Sunday, March 28, 2010

I was wrong, but...

I'm an overly cautious mom. I worry all the time. I worry more than I have to. I have OCD when it comes to keeping my children's things clean and organized, bottles washed, soothers disinfected. Seat belts are always worn in the car, water is always within reach, Purell in every purse.

My children eat healthy - even if they eat chocolate almost everyday. They have rules, but not too many. I have a hard time saying no. I have a hard time with discipline. However, my children are happy, smiling all the time. And they are very smart. I love to teach my children, play with my children, read to them, and treat them with respect. I'm a good mom with good intentions, and I always put my children first - always. Especially their health, well-being and safety. Ask anyone who knows me - I'm the mom people tell to relax... everything will be okay.

Today, driving home with my two year old, he asked to take off his seat belt in his car seat. I never do this - but we were literally a street away from home, in a quiet residential neighbourhood, on a Sunday afternoon. I agreed. Not the smartest thing to do, but come on - we were literally a street away from home - and I was driving super slow. I reached over, and took off his seat-belt. He climbed out of his seat, and stood up, holding onto the head-rest in front of him. I noticed a red truck, driving closely behind me, but I didn't pay much attention to it.

We got home a few seconds later. I got out of the car and turned around to get my child from the back seat, and literally almost bumped into a complete stranger. A strange man, about 6 feet tall, in a track suit, appeared out of nowhere - and he was standing right in front of me, on my laneway.

"Were you driving with your child out of his car seat?" he asked me, abruptly.

"Uh... yes, I was. We were a street away from home, and .... " I started to answer, but he cut me off, saying:

"It doesn't matter - he shouldn't be out of his car seat."

"Yes, I realize that, but we were so close to home, literally seconds away from home, and... " I continued, but again, was cut off:

"That's not allowed, it doesn't matter how close to home you were!" He said, with anger in his voice.

"Okay, yes, I know it's bad, but really? What business is this of yours?" I asked. (At this point, I was totally pissed off and at the same time, totally weirded out by this man talking to me.)

"You should have co-operated with me. I'm an officer, and I'm going to file a report," he said, as he took off, getting back into his red truck, speeding away down my quiet street.

I was in shock. First of all, who was this creepy strange man, and why did he follow me to my home? If he was an officer like he claimed to be, why didn't he identify himself as one when he first started barking at me? And cooperating? About what? I was completely civil with this creepy stranger who now knows where I live.

I talked to my sister's husband about this, who is a police officer. He said this man absolutely had to indentify himself as an officer FIRST - if he was one. That, my friends, is also the law. Chances are - this was just some creep having a bad day - not really an officer after all. How creepy.

If this man was an officer, he really approached this situation the wrong way. Of course, I admit I was wrong to take off my son's seat belt, but some strange dude does not really have the right to talk to me like that. If I was smart, I would have taken down his license plate number, but I was alone, outside, with my baby. Hard to think straight when you're in a situation like that, with a creep standing close to you blasting you for a parenting mistake you made.

How would you have handled this situation?

42 comments:

Jill said...

You'll be hard pressed to find ANYONE using a seatbelt or better yet, a car seat here in India... families pile 6 - 8 people in a car, with kids sitting on kids laps in the front seat. Sometimes standing. Mostly standing. The same happened when we lived in Israel, and in Oman.

So, from my point of view, (albeit far more laid back than most...) not wearing a car seat for a block or two from your house is fine... and for fear of having my mother card in the US revoked, I'll leave it at that...

But that guy... creepy. That gave me more of the chills than your 2 y/o having fun for a few minutes standing up in the car. A lot more. I hope you got his license... or at least the make/model of his car so you can report him. Because I'd completely make sure of that. And tell your neighbors.

Sandy @sandyel said...

I think I may have handled it the same way. Who knows? Maybe he did the same thing once and it ended badly? Bad things can happen whether we are close to home or not. I think he was just concerned, even though he seemed a bit creepy. I wonder if he really is a police officer?

