Talking to Strangers Like I Talk to My Kids

I seem to be just coming out as myself all over the place lately. As in, I don’t hold back. Maybe I don’t socialize enough anymore. I used to at least be able to count on the twice-a-day adult interaction at drop-off and pickup from school, which helped in remembering how to delineate child-interaction from adult interaction.

My job, much as I like it, does not involve much interaction with others. Editing is not exactly like being a concierge, or being in sales, or some other interact-with-other-people sort of profession. It’s solitary, even in an open office.

So maybe my boundaries are slipping, or maybe I’m just turning into that grumpy “Get off my lawn!” old person I’ve always been inside.

Cases in point:

1. To the Host Child

Max was invited to a pool party at his friend’s house this weekend, and siblings were invited (YAY forever grateful for that, thank you!!), and of course to maintain the one-adult-per-child-in-the-pool ratio, C and I both went. (In swimsuits, of course….the only adults who showed up in swimsuits. And the only adults who got in the pool, because Ben insisted one of us swim with him, and the only adults who said a hearty, “Yes, please!” to the rainbow cake while all the other adults politely declined. We normally are more socially appropriate, but I was famished and C likes cake. As do I.). Anyway, the host child was sitting next to me, filling up water balloons, and ran out of water. “Mom!” he yelled. “MOM! I need more water!” His mother was halfway across the pool, deep in conversation with another parent.

I turned to him. I’d been tying the balloons for him. “Don’t yell,” I said. “If you need something, get up and walk over and talk to her. Don’t just sit here and yell ‘Mom.”

Readers, it just came out of my mouth. He looked so surprised. Not upset. But like it hadn’t occurred to him — or maybe like no one other than a parent had spoken to him like this before. Then he got up and trotted over to his mother and asked her to get him more water.

I was possibly even more surprised that I’d just spoken like that to someone else’s kid. I guess we don’t do that anymore–parent other people’s kids. It was really quite normal back when I was a kid, from what I understand. But not today. And he’s not even one of the kids we’re used to seeing around our house, one of the kids mine have grown up with or are always over.

2. On the Bus

I was on the bus in the morning, headed to the subway. A guy got on with luggage and stood in the aisle near the front. That’s fine — people do it, and the bus wasn’t that crowded, and he wasn’t blocking anyone.

But then he launched into a massive explanation to the driver about why he was there and not moving to a seat, because he didn’t want to impede people with his luggage, and on and on, and the driver was listening very politely even though I think he should have just been driving, and finally I said to the guy, almost automatically, “Please stop talking,” but I didn’t say it loud enough for him to hear me, it turns out. It’s what I say when Max talks over me or keeps talking when he’s supposed to be getting his shoes on or something. His own talking can distract himself sometimes. I know “Please stop talking” sounds kind of rude but sometimes, really, you need to just stop talking to either get something done or let someone else get something done.

Maybe I should lose that phrase. But there you go. It came out.

3. Why Are You Driving Like That? 

This evening, I had to bring the kids with me to pick up our CSA. Usually I pick it up on the way to track but for various reasons, including an irritated hamstring (“cranky hammy,” if you will), I opted out. And C had to be somewhere, so I brought both kids with me to pick up the CSA and then we stopped by the bike shop for a tube for Max’s bike.

Related: I foolishly went to the farmer’s market 3 days before our CSA started, leaving me overwhelmed with greens from the get-go. I have been eating mizuna, kale, and lettuce twice a day (and making my family eat it at least once a day) for the past 11 days and brought a huge kale salad to a party this weekend. No matter. I am behind in greens in week 2 of our CSA season. Wish me luck.

Anyway, so we’re on a one-lane, one-way street, and the light changes, and we creep forward across the intersection. From our right, a car turns left to face the same direction as us, but they crept around to my left side — as if they were going to somehow go around us?

I turned my head toward them. “Where are you trying to go?” I asked them. “We’re all going the same way. There’s no room. We’re all trying to go here. I don’t know what you’re doing.”

Seriously, only then did I really look at them — male driver, female passenger. They could have cursed, flipped me off, shot me, rammed my car. I think my mom tone threw them for a loop. They muttered to each other. They waited their turn. Once we started moving again, they waited for a space and ended up two cars behind me.

It’s a little bit refreshing, to be honest, this whole “speak my mind” business. I might just keep it up.

And you, there. Get off my lawn.

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