Rant: Hang up the ^&^%^^ Phone, please-

Disclaimer: I’m not perfect. I know I’m not, it’s one of my least favorite things about myself (along with my eyes that cross easily and very poor time management skills, but that’s a different post.)

Sometimes, I judge. I know we’re not supposed to. But last week, I did, and the incident that prompted it has had me stewing ever since.

I was at one of those places where you pay to play with your kids, and they run all around and bounce off the walls. Usually, they make my teeth hurt, but this one is actually quite roomy and well run. But, since it was a rainy day, it was filled to the gills.

There was a mom there with three children under the age of five, and a cell phone glued firmly to her ear. For the two and a half hours that we played, she never once hung it up. If one of her children pulled a toy from another child (which did happen- lord knows mine do it, too) she would scream from across the room, “GIVE THAT BACK!” and go back to her conversation.

Her children wandered, trying to engage with other adults, since their own mom was ignoring them. Her little boy perched perilously on a ball, yelling, “Looka me! Looka me!” She didn’t.

Her daughter came up hopefully to me and said, “At the end is the bubble party! The bubble party is my favorite!”
“Yes,” I assured her. “The bubble party is fun.”

About ten minutes before the bubble party, the little girl fell off of the monkey bars. She fell onto a pad, but hit her foot on a pole on the way down and was crying. Since I was standing right there, I crouched down and asked, “Are you OK?” She whimpered and nodded. “The bubble party is soon,” she sniffed.

“HOLD ON!” I heard loudly by my ear, as Cell Phone mom switched ears. “If you can’t behave, we’re leaving!” she shouted at the little girl, and pulled her up by one arm.

“She just fell…” I said, somewhat baffled by being ignored completely. She held up a hand at me, and said to the phone, “Wait a sec, I just have to get them out of here…” The little girl began wailing, as the mother pulled her towards the door, yapping angrily to the other end of the line all the way, collecting her two boys in her wake.

I watched, furious, as she shoved her children onto benches in the lobby and jammed their shoes on their feet. The little had resorted to silent tears, dripping resolutely down her face, as though she knew they wouldn’t be heard and would do no good.

I waved to her while I debated the merits of trying to tell the mom that the kid had been talking about the bubble party for two hours. That it would just take a minute. I felt a boiling heat rise in my chest as I watched her smack her son’s leg, phone cradled lovingly on her shoulder, because he squirmed too much. And I didn’t go to her, as I was pretty sure I would wind up getting myself into a fair amount of trouble.

Then they were gone. I talked to the owner, who said they had a no cell phones policy, and that she had mimed to the mom to put it down several times, only to get the hand I was shown as well. I heard other moms say things during the two hours, like “Where’s his mom? OH- THE ONE ON THE PHONE.” But she did nothing.

I guess the phone was just the technology she used to ignore her children-maybe in a different decade, it would have been an 8 track, or a Sony Walkman. Maybe she was negotiating some life or death deal. But I kinda sorta thought she just didn’t want to be present, and thought she paid her ten bucks and got to check out. I don’t know.

But I keep seeing that little girl’s face, tears flowing, as the thing she had been looking forward to was removed not even out of malice, but out of ignorance. And it makes me sad for her- and mad. Really, really mad.

What would you do? Chalk it up to a mom having a bad day, and try to keep her kids out of trouble, or have a difficult conversation that may have escalated pretty quickly? I feel like I wussed out.

