I never imagined I'd be the sort of mum who'd make a scene in a toddler music class.
I certainly never imagined I'd be the sort who would scoop up her kid with one arm while using the other to jab her finger, scolding, in the face of a dumbfounded dad.
But there I was, as other parents and children danced to cheerful kiddie tunes, lecturing a man I didn't know about the need for parents to stick together, to stop criticising each other.
The dispute began when my son, a high-energy 2-year-old, knocked over another kid. My son tends to get too excited when he's in a big group. My husband and I are on high alert in music class - a raucous hour of singing, dancing and banging on drums. "We give a nice touch to our friends," we tell him. "Nice touch," he repeats, smiling and patting his friend like a puppy.
I'm proud to say we've made progress. So when we heard about this class - a whole-family activity we could do with our son and 4-year-old daughter - we didn't hesitate. We thought he was ready.
We may have been wrong. There were good days when he was sitting in the circle during the sit-down songs, dancing when we got up to move. But there were other days, like this one. My daughter happily snuggled in my arms, but her brother squirmed and tried to break free. Eventually, he took off running. Before I could fully stand, I heard another child's cry. I dashed towards my son - just as I heard a man's angry voice.
"You've got to get control of your kid!" he said.
He was with his wife and a shy little boy - a 2:1 parenting ratio that seemed a lot easier than my 1:2. His son was not the boy my child had just tackled, but this man felt compelled to speak.
Maybe he thought he was the only one with the courage to say what everyone was thinking, and I have no doubt other parents were indeed thinking the same. Heck, I was thinking the same. For months I've struggled to address behaviour that, by all accounts, is completely normal for 2-year-old boys.
But that's what made this dad's remark so galling. The parent who is sprinting after her child to intervene in a toddler skirmish is not someone who needs to be told to get control of her kid. The mother of the biter or the kicker or the hair-puller is working on a problem that hasn't been solved yet. The only solution is time and consistency. You see bad behaviour, you correct it, then you wait for that behaviour to wane.
But there will be days like this.
I know I shouldn't care what a stranger in a music class thinks about me or my sweet little boy. And I'm not proud of what happened next. I'm not proud of the way I shook my finger at him or raised my voice in anger.
"If you want to help, you're welcome to help but you should NEVER talk to another parent that way!" But here's the thing. Parenting is hard. None of us can do it alone. What if this man had intercepted my son before he tackled that other kid? What if another parent offered to dance with my daughter so I could focus on my son? We have rules about boundaries - for good reasons - but they force us to isolate ourselves, responsible only for our own kids.
There's got to be a better way. I'm not sure I'll show my face in music class again, but I hope that some of the parents heard what I tried to say. I hope the next time they see a child making trouble, they'll step forward and offer to help.