When I was in my early twenties, newly graduated from college, newly married, still childless, I remember watching an interaction between mother and son who may have been about three at the mall. He was wailing, holding onto her leg in a kraken-like death grip and she was using the “hushed and harsh” tones of a Mama who had had just about enough. She grabbed his arms quickly and snapped him up into her arms where she mimicked his python squeeze and talked forcefully directly into his face while he wriggled and verbally complained. Something about wanting a pretzel. And a soda. And a stuffed Nemo from the Disney Store. And I walked by in all of my twenty-four year old wisdom, my years of experience as a nanny which certainly qualifies me as a Star caretaker, my notebooks full of anecdotes and prescriptions from legalistic teachings about how to train up a child in the way they should go and I believe I nearly clucked my teeth out loud in disgust at that poor woman who struggled with her, dare I say it, “brat”. I felt pity for her for not participating in the active and ongoing life lesson called parenthood in the appropriate manner that I studied so much about.
I was such a self-righteous ass.
I stood across the aisle from that lady when I should have been standing beside her.
After having had that experience more times than I can count at various public places, I am now the woman young ladies roll their eyes at as they walk by. Pshhh. They could raise a baby in their sleep. How hard could it be to control yourself a little? Gah.
So, to that poor lady who absorbed all the brunt of my youthful ignorance, I just want to say, I’m sorry.
I didn’t know your kid decided to wake you up at 4 a.m. by sticking both of his thumbs in your cornea.
I didn’t know it took another half hour for him to resettle himself in your bed only to pee in it an hour later.
I didn’t know that you really struggled whether or not to wake him or just deal with the wet sheets as long as he’s quiet.
I didn’t know that you were out of milk that morning and he demanded it and you want to be a good and loving Mama so you dragged him out in his pj’s to get a carton of milk and to pick out a donut just for fun.
I didn’t know that he spent the entire ride home covering his pants with chocolate frosting or that later in the day it got warm and leaked out all over the medical paperwork you had piled up in the backseat.
I didn’t know that he hadn’t said anything that wasn’t a whine all day no matter what disciplinary tactic you used.
I didn’t know you resorted to taking him to the mall because if he said your name one more time in the confines of your house you were afraid the walls would cave in and swallow you whole and you would just die.
I didn’t know you hadn’t had time for a meal, or a shower, that you locked yourself in the bathroom twice already so you could cry or that no one even asked you how you were doing today.
I didn’t see the kisses you place on his brow each time he falls asleep, no matter how much of a brat he was.
Mamas struggle. Parenting is hard. We are all so quick to judge, to separate into factions. To point fingers, click teeth and hand out pamphlets on how things could be done better. Wouldn’t it be better if we just sat next to each other in solidarity?
The next time I see a meltdown Mama, I’m just going to buy her a latte and ask her to sit with me. She’ll be so exhausted, she’ll probably agree. We’ll watch her kid throw a fit together so she doesn’t have to go it alone and then we’ll pick up and move on with our day like it’s the most normal thing in the world to support another Mama doing the best she can. Because it is. Hopefully someday, we’ll act like it.