I Know You Have Good Intentions, but Please….Just Don’t.


Good intentions are never a replacement for respecting a parenting decisions. Remember, the five minutes you see are not a complete picture of what parents are teaching.

Last Sunday, Crispin, Claire and I went for a hike. It was a warm day, and everything was muddy—including us, when we returned. But we weren’t far from Savers and I wanted to do a little shopping before the semester started.

Because we had missed her nap time with our hike, Claire nearly fell asleep in the car by the time we got there. We debated what to do—Crispin offered to stay in the car with her so she could sleep, but in the end, we decided to all go in. Crispin predicted that she would get really excited about the toys inside, and then, due in part to her sleepiness, would have a meltdown when we had to leave them. I had to admit that it seemed like a spot-on prediction.

We took turns inside the store shopping and supervising Claire in the toy corner. When we were about to leave, she was pushing a plastic cart of some sort and had a few other things in her hands. We got pretty creative about trying to get her to abandon her treasures, telling her she could decide where she wanted to “park” her cart, etc. She kept trying to head out of the store with them, and we’d gently head her off. At one point, as she drove the cart back in the right direction, she saw a couple of lunchboxes and immediately fixated on them. I took the chance to return the cart and the other toys.

I have to point out here that Claire turned two last week. I’m sure you remember that age.

But now she had lunch boxes. We tried all sorts of cajoling, but finally realized we were simply going to have to rip off the proverbial band-aid. We knew it wouldn’t be pleasant—for her, us, or the other customers—but it had to be done. As we gently pried the lunchboxes out of her fingers and her sobs turned into wails, a woman entered the store and stopped near us, saying, “Oh, can’t she just have those?” In the middle of our extraction, I forced a laugh and a cheery, “No, but she’d certainly like to!”

We got the lunchboxes, and Crispin carried Claire out of the store, kicking and screaming. It’s the kind of moment parents dread, and the ones they wished weren’t public. I returned the lunchboxes to their place on the shelf, and as I was putting them back, the same woman came up and said, “Mom. I’d be happy to buy those for her. They can come from me, or from you—whichever way you’d like it. She could put all her little trinkets in there…”

I was friendly but firm. I explained that no, she couldn’t have them. It wasn’t about the lunchboxes, I said; it was about the fact that Claire needs to learn that she can’t get what she wants every time she goes into a store. I explained that it’s a life lesson for her, and one that will be hard at first, but even harder if we don’t set this boundary early. I half-joked that sometimes I have to be a “mean” mom. But the woman persisted and I had to excuse myself and leave the store.

Outside, Claire was still wailing in Crispin’s arms. I took her and distracted her with some snow. She quickly became happy playing in the snow, but then she didn’t want to leave. By this point, I knew she was just overtired. I tried to convince her to come back to the car, but after a while, I picked her up and carried her back. She again broke into sobs and squirmed and fussed as Crispin and I snapped her into her car seat. Again, not a proud parent moment, but probably a relatable one.

We had just gotten Claire secured when all of a sudden, the woman was next to me again. “Please, will you go back in and get her the lunchbox?” she pleaded, thrusting money toward me. At this point, it was everything I could do to still be civil. “No,” I said. “I’m sorry. I won’t.”  I kept trying to explain my reasons. The woman pushed on, “You see, my kids are all grown. I wish I had had more opportunities like this when they were young. Please, take this money.”

I was going to keep refusing when I had the sudden clarity that I wanted, or perhaps needed, to do whatever I could to get out of this situation immediately. I reached my hand out, took the money, thanked her, and got in the car. I will find a worthwhile cause for the money.

On one hand, I am appreciative of a mom trying to help out other parents. We were muddy and in shabby hiking clothes, and she may have thought that we couldn’t afford the lunch box. However, I had explained to her—firmly—that it was not about the cost of the lunchbox. It was the principle of the matter. And her refusal to accept my parenting felt insulting and offensive. I walked away from the encounter feeling very upset.

Offering help is one thing. It’s kind and appreciated. However, please remember that it is a parent’s prerogative to make parenting decisions. Using your “help” to try to influence those decisions is manipulative and not ok. If you want to help, always ask yourself, are you being supportive of parents, or are you trying to push your own agenda?

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Meghan Moran Wilson
Meghan moved to Flagstaff from Western New York in 2011 to pursue a PhD in Applied Linguistics. She met her now husband a couple years later and they bought an off-grid, water-catchment house in "the 40s" (about 35 minutes from town). She greatly enjoys teaching English and conducting research in linguistics at NAU. She also enjoys hiking, riding horses, exploring new places, reading historical fiction, hanging out with their four dogs, and, since January 2021, spending as much time as possible with their small fry, Claire Angelina.