Kisha said...

I completely agree with his point of view but he handled it wrong and was a bit out of line. If he was truly an officer, he needed to identify himself clearly and get your information. Because he did not do that, I doubt he was truly a law enforcement official. He may have just been concerned about the safety of your son and it caused him to overreact.

Anonymous said...

I think I probably would have just agreed in shame. At the end of the day he is right. Children should be in a car seat at all times for their safety and ours. I have to keep my son in his car seat even when I'm just cleaning out the car because he likes to push buttons, climb in the front seats, and open doors.

He could have handled that differently but people are very passionate when it comes to kids for many different reasons. Blame it on that:-) His child could have been seriously injured because of not being properly restrained.

Sixty Second Parent said...

I'm with Sandy:

"Maybe he did the same thing once and it ended badly? Bad things can happen whether we are close to home or not".
Maybe a background to his behavior. I think he made up the bit about the Police Officer, because he would have thought you wouldn't have listened if he was a regular guy. I don't think you did anything terribly wrong - but I do remember statistics that most accidents happen close to home.

CalgaryDaddy said...

What a clown that guy was. Creepy is right.

Stone Fox said...

i have zero tolerance or patience for people who assume the right to tell me how to parent. i would have probably been very rude to him, actually, and given him a real piece of my mind.

next time someone claims to be an officer, ask them for a badge number, get back in your car, get your cell phone out, and call 911. it's totally illegal to impersonate a police officer, and cops don't take kindly to that. a real officer WILL identify him/herself and will NOT be upset if you call to verify, especially if you are by yourself.

Nikosmommy said...

Wow, something that seemed harmless enough became something totally more!
It was definitely a situation that would have taken me off guard. I would have been stunned and then defensive...but the defensiveness would take a second to kick in. (Almost after the fact!)
I suppose I would have demanded to know what exactly he was 'reporting' and to whom? Based on what proof and with what witnesses? IF he was indeed a cop, he's a TERRIBLE one on a lame authority trip with likely NO intention of reporting anything.
I cannot stand situations like that,,,they bug you forever!!
(I also agree with Kisha's comment...he may have overreacted out of concern...)

blueviolet said...

That guy was creepy, but I'm gonna chalk it up to concern. Creepy concern, but concern.

Neena said...

truthfully I would have never taken my kid out of the carseat in the first place - I can see why you're angry, but the man had a point. It's never safe - even for a second.

Lynn said...

Something very similar happened to me once -- someone in a car behind me followed me home to tell me that I'd been driving dangerously and that it was inappropriate with kids in the car (he thought I was weaving around too much on the road). I was so terrified to think that some crazy stranger now knew where I lived. I just kept nodding and nodding as he was ranting and hustled the kids into the house as fast as I could, and shut the door in his face. SCARY.

Luckily we have never seen him again. I like to think that he was just as embarrassed by his outburst as I was terrified.

I agree with your brother in law, he is unlikely to be a real cop -- he probably was just trying to scare you into agreeing with him. What a bully! I feel for you.

Kelly said...

This really is creepy... for all you know this stranger might be a burglar or something... It's just good that nothing bad happened.

I really doubt if he is a real office, because if he is, then he himself violated things here and there.

Stay safe :>

Maria @BOREDmommy said...

I agree with Neena, sorry Loukia, but the kids stay in the carseat whenever the car is moving, no exception. They have never asked me to get out of the carseat either, because they know its not an option.
Regarding the guy, clearly he wasn't a cop, and was just trying to justify approaching you like that. Personally, I would have told him to get the hell off my property or I would call the cops on him. If he was a normal dude, concerned about your child's safety, then he would have sat in his car, followed you, and maybe said something (from the street) once you got out of the car.

jadedperspective said...