Check out the Loretta Lynn/Jack White song, “Trouble on the Line”- it’s a favorite.:)

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Comments (16)

  1. Kim Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    I think you did all that you really could have done in the situation that was positive. I find that addressing those types of situations head on with a stranger is a dangerous line. She will likely react in anger and embarrassment and the children won't get any more attention than they had before. You also don't know the situation she was in that day. I respect you leaving out the content of her conversation but let's assume that she is going through a very stressful and challenging time in her life and that was the only way she could talk without subjecting her children to the conversation. I'm not saying that this justifies her lack of attention to her children, I'm just offering an explanation for her distraction. Showing her daughter that you understood her sadness and cared about how she felt was validating for her and that is very important. Just love your kids a little more and try to help when other people seem stressed if you can - that's pretty much all that you can do. Public altercations are never a good thing. Your instincts were fantastic.
  2. Ernie Foss AKA Yoshi_Matrix Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    Well I got here from your post on twitter, I know I would have ended up praying for the little girl and the family. I don't know the mom's situation but obviously she thinks that rules were made for others and don't apply to her. I don't know her situation in life, but I do know that if you treat your children like that then something is not right. Sometimes parents forget that they need to find ways to set time aside for themselves as a part of the parenting plan, and when they don't then this become habitual and bad for everybody. I have three two grown and out of the nest and one thats 11. There are times that it can be a challenge to keep up. But I feel that is one of our obligations to our children when we make the decision consciously or un-consciously to bring them into the world. I feel for you as a spectator to this, I think if I had been there I would most likely feel as you do, and yes I would be wondering how that little girl is doing.
  3. Ann Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    I would chalk it up to a mom having a bad day. Maybe she really didn't want to be there but knew she needed to get out of the house. Maybe she needed to work but the babysitter flaked. Maybe her sister was calling her with a personal problem that trumped a day of playing with the kids (I have been there) Any number of things could have been happening that was not apparent to a stranger. It is this kind of thing though that makes us worry that others are judging us on the days when all hell is breaking out in our lives and it isn't apparent to anybody on the outside. I understand you being upset but I think you did the right thing.
  4. Erin Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    That is soo sad that it happened to those poor children, but I'm sure that is normal life for them unfortunately. I'm a VERY busy corporate mom, but I'll tell you one thing, when I take my kids somewhere. I unplug. I allow myself to check email only once per 3 hours. That is my time with my kids, period. It's sad that others don't cherish the VERY little time they have with their children. Children are little blessings, not materialistic objects that you have to feed and water!
  5. rockrollmama Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    Hey you guys. Thank you for being here, it makes me feel so much better to hear other people's input on possible scenarios, as well as my actions. There's just no possible outcome where I could have seen her hanging up and saying, "Oh, I didn't realize! Come on, sweetie, let's stay for the bubble party." Just not the vibe I got. So it just would have ended badly, I think. On the other hand, I'm frustrated with myself for having done the easy thing, because anything else would have been inconvenient and messy. I do think there was something going on in her life that say, as she sounded angry the whole time and just put off this impenetrable air of "Do not interrupt me." I'm sure I've had days where a stranger has shaken their head at me and wondered where I was coming from. But just because an adult is having a bad day doesn't mean they should take their anger out on children- that was what really bothered me. But again, I'm sure there have been days my grownup relationships impact how I interact with my children. I don't know why I felt so much worse for the girl than for the boys- maybe because she had verbalized so often her excitement for the party, and then it was taken away because she got hurt. It just made the whole thing sadder then just a general yelling/ignoring mom. Definitely served as a reminder to me to put my iphone down and pay attention to my babies when they're in front of me- they're people, and just as it would be rude for me to have a half hour long cell phone convo while my husband sitting next to me, it's not polite to my kids, either. I hope it was just a bad day and they all woke up happier.:) Thanks again-
  6. BassAckwards Mom Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    I hope you don't mind... I did a link back to you on my family blog.... loved your post, well put. .-= BassAckwards Mom´s last blog ..frugalness: Harris Teeter Super Double Coupons =-.
