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On her second day of kindergarten, my daughter asked me to walk her into school rather than going through the routine carpool line. In general the school asks parents to go through the carpool line, which conveniently has parents staying in their cars while teachers safely help kids out of the car, alleviating parents of the extra time needed to park and walk kids in. As a subsequent benefit, many parents find going through the carpool line helps with transitioning, especially for young kids who might still have a hard time saying goodbye to mom or dad. My daughter has never had a hard time transitioning, but I didn’t want to create a habit of me walking her in. So I declined and went through the carpool line.

But as a teacher was helping her out of a car, a friendly parent came up to my car window to say a quick hello. Distracted, I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to either of my kids. But because my daughter was in her first week of kindergarten, not giving her a proper goodbye nagged at me as a I drove out of the parking lot. So I did something I’ve never done before and never thought I’d do. I drove back into the school parking lot, parked, and went to find my daughter to give her a proper goodbye.

As I walked by a veteran teacher standing nearby, I heard her mutter to another parent that it was unhealthy for me to walk back in to say goodbye to my kid. Hearing this, I made a quick joke that she didn’t need to worry. I wasn’t one of “those parents.” That’s when she replied, “Looks like you are to me.”

I was embarassed that I was being graded on my ability to separate from my daughter on her second day of school by a person who wasn’t my child’s teacher. I hadn’t asked for her opinion, either.

I found my daughter and took what was probably all of 10 seconds to say goodbye to her, which disrupted nobody’s day. I mentally defended myself: I’ve never had a problem separating from either of my children, I thought to myself. And even if I had, it’s not that teacher’s business. Why should any parent have to defend trying to show kindness to a 5-year-old? What was the worst thing that could have happen, I love my child too much? It wasn’t her business. And, it wasn’t her place.

After saying my quick goodbye to my daughter, I walked back out past the same teacher. I smiled and said, “See, that was a perfectly healthy interaction,” thinking she’d apologize for commenting at all. Instead, she snidely said, “For whom?” That’s when my embarrassment shifted to be being enraged.

As I walked back out to my car, my blood was boiling. My mind raced, thinking that the teacher who made those comments probably doesn’t even know my name, or my children’s. She’s never had my kids in her class and never had a conversation with me. And while she’s a veteran teacher who is well respected in her profession, she had no business commenting on my parenting, children, or relationship to my children. Her comments were out of line and disrespectful

By the time I got back to my car, I was so angry I thought my head was going to spin off. I decided to turn back around, march back over to that judgey teacher, and give her a piece of my mind. I even considered going to the head of our school and ask for an apology from the teacher in question.

I walked back into school and thought about what I wanted to say. I had a right as a parent to speak my mind. I had a right to be treated better and not to be judged by a teacher, or anyone else for that matter.

But by the time I got within speaking distance of the judgey teacher, I changed my mind. While I felt completely correct in my outrage and well within my rights as a parent to speak up, I realized I didn’t really need to. Truth be told, I didn’t need that teacher’s validation or apology anymore than I needed her unwanted advice and judgment. And, I didn’t need to give her a piece of my mind.

As parents, we’re regularly subject to the scrutiny and judgment of strangers who haven’t walked in our shoes. There is always going to be another judgey stranger. And while I would appreciate teachers at my children’s school be respectful and polite, I’m not naïve enough to think that’s always the case. So while I would never want that teacher as one of my kid’s teachers, I also don’t need to give her words any more value than they deserve, which is none.

In the same way I teach my kids to let words fall of their backs, I decided to the same in this case. I decided to do and say nothing. I know myself and I know my kids better than anyone else in the world. I’m comfortable with my parenting choices and don’t need to defend those choices to anyone, including a judgmental teacher who thinks the entire world is her classroom. But if she does it again, then we’re going to have to have a talk.

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Photo: Getty