Outlaw Mama’s Assertiveness Training: Get Off Your Cell Phone, Please

She was talking so loudly on her cell phone that I couldn’t hear what Sadie’s art teacher was saying. None of the kids could hear either, because they were all craning their necks away from the teacher at the front of the room trying to see why Ari’s nanny was talking so loudly in the middle of the lesson.

I scanned the faces of the eight other moms and nannies who were standing protectively by their budding Picassos.  I wondered if any of them were as annoyed as I was that Ari’s nanny was so rudely interrupting class.  I couldn’t catch anyone’s eye, so I silently hoped that she would wrap up her terribly important conversation so the rest of us could get our money’s worth for this not-cheap class at our neighborhood art studio.

Her conversation continued.

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

After a few minutes, I met eyes with Tessa, the jubilant and always-smiling nanny to sweet Zoe. Tessa rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “this sucks but I can’t do anything about it.” Damn, I thought, Tessa wasn’t going to step up and ask her to be quiet.   I looked at the two moms nearest me and Sadie.  Both of them were bobbing maniacally in an effort to lull to sleep the little babies they were wearing in Bjorns so that their older children could enjoy art class.  Sh*t.  More dead ends.  Those mothers, bridled with toddlers and newborn babies, didn’t give a potter’s ass what the nanny in the corner was doing.  They literally had their hands full.

It was clear that the teacher, a substitute, was too timid to speak to Ari’s nanny.  She had pasted on her face a jocular grin and ignored the disruption.

I tried to ignore her too, but my happy place was all booked for the season.  I wanted her to shut up and respect the children and the teacher.  This was not her personal phone booth.

But, when Sadie looked up at me and appeared to be frustrated that she couldn’t hear the teacher, something made me give her a look that communicated, “I’ve got this, kiddo.”

I hesitated for one more second. I was still hoping one of the other adults would decide to step up.  (Most days, I can’t believe I am actually the parent and that little people depend on me.)  Nobody moved. If I wanted to enjoy this class, it was clearly up to me.

I walked over to the bench where Phonebooth Nanny was huddled over her cell phone. We made eye contact, and I did my best stage whisper: “The children can’t hear the teacher.” She nodded her head vigorously and snapped her phone shut instantly.  I turned back and gave my attention to the rest of the instructions for the art project.  My heart was beating so loudly I thought it was more disruptive than the stupid phone conversation.  No one seemed to notice, and the rest of the class went on like it does every Friday morning.

Except something was different.  Me.  I have never been that parent—the one who speaks up or makes so much as a ripple, much less a wave.  I always wait for someone else to speak up– like the woman in gymnastics class who mentioned to the teacher that the room was too hot.  Or the dad at cooking class who told the teacher that the mini-choppers were too sharp for the two year olds.

I took my turn this morning.   I think all parent/caregivers have to share the burden of speaking up or taking a stand.  Next time maybe Tessa will say something.  Or maybe those mothers with the newborns will get some sleep and have the wherewithal to speak up.  Or maybe it will be me again.

Have you ever had to be that parent?  Were you scared to speak up?  Did you feel victorious afterwards or did you feel like you hope you  never have to do that again?


17 thoughts on “Outlaw Mama’s Assertiveness Training: Get Off Your Cell Phone, Please

  1. I LOVE this, the whole time I was reading I was wondering if I would of had the courage to do what you did. Isn’t it so funny when our kids are involved we become so much stronger! My favorite part was your heart beating so fast…. mine would have too! YOU. ROCK. 🙂

    • Oh I am so glad I am not alone. I have always hoped someone else will speak up. I so didn’t want to do it. I wonder I’d next time will be easier???

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever been that parent, but I was certainly that commuter on the train (once) who asked somebody to lower his voice. Other commuters applauded, smiled, high-fived, voted me into the White House. Good stuff.

  3. I have never had to be that parent (yet) but now you have me wondering what it would take to get me to speak up. Clearly something harmful. Uncomfortable? Probably not. Distracting – I could see it happening. Kudos to you. Isn’t it amazing the way kids change your life?

  4. Way to go for saying something! For me, it was a few weeks shy of my son’s 3rd birthday when my normal, passive self morphed into someone I’d never had the pleasure of knowing. We were are the pumpkin patch where there were two bounce houses, one for age 4 and under and one for the big kids. This ass of a kid who looked totally not 4 was jumping around with his giant feet and the little kids couldn’t so much as stand up before he bounced again and they got knocked over. I looked around and, of course, there was no parent of this monster around. I stood there fuming as I watched my son holding on for dear life. Finally, I yelled asking if anyone knew whose kid that was. No takers. Then I yelled at the kid. Asked him how old he was. 8. Then I told him to leave and go to the big kid bounce house. As he was leaving, his mom ran up and glared at me. Right, because I’m the one with the problem. So, that was my moment.

    • Oh, the bounce house is going to be the scene of some more Outlaw Mama whoop ass. I am sure of it. It’s outrageous when those big kids screw the little ones in there. Makes my blood boil.

  5. We were in the Nordstrom kid’s shoes department and an Israeli woman told me that my kid shouldn’t be carrying an Elmo doll in public because it was too hard on the parents of kids that weren’t carrying Elmo dolls. I thought that was over the line (and wrong incorrect “parenting” advice – hello! I am jealous of other people’s stuff all day long), but I so wish I was from a culture where you could lay it out there without worrying about being a b%$^. I want to be the mommy you were at art class!

    • I agree with the Elmo-less mother. I dress my child in white shirts and tan pants because if she wears her Toy Story shirt, other kids might get upset because they have to wear government issue clothing. I also don’t feed her snacks when she’s hungry at the playground because other children might be hungry and their mothers didn’t bring snacks for them and that might cause a tantrum and I don’t want to be responsible for another kid’s tantrum. I also don’t give my child anything out of a sippy cup because the color of the sippy cup might make other children jealous, so I pour water into my hands and make her lap it up. I also punch other people sometimes. But that’s just me.

      • I am THIS CLOSE to moving on to punching people. Unfortunately, I may start with my kids and that won’t be pretty. I am pretty sure there are laws against it.

        Hilarious. Loving my funny mommy pals. We are going to make it through this with a smile.

    • Did this really happen? How outrageous. That’s a wee bit codependent to hold your kids back so other kids won’t feel lacking. Why should you pal around with your kids anyway…some kids don’t have moms. I am getting closer and closer to letting my inner bee-atch out, but it’s baby steps. I try not to think about the class implications of starting with a Romanian nanny. It makes me a little nervous. and more guilty.

  6. A few weeks ago my son’s swim instructor let him jump into the pool and dive onto a huge ball floating in the pool. Right by the metal edge of the pool. Twice. By the second time I was over to his class and telling my son that was way too dangerous and to cut it out right now. The teacher still didn’t see what the big deal was. So I emailed his boss (I didn’t have a phone number) and let her know what happened. Apparently they had a little talk about appropriate safety. While I chickened out a little (I didn’t search TOO hard for the phone number), my pre-kids self wouldn’t have said anything at all.

    • Oh email totally counts. Nothing makes me more insane than lack of safety around a pool. Good for you! It’s always a good move to go over the offender’s head. Bravo!

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