First of all, YES he should have identified himself FIRST. So my gut makes me think he is a disgruntled retired officer, or hell, maybe someone close to him died in a car accident and he is a little off his rocker. Here in the U.S. they say most fatal car accidents happen within 5 miles form your home.
BUT you know you shouldn't have, and it's YOUR choice. I understand where you are coming from. You know your neighborhood and area, I don't so I can't really judge that part.
The guy though? C-R-E-E-P-Y! Keep a look out for that truck.

Denise Nielsen said...

Sorry but the creepiness of someone (NOT a police officer) following you and giving you a talk down outside your house FAR FAR outweighs the fact that your child was out of his seatbelt for a nanosecond.

threeaussies said...

If it felt creepy, it was creepy - no questions asked.

It sounds like it felt like intimidation vs concern. And intimidation is about power, isn't it?

I would not want to see that person, again, and would react accordingly if I saw that vehicle in front of my house.

T Rex Mom said...

Yesh! That would have freaked me out! We are at the stage where I cannot unbuckle my kids from their car seats so that's not an option for me. Guess I'll remember not to even consider it. Let us know if anything further transpires.

Shannon said...

While he does sound like a strange guy, good for him for talking to you about it even if it was in the wrong manner/tone. Maybe he has a history of losing a child, a car accident, etc. You never know. He might have felt the need to educate you.

I have zero tolerance for kids no wearing seatbelts and have called the police before on people, stating the car and license plate number. I'm not doing it to be mean, it's to protect the kids who aren't being protected by their parents.

I hope you change your mind on this for the future. If you say no to them, is it a big deal? Boo hoo, mommy doesn't care about me? Quite the opposite. It's obvious you love your kids so do what's best for them. You're their mother not their friend.

Nenette AM said...

My kids are almost paranoid about being belted in their seats when the car is moving. No matter how slow.
So, that situation never comes up.

Did he even show you his badge? Any ID? I believe he's totally in the wrong for not confirming his identity.

If he actually is an officer, that is. It's quite possible he pulled out the "I'm an officer" because you weren't agreeing with him, and he wanted to win an argument and put some fear in you for not bowing to his 'wisdom'.
Who knows.

Rebecca said...

You know I love you but I have to say - I know you already know it's wrong to have unbuckled. Here's the thing - close to home, slow speeds, etc etc. you would never forgive yourself if something really did happen in that nanosecond. Don't give yourself a 'what if'.

the guy was pretty bold to get out at your own home and talk to you, but maybe that was his point - to be bold and scare you? I'm surprised he didn't just follow you and see that you arrived safely.

I too however would be creeped out and scared - confrontation wasn't what you were expecting!

You are brave to be so honest and share.

ModernMom said...

OH my gosh I think I would have reacted the same way you did! I was weired out just reading your post. I doubt very much he was a police officer, just a guy with a strong opinion. Maybe he should have just blogged about it:)

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

I agree with the others, whether he was concerned or not, he is a large male who is coming up to a woman with small children on her property. He needs to identify himself and show some respect.

Mom2Miles said...

Oh, man, that IS creepy. I probably would've just ignored him and gone straight home. Something similar happened to me when I left my 2 y.o. in the car while I ran to return some library books. It was at the height of his fighting the carseat stage and I couldn't bear to wrestle him in & out one more time. So I left him all of maybe 4 min. -- with the window open -- & this lady outside on a smoke break told me she could have me arrested. Ok, FINE, maybe these people have good intentions, but come ON.

SueMac said...

Yes, the guy was creepy. I agree on that statement. However, 20 years ago, my cousin begged his parents for a soft top Jeep. He promised to always wear his seat belt. They gave in and bought it for him. One afternoon, he took a friend home who lived RIGHT DOWN THE STREET... 6 houses from his. When he got back in the Jeep, he didn't put his seat belt on for the 6 house ride home. It was a bright, sun-shiny day, he wasn't driving fast. Something happened and he got thrown from the car and died, right there.... two houses away from his house. I think that should concern you more than some man, although went about it wrong, creeping you out.

threeaussies said...

me, again. You obviously get buckling & safety and you're probably harder on yourself than anyone else would or could be. So, don't guilt out about it. You sound like a fabulous Mom! Move forward.
My Dad made me promise I would never pick up a hitchhiker & never leave my son alone in the car, for even one minute. He made it so easy - I had promised so it was black & white. (Maybe promise yourself?)

