This is what it means when they say it takes a village

Dear mother I don’t know,

I’m writing to talk to you about something that didn’t happen. That’s right. Something that did NOT happen. So this morning I was driving my kids to school and there’s a blind curve on our street and there was a large tree-trimming truck parked on the curve so I had to drive really slowly. Thank God. Because as soon as I rounded the corner, I saw it and slammed on my brakes as hard and as fast as I could.

Someone was in the middle of the road. Your son. On his bike. And I almost hit him. ALMOST.

He was riding down the middle of our street without a helmet, swerving left and right and left and right showing off to his friends who were riding on the sidewalk next to him. I get it, kids do stupid shit.

I saw him at the last minute and I swear it felt like my heart might explode out of my chest I was so scared. So I pulled up alongside him, unrolled my window and said, “Hey honey, if you’re going to ride like that, you need to do it on the sidewalk, okay?” He could have said “thank you” or “okay,” but nope. Remember, kids do stupid shit. So he said, “I’d appreciate you NOT telling me what to do.”

Stupid, stupid, STUPID.

Because here’s the thing. If he had just said “okay,” I probably would have kept driving and left it at that, but this is what went through my head. What would you, his mom, do if you saw all this? The scary bike riding. Almost getting hit by a car. The talking back. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have just sat there and done nothing.

But you weren’t there. We can’t be with our kids ALL THE TIME.

So I had two choices. I could just drop off my kids at school and let my blood boil all morning long replaying the situation in my head. Or I could do what I would want another parent to do if it were MY kid. I could tell you.

When I got to the crosswalk he was getting off his bike because the crossing guard makes all the kids do that, so I walked right up to him and I said, “What’s your name?” He mumbled something, so I asked him to say it again. He did. Then I asked him his last name. Again, mumble mumble. I wanted to be like “Kid, you’re F’ing with the wrong mom.” But I didn’t. I asked him to say it more clearly. He did.

And even after all that, I debated whether to write to you. I mean you never know how parents are gonna react when someone “tattles” on their child. People can be a-holes. But what if I don’t say something, and next week I hear that he gets hit by a car? Then how will I feel? So I’m telling you.

I don’t give a crap that your kid talked back to me. Maybe he was scared. Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe he was showing off in front of his friends again. Kids do stupid shit. And sometimes their parents are there to correct them and tell them to knock it off so they don’t get hurt. And sometimes they’re not.

I was there today.

So I hope you don’t mind that I’m writing you a very nice text message to let you know what happened. You’re not a bad parent. You’re just a parent who wasn’t there. And if you ever see one of my kids doing something stupid, please please pleeeease feel free to tell them to knock it off and to let me know. I won’t be pissed. I’ll be grateful.

Today I am your village, and I hope that tomorrow you will be mine, or someone else’s kid who needs it.

Sincerely,

A member of your village

What happened after: In case you’re wondering, I sent the parents a very nice very careful text message and they wrote me back right away, thanking me and saying they would definitely talk with their son about it that night. Good parents. Not glad to know their kid did something stupid. But glad to know about it. 

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There are 11 comments for this article
  1. mary keim at 9:43 am

    Thank you so much for caring…so little of it in this day and age. And I’m glad his Mom was also a good parent who appreciated your effort.

  2. K Dickson at 10:00 am

    This is what It Takes a Village really means, and not letting our kids put their lives at risk, or be rude to others, in the name of personal freedom or “self-esteem.”

  3. Barb at 10:09 am

    I wanted one of those call this 800 number stickers on my kids car when they started driving. But I told them if ANYONE reported back that the were driving irresponsibly, their car would be my car.

  4. Eily nicholson at 10:10 am

    You did the right thing! I would like it if someone told me if my kid was a j**k or stupid etc… way to be brave!

  5. Caroline Godwin at 10:15 am

    I would have liked somebody taking the time to text me about that! Well done you and well done for the parents’ response too!

  6. Charlene M Rippy at 10:45 am

    I love it. I would want to know. I have to write the same very carefully worded message today. I’m dreading it, but I’ve also been on the receiving end of those, and appreciated that someone else cared.

  7. donna at 11:15 am

    I have intervened a number of times myself when raising my children, often in front of my kids, sometimes it was even their friend I was interfering with, often times it was embarrassing for them and I had to accept them not being real happy with me about it, but I never once regretted it and my now adult children get it….I would have done and thought exactly what you did….keep up the caring….it does take a village….I’m a grandma now and I still proudly behave the same way!

  8. JulieD at 11:28 am

    Woooot! Thank you, wonderful village member. Not only did you do the right thing, you provide a great example of how we all should behave as village members. And speaking for me personally, you validated something I have a habit of doing, but never know if it’s the right thing or not – in fact agonize over it. I’m not always successful with the getting back to the parents part (as kids refuse to give info). But I at least talk with the kid doing the stupid s**t (like the other day on my way to daycare when a kid waiting for the bus was kicking dirt clods into the street and running out to retrieve them – yeah, stupid s**t like that). Anyway, thanks for giving me another “I’m not alone” moment.

  9. Leslie at 10:35 pm

    I grew up with a girl who had a beautiful boy. Who died after getting hit by a car in our neighborhood at 9 years old. I wish that tragedy hadn’t been the wake up call for so many parents. It happens all the time, lives changed in an instant. Thank you for stepping up.

  10. Cathy at 1:25 am

    Karen, Thank you so much for texting that mom. A couple years ago a group of boys were riding their bikes by when I pulled into the driveway at my dad’s house. One of the boys without a helmet almost got hit when he drove around the corner, not paying attention. I told him to be more careful. My dad let me know that wasn’t the first time this kid was almost hit. A couple months later it happened again, in the middle of the street. This time he wasn’t so lucky. He had broken bones but worse he had a head injury. His injury is such he will never go home. My dad would see his parents occasionally, they are devastated, his little sister crushed. I wish I or someone else who had a close call with him had done more than tell him to be more careful.

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