Edie 2/28/2008 08:06:00 AM  

My sister, a 2nd grade teacher, took a girl to the principal's and held her hand on the way, and she was accused of hurting the child. She found out afterward that the girl had done something similar with another teacher. My sister does hug children though. She says 2nd graders need hugs.

That WalMart mother was wacko. Kids love me, and I think it's because I'm short and not a threat. Maybe because I'm so short, the parents don't see me as threatening either.

spyscribbler 2/28/2008 10:47:00 AM  

Oh, Edie, girls just do that! It drives me crazy. It "hurts" to sit up, because they don't want to. It "hurts" to play on the top of the pinky, because they don't want to. It "hurts" for me to hold their hands in the correct position, because they want to move their hands a different way.

They just say that. It drives me nuts.

Parents aren't weirded out by me, either. Mostly because I'm, er, a little soft around the edges. Pleasantly plump. If you're fat, you're good with kids. It's an insane stereotype, but what can you do?

Around here, I know half of their friends, so it doesn't bother me. When I go to Strongsville, though, I don't know anyone. So I don't know what to do when kids start talking to me. I don't want a repeat of wacko mom.

And I do want to respect the parent. It's really rude to yell at a kid for talking to a stranger, in front of that stranger. It's FINE to yell at them, but just don't do it in front of the stranger their kid approached in the first place. Do it later, privately.

Is it really necessary to insult the stranger who was kind enough not to ignore your child? No. I don't think so.

Anonymous,  2/28/2008 10:57:00 PM  

Weird mother. I feel sorry for her kids.

The good thing about being a former English teacher is that kids listen to me when out in public. I can glare at a group of teenagers whom I've never met, and they immediately calm down and behave more respectfully. That has its advantages.