Capital Mom said...

I confronted someone (a large male) in the grocery store once because he had been texting while driving through the parking lot and came close to hitting us and the stroller.

I don't know what I would have done if I had seen you. Maybe I would have followed you home too.

CaraBee said...

We sometimes let our daughter ride in the front seat when we're moving the cars around the driveway, but I would never, never, never leave her unstrapped on the road. That's just me, though. I somehow survived to adulthood and I don't think they even had childseats when I was a kid, so I might be overprotective.

But I would never in a million years follow someone and tell them to strap their kid in. That's just weird. And that guy was definitely creepy.

Lainey-Paney said...

Maybe he's had a past experience that makes him feel passionately about the issue.

I've BLOWN MY TOP, yelled, screamed & cried when I've found kids unattended in cars. It's only because I've FELT that kind of loss that I found myself in a situation where I could not contain my anger & frustration with others.
Sure---I have no right to tell them how to parent. I get that.
But, the reality is: kids die when left alone in cars; kids get kidnapped; cars get stolen with kids in them; kids get out-wander off, and get run over; kids jack around with cars & can put them in gear injuring themselves & others.
It's something I feel passionately about, that they are fully thinking through in that moment that they decide to leave their child in the car so that they can just dash into the grocery store for one thing.

So---maybe he's had something happen in his past that he has an emotional tie to.

At the end of the day----did he make you THINK twice about the parenting decision? Yes. He did.
Was it the best thing to do? No, but does it make you a horrible person or horrible mom? No. Could something have happened in that one block---yes. I suppose technically it could have.

On the flip side: maybe he once got a ticket for letting his kid do the same thing & he's just a bitter old meanie.

Regardless: it doesn't make you a bad mom.

Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

Oh, girl - you SO don't live in Switzerland. people do stuff like that here ALL the time. Except pretending to be an officer, that is.

I would have just said "Yes, I should have, but we were a black away so I gave in. I shouldn't have. Thank you for your concern." and walked away.

I hate people who preach and don't mind their business, but if I'm wrong I have to keep my temper in check.

Pres. Kathy said...

I think I would have totally freaked out, especially being alone with my little guy. I would have tried to get in the house ASAP. I remember when my little guy was born my mom asked me how I was going to hold him in the car. I told her that he has to be in a car seat. She then told me that she carried me in her arms in the car. I think we have to be safe with our kids. As far as the creepy guy, I don't think that he was an officer. He would have to identify himself as one right away. Sometimes people have to mind their own business or if they feel compelled to say somethind, they should at least be nice.

ShannonL said...

Hmm, I was once driving behind a family whose two kids were jumping around in the backseat without seatbelts. At the stoplight I was pointing and mouthing "seatbelts!" when the kids looked at me. I was so upset about it. They ended up turning left and I was going straight. I thought about it a lot and wished I would have followed them to give them a piece of my mind!

I'm sure the guy was intimidating, but I don't agree with a couple of the comments that it was your decision... it's the law. And it's your duty to protect your kid. Sorry, I know that you obviously know it was a big mistake. But I say bravo to the guy for stopping. Pretty lame if he lied about being a cop, though.

Nicole Flemister said...

That man was a creep! I read your blog often so I guess I’m a lurker but this appalled me and I had to say something. From what I have read you are a wonderful mother and that freak had no right to tell you what you should do with your children. My only advise is to be very aware of your surroundings so as to not be put in a situation where a freak like him can approach you alone again.

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said...

Really? Weird. He obviously was trying to scare you by saying he was going to file a report. I don't think he was an officer at all.

If it were me, I would have been equally freaked out, but I probably would have memorized his license number and ran in to write it down. I do stuff like that. (I'm also the person who calls in aggressive drivers.) However, I have to admit that I never would have allowed my child to unbuckle his belt. I just know my boy too well -- he would start wanting to do it every time we were in the car.

