I couldn't take it. I guess I had seen one too many examples of bad parenting. "Hey," I said gently, "They're just being kids. These things happen."
Grandma didn't back off. "I told her long ago to get into the waiting room. She has to behave."
"Good grief," I replied, "She's just a toddler. You're expecting way too much of her."
"Listen, man," she said, "don't tell me how to raise kids."
"Why not," I shot back, " You clearly don't know how to do it."
"Don't give me any crap, bucko," she snapped.
"Don't give me any guff, lady, or I'll contact Protective Services again and make them take away the kids. With a witch of a mother like you, it's no wonder your daughter turned to cocaine."
Man, it felt good to say that.
But don't worry folks, I didn't really say that. Everything after the second paragraph is fiction. After I said "These things happen," I just walked into the NICU without saying anything else. I'm sure, though, that I'm not the only one who has to grit his teeth to remain quiet when we see examples of bad parenting.
I'll see mothers yelling at kids too small to get it or slapping kids too young to learn from it. I'll see them berate a child for just doing what kids normally do. I hate it, because I think what the child's home life must be like, that it must be a life of fear, at least until the kid gets so jaded he doesn't care anymore. I hate it, because I know that if the child lives with scolding and yelling she'll grow up to be a scolder and yeller. The kids are so little and impressionable, if we could just treat them gently, they would grow up to be gentler.
Is there anything we can really do about it, though? Sadly, I think not. We certainly can't remove kids from their homes for poor parenting skills. We don't have enough good foster homes as it is now. And we can't really mold people's parenting skills in the brief time we have with them. We can try to teach them, but they're probably just going to do what they grew up with anyway, so my nasty comments to such people will have to occur in my head and not in reality.