  7. A Cowboy's Wife Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    Honestly, I think it's okay to say, "Hey, do you see yourself right now??" Sometimes they need someone to tell them something to realize they are doing something wrong. It becomes habit after awhile and "ok" when it's really not and a wakeup call from an outsider can be just the thing that makes a difference. Coming from an abusive relationship, I wished a million times that someone would have said something to that bastard who was grabbing my mom's arm like that. Maybe if she'd known people care and would stick up for her, she'd been more inclined to do the same.
  8. Katja of Skimbaco Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    So sad, but unfortunately that happens way too often. I was at a school play once, and I saw one dad drunk and happy and loudly proud of his kid, and other one working on his Blackberry the whole time. I had hard time deciding which one was worse, but ended up deciding it was the dad with Blackberry. .-= Katja of Skimbaco´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.
  9. rockrollmama Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    Lori- I agree, and I so badly wanted to hold up a mirror- but was afraid of how I would handle myself, and worried that it would make everything worse- and while I was dithering away trying to get up my courage, they left. And now I just wonder. Maybe she came back in and the owner said something to her. Probably not, but she did say they would enforce their cell phone policy more strictly. katja- I''m definitely in favor of the drunk proud dad, too.:) Erin- I really, really like your rule, and may have to incorporate it myself. This whole "Always connected" thing definitely has its issues, in that it may disconnect you from the people who are actually in front of you. Def. food for thought. Thanks. you guys!
  10. Jennifer Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    You are a much better person than I am! I do not think I could have kept from informing mom that she had 3 much more important things to do with her time! I get phone calls from time to time when I am out with my children and I try my best to keep them to a couple of seconds, pretty much the conversation is long enough to make sure the person does not have an emergency and then I let them know that we are out and I will have to talk to them later!
  11. Susan Helene Gottfried Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    Man, that's a sad story. Sad for the kids who were essentially neglected and sad because I see this sort of thing ALL THE TIME anymore. I wouldn't have said anything to the mom. I'm lousy at confrontation. But I'd have wished for the balls, the power, and the words to get through to her.
  12. Devra Renner Thursday - 25 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    You responded the best you could given that the situation probably halted you in your tracks a bit and it was difficult to think up a "Plan B" considering everything going on. Try not to second guess yourself. I tend to lean toward A Cowboy's Wife as I think children do need advocates when adults are behaving badly. When I've been in similar situations, I have said something along the lines of "How can I help? I know we don't know each other, but everyone looks really miserable and I'd like to help if I can." I don't always get a "Oh yes, please!" but it certainly stops the abusive behavior as it changes the rhthym.
  13. rockrollmama Friday - 26 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    Jennifer: That's a good style.:) I know when I try to talk on the phone even in my own house my kids are so not having it.: ) Susan: I agree. I feel like the connections to children are sometimes being so impeded my the lack of boundaries created by the 24/7 availability culture. It's one of those things that creeps up so quickly. Devra- I love that response, will totally pattern on that if the situation presents itself. Much better than my mental plan of "Hi! What's wrong with you?!?!" Not really, but you know what I mean. It frames it in a positive way.
  14. Audrey - Mom Generations Friday - 26 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    Oh, this made me boil inside as I read this post. How sad for that little girl. I probably would have done the same thing you did... with people like that - sometimes there's no "winning", there no "getting through." The worst part is that this child had to go through life with a mother who doesn't get it. We're given one chance at this life... and as a parent, you want to show your children how to behave and how to be exceptional human beings. Seems this mother is way off. I'm a lover of this new media world... but these are the downfalls. Major downfalls. Disconnect once in awhile.
  15. ThatMommy Friday - 26 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    i'm not big on violence but it sounds ike somebody really should just ... kick her or something. for her own good.
  16. Devilish Southern Belle Tuesday - 30 / 06 / 2009 Reply
    That's a hard one. I'm not sure what I would have done in that situation. It seems like regardless of what you'd done, she probably wouldn't have put the cell phone down, OR let her kids stay. It's a real shame the manager of the place didn't have the nerve to come to the mom and enforce the no cell phone rule instead of just miming for her to put it down and turning the other cheek when she got 'the hand'. .-= Devilish Southern Belle´s last blog ..I’m getting too old for this. =-.

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