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Stars and Stripes Scene, Sunday, January 3, 2010

Now that Santa Claus has come and gone, it is time to talk about "mommy claws." Rather than being a person, mommy claws are what suddenly appear whenever someone besides me yells at one of my children.

My mommy claws used to come out every time the boys and I ran errands on a military base.

Thankfully, this rarely happens now that they are older, probably because it is finally safe to leave one or two of them at home.

I’m writing this column to encourage people to mind their own business when it comes to reprimanding someone else’s kids.

Unless the child is about to hurt himself or others, you are doing the mom a big favor by keeping your mouth shut. She already knows her child is acting like a brat.

Even if her husband isn’t stationed far away from her and the kids, he probably puts in long hours for Uncle Sam. Why else would she be out in public with her demonic offspring?

Believe me, shopping with my little guys was never a thrill, but it was often a necessity while Ron was in Germany or Japan. Nowadays, he is usually just fishing.

Jimmy, Tommy and Ronnie have been reprimanded in commissaries from the sunny shores of California to central Pennsylvania. And every single time I have kept my cool, held in my rage and returned to whatever we were doing before someone decided to deliver a public scolding.

It has never been easy, and I always go home with the same question in my mind: "Am I really such a slacker of a mom that other people feel the need to take charge of my sons in public?"

The mommy claws don’t last nearly as long as that feeling of self-doubt and embarrassment.

I never want to put another parent in that position, which is why I do one of three things when someone else’s child is having a temper tantrum, reaching for a jar of pickles or simply misbehaving in public.

First, I do what most people do and pretend not to notice. If the mother is right there with her child, she is completely aware of how annoying his behavior is.

Second, if things are really getting out of hand, I look over and give a little smile to let her know that I have been in her position, times three. It is my way of lending some silent support to a suffering sister.

And finally, I will step in there and offer a helping hand if the situation is about to explode into a mess or injury.

If a toddler is on the brink of falling out of a grocery cart, I’m not going to wait for permission to grab him before he hits the floor.

And the same thing goes for the pickle jar. Before it tumbles to the floor, I will put myself between the jar and those pudgy little fingers.

It works much better than yelling at the child, which will probably result in a temper tantrum and a broken pickle jar.

Usually, however, the kindest thing you can do for a stressed-out mom is simply mind your own business and enjoy having the freedom to walk away from that screaming little brat.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 19 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com

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