>So, we were invited to a bonfire in Bridgehampton by my wife, M’s, “oldest” best friend, J (not as in age, as in they’ve been friends the longest). And at this point in our lives, you know if you invite us somewhere, that Lilian is included in the invite. Where I go, she goes, and if it’s in inappropriate place, then I don’t go either. We’ve brought Lilian to J’s house about 10 times this summer to hang out, and to a small music venue to see J’s band play, and she’s always been welcome and well behaved (and quite frankly, adorable.) In my head, bonfire + s’mores + acoustic guitars and singalongs = family friendly activities. No strippers, loud noise, obscenities, etc. So we went. We met at J’s house first hung out with some people, then all caravanned in a few cars over to the beach. We trekked down with her stroller for her to sit in, our beer, and stuff… and it was a beautiful night. They had just started up the bonfire but before they did, it was almost pitch black out, with the most beautiful low crescent moon that was shining off the water, and that was all you could see. You could hear the waves crashing, and the wood crackling. The sand was cold, and smooth and soft in my sandals. It was breezy, but not too cold. Literally a perfect, beautiful night and for a few minutes I was so at peace.
As soon as we walked up, one man emerged from the group and approached us and said “do you know someone here?” Um… “yes”, we said, “J invited us.” But we were already put off. Isn’t the point of parties/bonfires/social events to meet people and socialize and mingle. But OK. So he introduced himself as “****” and he snidely commented “wow, it’s late for a kid to be awake, my kid is asleep by 7.” To which I replied “well, my daughter has a different sleep schedule, she goes to bed late so we can spend time with her, and then she sleeps until 10am which is great for me, because I don’t want to wake up at 6am with her!”, to which he just mumbled, because undoubtedly it’s his Baby-Mama waking up with the child, not him.
So right off the bat, my parenting was challenged. I know that my style of parenting is unconventional, but it works for us, and it’s something i believe in. I treat my child like a human, not like a pet, a burden, or a subject. I like for her to experience the world. She comes to restaurants, shopping, to appropriate music concerts (none that are too loud or too crowded), to BBQs and pool parties, to the beach, on vacation, to friend’s houses, etc. She doesn’t go to strip clubs, nightclubs, places where smoking is allowed (which honestly probably isn’t anywhere anymore), to violent or explicit movies, etc. But within reason, wherever we go, she comes too. She has a routine, but she doesn’t have a “bedtime”, she has an approximate time she goes to bed and wakes up, but she sleeps 10+ hours a night plus one 2-3 hour nap and sometimes a second nap. She eats when we eat, and often the same as we are eating (she eats a huge variety of food, especially for an almost-two-year-old), she co-sleeps in bed with us, we are a family, and she is an extension of us. Maybe this is considered some form of “Attachment Parenting”, I don’t know, I don’t have a name for it, it’s just how we live. My child is smart, social, well behaved, healthy and happy, and that is what matters to me. I know some parents have very strict routines, use babysitters, put their children to bed early for alone time etc. and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not how my family runs, and it doesn’t mean one of us is better than the other, but I won’t tell you how to parent and you don’t tell me how to parent, let’s agree to disagree.
So, unfortunately, Lilian started crying at the beach. She wasn’t scared or uncomfortable, she was in all likelihood tired and fighting sleep and just cranky. It happens. 95% of the time I have an extremely well behaved child, but 5% of the time, she just has a bad time. Kids do that. So, i rocked her, I walked with her, nothing soothed her. I got her a blanket from the car to cuddle with, I offered milk, juice, etc. Nothing soothed her. So I carried her back to my car, offered her a nectarine (she loves fruit, and I think her teeth were bothering her and cold fruit soothes her), and she sat on my lap, ate it, and was happy. When I thought she was sufficiently calmed down, I walked her back down to the beach and she was fine… until I sat down in the sand, for some reason, she was just unhappy. I was going to give her 5 minutes to wind down, and if not, I’d have walked with her again or let her fall asleep on my lap in the car. I don’t let her cry in public often, and if we were in a bar, restaurant, movie, mall, etc., I’d have probably left immediately, but since we were on a public beach, and I couldn’t “step outside” with her, I was doing my best to soothe her, but I wasn’t ignoring her or unaware that crying is annoying. If she didn’t stop soon, ultimately I would have taken her home, but I wanted to give her a few minutes to relax. Our host, J, hadn’t even arrived yet, after he dropped us off, he ran out to buy more beer, firewood, and ice for the coolers and hadn’t returned yet.