Anyway...glad you're both okay! I bet that guy had good intentions, even if he was creepy about it. Still, I'd keep my eye out for that red truck around your house in the future!

Anonymous said...

I'm a little surprised by any of the people commenting here in support of this guy (i.e. that even though he might have been creepy, that he had a point in stopping to talk to you).

He Was A Creep. Period.

You only have to ask yourself, if you were concerned for the safety of another person's child, would you approach him/her the way this guy approached you? Would you sound threatening and then pretend to be a cop and say you're going to file a report? No. Sounds like he has a screw loose and probably looks for any chance to jump on ANYONE who is doing something remotely unacceptable.

You know, I am a person who strongly believes in safety, and rules likes "keep them buckled in until you've come to a complete stop", but on the other hand, how many times do bad things happen to kids even when you've done everything right? And whether we admit it or not, we ALL make judgement calls about our kids' safety, like you made today. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't.

Truthfully...what I really want to say out loud sometimes is that we've become such a risk averse society that we're all driving ourselves bonkers about every little single thing we do.

Breathe in, breathe out. You're fine. And a great mother.

Sharon said...

Loukia - I love you to death so I'm sharing this with you with love in my heart. Our head on collision with a drunk driver that sent all four of us to the hospital - put my husband and I in therapy in for months - and were only saved from worse injuries because we were all strapped in. That accident happened about 45 seconds away from our home - on a Sunday afternoon in front of a park where children were playing. Mother's Day no less. The creepy guy aside - you NEVER take their seatbelts off. NEVER. There is no good time to allow your children to make decisions about their safety.

Eve said...

I think you handled that better than I ever would. I would have gone beet red, flustered and not able to complete a full sentance while I held back tears of shock.

Like most said I think IF he was a police officer he was right in what he was saying (we all know that, you know that, BUT ... come on... one block?) but handled it totally wrong. I doubt he was an officer at all. Maybe a wanna be vigilante?

McMommy said...

I am not judging you at all. However, when I was around 12 years old, my mom was driving me and my sister to the store and we got into a horrendous car accident in our neighborhood literally ONE BLOCK from our front door. The lady driving the other car blew right throught the stop sign. It was horrible. So please, just remember that story! We also lived in a quiet residential neighborhood but that didn't mean anything or stop us from getting hurt.

As for the guy, I think he was just trying to scare you. But I agree that is creepy. I would have been extremely scared if some random guy followed me home and came up to me in my driveway like that.

Lady Mama said...

I certainly don't think it's the end of the world - okay, it wasn't the best decision, but hey, I've made a bunch of crappy decisions in my time. You live and learn. In the end, you are a really great mom to your boys and would never do anything to intentionally put them at risk. And yes, that guy sounds like a creep and definitely not a real officer but someone attempting to back up his anger with authority.

angie said...

Thanks to Diary of a New Mom for leading me here. I've read all the comments, and I really appreciated the perspective of "Anonymous."

Laurie said...

Wow, that guy definitely was out of line! I hope that other commenters are guessing right and he was reacting out of concern but he handled it poorly. I can't stand to see children not properly buckled but I think following someone home to lecture them is inappropriate.

Lola said...

Odd and a bit creepy but seeing your boy out of the car seat might have hit home with him but it's not okay to approach you like that.
Please remember though, most accidents do happen close to home AND there should be some rules that are not negotiable-seatbelts and helmets-both save lives and hopefully, when you aren't around them as they get older, they will just do it because you enforced it throughout their childhood. Thanks for your honest post!

Anonymous said...

Pretty much the only thing I am bothered by here is that he may have lied about being a police officer. Otherwise, good for him.
Not only is it the law to keep a young child buckled in, it could save his/her life. Ditto the others who said it only takes a second and that it doesn't matter how close you are to home. I hope you will think about this in the future.

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