Parenting conflict: How wrong was I?

Ok, to set the stage:

I’m married and have a three year old son. My son is good friends with a four year old boy, and his mom and my wife are good friends. The four year old also has a two year old brother. It was my wife’s birthday over the weekend, and she wanted to have a bowling party with a group of our friends. I rented out a couple of lanes for a few hours so everyone could just bowl as much as they want and not have to worry about paying for shoes or the games. My son and the two other boys were the only children at the party, everyone else was adult friends.

It started off fine, the boys all played together, and everyone was bowling. The four year old decided he wanted to bowl, and we added him to the list. When it was his turn, he stood and looked at his dad, who decided to bowl instead of helping him out. I took him up and showed him how to bowl, and he got a big kick out of it. Ok, no big deal, but it did bother me a bit.

Later on in the party, I noticed the father was just gone…no where to be found. We took him off the bowlers list and kept going. However, the mother is now chasing after both of her boys, and the two year old keeps escaping. The four year old stayed pretty close to my son, who was sticking close to us. Finally, after about fifteen minutes of both parents being gone, the mother comes up with the two year old. Right after that, the father walks up and wonders why he can’t bowl anymore. Well.

I saw red. I’ve been busy watching his son to make sure he doesn’t get hurt in a bowling alley…not exactly a low risk spot. His kid isn’t my responsibility, but I’m not going to let him get hurt. So I said, loudly, “Hey, why don’t you come over and watch your kids instead of playing games in the arcade?” He started laughing me off, and I just asked “Why is it my job to make sure your son doesn’t get hurt?” Obviously, this cast a chill over the remaining few minutes of the bowling party.

Aftermath: They don’t come over for cake and stuff, and I’m told that it may cause issues with our kids playing. I don’t want to screw up a friendship for my son, and though I wish I hadn’t been public about it, I don’t think I was wrong with what I said. It’s one thing if you’re at a day care or the bounce house, but at a bowling alley I think it’s completely wreckless to not watch your kids.

So, how wrong was I? Or was I?

Yeah, I dunno, I’m conflicted here. I definitely understand the frustration of being with someone who isn’t properly supervising their kid. But I can also see how it could be possible for the guy to think it would be fine to go play a video game for a few minutes. Maybe the kids were being good and he cleared it with his wife.

My two year old used to just walk right along with me in the mall even when we weren’t holding hands. Then, one day, she decided to run everywhere and explore. I’m sure for about 10 minutes there I looked lke the worst parent in the world asmy kid ran everywhere, but I was just adjusting to her new mall-walking style. Same sorta thing could’ve been happening here.

But I’ve definitely lost my cool and yelled at friends before. Hopefully you can just hug it out–maybe send him some flowers :).

So, you had full responsibility of the kid for about fifteen minutes? That seems like a small thing to call friends of the family out, over, to me.

It goes without saying that the father was wrong to not watch his children at a bowling alley, and a dick for vanishing and then coming back to complain that he’s not on the bowling list anymore.

In terms of how you deal with it, calling him out publicly was not really the way to go. Not because he doesn’t deserve to be embarrassed, but because of the potential fallout for your wife and son.

This guy is not going to be asked to watch your son (or at least you could ensure that if you wanted to) so that’s not an issue. It’s just the fact that he’s ignoring his own son’s safety, which is not technically your problem, and is also not necessarily going away if you ask him to be more diligent. You’re more likely to get a “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.” if you mention that the child needs to be watched, then you’re still stuck being the watcher anyway.

I’d have kept my mouth shut, then bitched about it with my wife later on.

The kicker was clearly the “Right after that, the father walks up and wonders why he can’t bowl anymore” part. That’s the point at which I would have also lost my cool.

He’d already been a dick by disappearing for, what, close to half an hour, but he could have papered it over by sheepishly saying “that video game ran longer than I expected - my bad” and apologizing for leaving you with more of the burden of watching his kids than you’d anticipated.

Instead, he comes back, oblivious to all that, and immediately demonstrates that for him, it’s all about him. If you can see that sorta shit coming, you can prepare yourself to keep your cool, but I know when I’m blindsided by something like that, I tend to just react.