So I’m sitting in a small circle with the people we came with (me, Lilian, M, AJW, L, A, J) when the same guy, *****, approached me with two guys flanking him. He crouched down but not quite at my level, still standing over me and everyone at the bonfire (his friends) were all silent. “I’m not telling you how to parent, but your child really doesn’t belong here. We all came here to unwind and WE all left our children at home, asleep,” he said. I was kind of taken aback by not only what he said, but how he said it. He WAS telling me how to parent and was implying that I wasn’t doing a good job. And he wasn’t making issue of her crying or making noise (because I AGREE that it was annoying, and I would have understood), but rather her presence there at all! So I replied “are you asking me to leave?” And he said “Yes.” I was pretty surprised again, because this was a party our host, J, was throwing, and we were personally invited by him (Lilian included), but all I mumbled was “OK.” I’m not the confrontational type, and as wrong as I thought he was, I didn’t want to stay where I was unwelcome. I think he wasn’t expecting me to agree so easily, so he started in again on “your kid should be asleep… it’s inappropriate for you to bring her out…” and I gave him the hand, which I rarely do, and said “don’t say anymore.” If I was going to leave and “respect” his wishes, I certainly didn’t need a lecture on top of it. And so he snidely said “i’ve said all I need to say” and walked off with his entourage. The other friends of J that we were with begged us not to go and said we should stay, and when we refused, they all got up and left with us, so half the party walked out with us. We waited by the cars for J to come back with the ice/wood/beer and when he heard what happened, he got back in his car and we all left and went back to his house, he was furious and insulted at the situation as well. He refused to even walk down to the beach to say hello to anyone or drop off the supplies, we just all piled back in our cars and left without a word. Though later at his house, he had plenty of words about the situation (in my support). I feel lucky to have such loyal and compassionate friends.
Like I said, I wasn’t upset at the sentiment so much, as the implication. If he, one on one, pulled me aside and whispered to me something about my baby’s crying was upsetting/disturbing people and could I please try to quiet her, I’d have sat in my car until she fell asleep so my wife and friends could have enjoyed the night. I’d have understood gracefully. But he decided to make a spectacle of me, and a performance of his insult to me. He had everybody watch as he called me a bad parent and scolded me in a condescending way. He brought “back up” and he stood over me in an intimidating manner. He insulted and embarrassed me. And that’s what upset me. Not that he didn’t want my kid where he was hanging out, but that he thought he was a better parent than me, and that he thought it was his place to humiliate me, scold me, and demand my exit.
To be honest, from what I heard about his marriage, his child, and his family, I have opinions of my own, but they are irrelevant. To make me feel better, some of the mutual friends there told me not to pay attention to him, that he is a notoriously absentee/bad parent and an unfaithful husband/partner, and because of his bad reputation, I shouldn’t take anything he has to say to heart. I wouldn’t tell him how to treat his wife, marriage, or son, and I don’t expect anyone else to tell me the same. In the moment, he was an asshole, insensitive, and demeaning, and that doesn’t fly with me. Irrelevant of the fact that I don’t take parenting advice from crappy parents, I don’t deserve to be spoken that way by anyone at all! If he spoke with respect and compassion, he would have had my open ear, but I don’t appreciate or respect those who can’t show me the same.
If Lilian weren’t having a bad night, she’d have enjoyed herself. She loves music, and S’mores, and friends, and dogs (there was one there and one more to come). It was low key, safe, and chill, and I don’t regret bringing her, I just regret that she wasn’t in the mood and didn’t enjoy herself. I can’t predict the 5% of the time where she’ll be miserable, inconsolable, etc. Maybe she had teething pain, maybe she developed a stomach ache, maybe she was overstimulated or overtired. But it happens, and I’d expect another adult (let alone another parent) to understand and have compassion and respect when making his request. I’d imagine he might be upset if someone spoke to HIS wife and child the way he did us, and made a spectacle of her like he did me. So lesson is, even if you don’t like kids, don’t agree with my decisions, or anything like that, treat people with the respect you’d like to be treated with, and you’ll get a much better reception, and you won’t come off looking like such a DICK, because for the rest of the night, no one had any other opinion of him. I maintained my composure because I’m better than that, I have more respect for myself, my family, and my host to embarrass myself, but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t think he was wrong, or that I won’t be pissed off the next day. (And i demand a bonfire re-do, on a night with a happier child, and a friendlier crowd!)
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