Photo: Sheila Qualls

When my son was little, a stranger yelled at him in a movie theater. Since that time, I’ve seen other adults yell at kids who obviously are not their own. It’s been some time, but people are crazy today. In case that lady’s still screaming at strangers’ kids, I thought I’d write a letter to her and to anyone else who’s tempted to yell at someone else’s child.

Lady,

If your life is anything like mine, I’ll bet you were looking forward to a couple of peaceful hours in a movie theater instead of at home with your kids bouncing off the walls.

I get it. Kids can be annoying. So when you got to the theater and got everyone situated–after solving disputes over Milk Duds or Skittles–the last thing you wanted to deal with was some kid sitting behind you–bouncing up and down in his seat–kicking your chair.

I understand. Taking out a small loan to watch a cartoon and eat popcorn is not my idea of a high time either.

But you weren’t there for you. And I wasn’t there for me. We were there for our kids.

And my son was so excited about seeing that movie. From the moment I told him we were going to the theater that morning, he scarcely talked about anything else.

By the time I sat down, I was so exhausted I didn’t even argue when my kids asked if they could sit in the row in front of me and pretend like they were at the movies by themselves.

I’d just snuggled up with my popcorn when you turned around and screamed at my kid. They hadn’t even dimmed the lights yet. “Stop kicking my seat!”

I know you understand kids. Because I know you have kids. A least three of your children were sitting in the row beside you with their mouths gaped open as you yelled at my kid like he was their brother.

I was surprised. First, by the harshness of your tone. And second because you didn’t even look to see if he was with an adult.

What happened next was pure reflex. And, I don’t mind if I frightened you a bit when I stood up and straddled the seats in the row in front of me like a lumberjack, stepping over the row so I could squat down right behind you.

The crazed-eyed look on my face–which was totally involuntary–begged the question, “Have you lost your mind? You just screamed at my kid.” But what came out of my mouth was much nicer.

You see, I saw the excitement drain from my son’s face, and I didn’t want to make a bigger scene.

I leaned over and whispered to you that the little boy sitting behind you–kicking your seat—belongs to me. And, if you have a problem with him, I’m in the row behind him, and you need to take it up with me.

Like most parents would do in lieu of yelling at a kid they don’t know.

My son is excitable. He’s a little boy. He annoys the heck out of me sometimes.

He jumps up and down while he watches TV, talks incessantly, constantly touches stuff, and sometimes –when his feet can’t reach the ground when he’s sitting in a chair—he’ll involuntarily flail his legs out in front of him.

And if something’s in front of him, like your chair, he’s going to kick it. Not to annoy you. Not because he’s being a brat. Because that’s just what kids do.

But Mean Lady, here’s the thing. I love him. And no one yells at him except me.

You laughed nervously. You apologized. You even turned around and apologized to him, too. I told him to stop fidgeting. I climbed back over the seats in lumberjack fashion and sat down.

You waited for me by the exit after the movie and explained that you really, really are a nice person.

I find when someone has to tell me what a nice person they are, they usually aren’t. And really nice people usually don’t yell at other people’s kids.

But whatever.

I want to give you some advice in case you ever need to correct someone else’s kid again.

We’re all in this parenting gig together. All our kids do things we wish they wouldn’t. They annoy other people. Heck, they annoy us. But most parents will correct their kid if they know there’s a problem. We’ve all been there.

So next time a little kid is bugging you, look around for his parent.

If you can’t find one and decide to speak to the kid, try not to use “a tone.’ And don’t raise your voice.

If you need help, the management probably has a policy to deal with stuff  like that. Just sayin’.

Some people might get ugly if you scream at their kid.

You might not be so lucky the next time. They might get in your face and yell back or worse.

But, I realized you’re just a frazzled mom, like me, and you had a lapse in judgment. So, I didn’t get in your face. I didn’t yell back. Because despite climbing over the theater seats like a scary momma bear, I really am a nice person.

Jon’s Mom

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