School had just started. It was a miserably hot August morning, and the wire gates that lead into the kindergarten playground had yet to be opened. So there I was, me and 250+ parents and children, herded into this tiny line, annoyed at this ridiculous drop-off procedure, when I had my first very public mom shaming.
“WHOSE CHILD IS THIS?!”
Everyone turns. Of course they do. All were relieved to see that it was, in fact, not their child. I was not, as I immediately found out that nasty vitriol was directed at me. About 10 feet away, my youngest escape artist had managed to bounce around in his bike trailer so much he knocked my bike over. This, apparently, was akin to child abuse. One woman picked up my bike with the same over-exaggeration as a World Cup soccer player faking an injury while the initial screamer continued her very public interrogation.
“Did you realize you left your child in here?!” Um, obviously I did.
“He’s fine,” I reply as I try to wrangle him out of the trailer he is once again bouncing in.
“Well, you left him in the sun!”
“He has a shade in the trailer.” I’m starting to get pissed. You know that feeling, when you get hot and your heart rate picks up? On top of that, the doors to the kindergarten entrance have opened and the mass of humanity has started pushing through like cows rushing to the feedlot. My kindergartner, still new to the procedure, was now calling out to me as the tide of people pushed him inside the gate.
“It’s OK honey, go put your bike away!” My youngest is trying to run away from me, straight into oncoming traffic.
“You should really watch your kids better. You can pick up your toddler, you know.” Dear readers, it takes everything in me, absolutely every ounce of self-restraint, not to unleash a string of phrases that would have made Richard Pryor blush.
“I can handle my children, thanks,” I respond curtly as I rush to catch up to my kindergartner and hold onto my squirming toddler. The perfect mother looks smugly at me as she walks in to say goodbye to her 9 or 10 year old and sauntered off, feeling superior and winner of the Best Mom Award.
That episode has really stuck with me (obviously, as I’m writing about 6 months later). What was the point of her public bitchfest? What did it serve? And after thinking about it for a while, for this woman, it served as another victory in the endless war that we call The Mommy Wars.
It starts in pregnancy. Did you need nausea medication? Did you eat or drink anything not on the strict OK for Preggos list? Then you give birth. Did you birth with the dolphins in Fiji while listening to Yanni? Perfect. Anything less than that is weak, and Lord forgive you if you get an epidural, get induced, or get “coerced” into a C-section (because don’t you know, doctors force C-sections on patients so they can go back to their golf games). And then there’s the breast-feeding vs. formula, co-sleep vs. crib, stroller vs. baby-wearing, the list literally never ends. There is no time in a child’s life that you are not being judged on your success as a mother. Is your child talking enough? Is your two year old potty-trained? Well you know if you had clothed diaper, or better yet used elimination communication he would be.
Alas, I do it to. After all, I don’t want to lose every battle. So I judge, and it took my own mother calling me out to realize I better knock it off.
“Lauren, let me tell you something you only learn after raising children into adulthood. Don’t brag about your kids and don’t judge your friends as trust me, karma is a bitch and it will absolutely bite you in the ass times 10.” Life-changing advice, as always.
So after that moment, I decided I was done. I hung up my gloves. Instead of focusing on your kids, I’m going to focus on mine. In the end, no one wins when we continually berate each other for choices and decisions different from ours. Is that other child abused? No? Then leave it alone. Or better yet, lend a helping hand. How much easier would this situation been had that woman decided to help me when I was obviously instead of belittle?
After all readers, let’s be honest. None of us know what the hell we are doing. We’re winging this thing called parenting and hoping we don’t irrevocably screw up our kids in the end. And if we do, well, that’s why there’s therapy.