And this would have been the correct action to take. Calling people out for what you think is poor parenting is bad form. It’s only going to lead to hurt feelings, especially when it’s done publicly.

The situation described is hard to judge. It doesn’t seem like a monumental task for the mother to be responsible for 2 children for a brief period of time. The guy sneaking off and then wondering why he’s not bowling any more was uncool behavior from him. Do we know he was playing video games? Could he have been having some issues in the restroom or something? Basically, it sounds like every person in this scenario could have acted more appropriately.

You will spend quite a bit more time during your lifetime watching other people’s kids. Your kid will spend quite a bit of time in other people’s care. Take a pill.

So, you screwed up one of your child’s friendships, along with one of your wife’s friendships, all so you could have the satisfaction of publicly humiliating a guy over a minor inconvenience?

The other guy’s parenting skills aren’t necessarily the ones I’d be questioning right now.

So the guy was a dick, no need to make a big fuss. Just file it away and don’t let him be a dick to you again.

He probably decided he would ditch the kids with his wife for a while. I suspect at his house the mom takes care of all that stuff. The kids were more than the wife could handle in that environment, clearly, and you got some of the spill over. That is part of hanging out with other parents.

If you let minor annoyances like this turn you into the ass that you displayed in that public setting, your son will be facepalming around you for a long time.

You owe that family an apology for losing your temper. Sure the other parents were shirking their responsibility but it shouldn’t cause you to embarass your family like that.

So, not watching your kid while your played DDR, leaving it to everyone else to make sure your four year old doesn’t get hurt in a dangerous place? That’s a minor inconvenience?

Whatever. I worry constantly if I’m being a good parent. Didn’t know I could just blow it off and that’d be ok.

He didn’t do any of those things. He left his children with his wife. On top of that, you said that the 4yo was sticking close to you. Watching a child for 15 minutes while he sticks close to you is barely even an inconvenience.

It seems perfectly reasonable to think you can leave your two kids with their mother for 20 minutes.

That’s unnecessarily harsh. I understand why the OP lost his cool; I just don’t think it was wise.

I agree with the others who say that the guy was a dick, but you were wrong to call him out publicly (and to spell “reckless” with a W :)). I also don’t see bowling alleys as being that dangerous, especially if you have a group of adults there.

One of the wisest things I’ve read is “people don’t feel like they deserve your scorn.” Even if you are 100% in the right, your actions are probably not going to get him to think “Hey, I was wrong. I should change.” People just don’t work like that. All it usually does is make them angry.

If you don’t mind losing him as a friend that is fine. But if you want to keep him as a friend, your best bet is to learn from this experience how to structure your outings. You’ll need to make it explicit who is in charge of what kids during what periods. You may have to say out loud “Hey, why don’t you watch the kids during this half-hour period, and I watch them the next.”

To give an example, I had a friend who would compulsively eat large amounts of snack food every time he visited, during a period where snack food was a luxury for me. A bag of chips that was supposed to be my "treat’ for a week would be gone in ten minutes. I got angry at him, but of course he didn’t change…people are who they are. So I started a tradition of stopping by 7-11 before we’d hang out so we could buy our own individual snack food. Problem solved without anger.

I don’t think the OP is a bad parent, just that he didn’t do a good job in this situation.

I’m still confused how come a friggin’ bowling alley is being termed “a dangerous place” by the OP. Have bowling pins become equipped with spikes or something since the last time I went to one of those places?

Basically, his son became enamored with the ball return, and was busy trying to stick his hand down it to get the balls and they came back. Also, running in front of other bowlers in other lanes, getting behind people as they were bowling and almost getting hit by a ball. It’s not a death trap, but it’s not a kids play land either.

I just saw this part. I do believe you may have nailed it.

I think it is not a very good place for a small child to be running around underfoot. Nothing divides one lane from another, and there are people running and flinging heavy objects with the assumption that others will not interfere with their lane. If a kid ran in front of a lane right as someone was bowling - at best you’de have a severely alarmed and pissed off bowling patron, at worst a kid brained by a 16 lb bowling ball.

Is it dangerous for children of appropriate age and/or supervision to bowl: No.
Is is dangerous for a small child to be running willy nilly up the lanes: Yes.