It's amazing how a little insensitive comment can become embedded in your brain forever. Why do so many mothers have the need to feel superior over other mothers? I just don't understand this! I honestly and humbly believe that each of us (myself included) is doing the best we can on any given day with our children. Some days are better than others. I know that I'm not perfect. But I think that besides football, parenting is another place where (just sometimes) Hail Mary passes work.
Shortly after moving to Illinois another mother offered John some Goldfish crackers when he was getting fussy in his stroller during a walk. I gratefully accepted while commenting that he had never had Goldfish before. After eating 2-3 he started gagging on one. A third mother smugly said, "I didn't think he'd be able to handle those. I never gave them to my daughters until they were much older and better at chewing than he is." Thanks!
I never thought that comment was necessary (clearly I figured out that my son hadn't mastered chewing well enough to eat Goldfish) and it hurt my pride. Here were a few ladies with young children who I was reaching out to befriend and my parenting skills were under siege and shot down. I've become friends with the woman as time has passed and she is much more laid back than my first interaction with her leads one to believe. But it never changes the fact that I often wonder if she is critiquing me behind my back.
So jump forward to today...I attended a Halloween parade at a nursing home with both boys. John, being shy, wanted to be carried through most of the parade and Nathan, being too little to walk, was carried the whole time. Towards the end of the parade one of the nurses at the home offered to carry Nathan so I could tend to John. I was extremely grateful for the offer and took her up on it immediately. Then I overheard another mom comment, "Why would you bother bringing two kids who don't want candy and don't want to walk through the halls to a Halloween parade? It's just silly to me."
I don't think this woman knows I overheard her and I didn't respond at the moment (and probably won't in the future although our paths will continue to cross). But for the sake of my sanity - let me respond here:
I brought my sons to the Halloween parade at Eden Village today because I wanted to make the nursing home residents smile. It wasn't about the candy. It wasn't about the costumes. Surprise! It wasn't (and still isn't) about me or my boys! I'm blessed with two wonderful boys who have parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and family who love them dearly. The nursing home is filled with people who rarely get a glimpse of a new baby. They don't get to see a toddler glow with excitement when someone waves to him. Some never have visitors and surely won't get to see a 4 month old Cookie Monster and 2 year old Shrek again any time soon. I came to the nursing home to spread some cheer and joy. It's as simple as that!
The group of trick-or-treaters went out to lunch together after the parade. I didn't have it in me. The boys and I headed to the grocery store. Nathan became inconsolable; John was fussy. After plenty of ear piercing screams by Nathan I sat down in the middle of an aisle and nursed him while fighting back my own tears. Clearly the mother at the nursing home was right - I couldn't handle both boys! John whined cause we had stopped. With that an older woman stopped, assisted John with the buckle on his seat belt, patted me on the shoulder and said, "We've all been there. Don't take it so hard." She walked on.
After Nathan finished nursing I put him back in his carseat to another round of deafening cries. About 2/3 of the way down the next aisle I picked him back up and attempted to steer the shopping cart/car combo with one hand. Another woman asked "Could I carry him for you for a few minutes? Then you'd have a free hand to shop with and could better steer the cart?" She followed me with Nathan in her arms to the dental floss and then to grab some hoagie rolls and a loaf of bread. I took Nathan back and we headed to the check out.
I left the nursing home with a bitter taste in my mouth. Why did this woman who I know and see on a regular basis need to put me down? I suspect it makes her feel just a little more put together and a tiny bit superior to me.
I left the grocery store exhausted and a little embarassed. Why did these two women who I've never met before stop to help an obviously distressed mother? My guess is that they were angels sent down from heaven to remind me that it's not what we do for ourselves, but what we do for others that make us who we are.
I'm not perfect. In fact, I know I'm pretty far away from it. That's why I'm counting on a Hail Mary pass.