“Is that your son?” she says to me with a look of disgust. I am jolted from my conversation with my friend Nina. A rare moment in the day where we were sitting. We took a moment to stop, while our little beauties played within the ‘Bob the Builder’ room at the children’s museum. We had been chasing and playing all day, trying to keep our toddlers busy. I am tired and hitting the 1 pm wall and Nina is really pregnant. We deserved to sit, or so we told ourselves. They were happy playing on their own so we were taking advantage. We had strategically positioned our selves in front of the only door in or out, and watched them play. Canton was unfortunately just out of view, hidden by a big slide. We knew he was there, as we could hear his little voice talking to his trucks. He kept counting his trucks, calling them by name. I was trying not to giggle as I heard him say, ‘This is my chuck the truck’ which sounded all too much like he was cursing. His voice slurring the sounds to make it sound all too much like he was swearing like a sailor.
“Grey sweatpants and blond hair? Yes, he is mine” I say with a smile, trying to save this interaction.
“Well, He just yanked my son from the big truck.” She looks at me with a look I recognize too well. The judgmental stare of a mother. She looks us up and down, frowns and walks away.
As she brisks past me, I embarrassingly mutter an apology and go grab Canton from the yellow truck. Of course he throws a massive fit. He is two years old and he wants trucks! He has no idea why I grabbed him. I try to discuss with him what happened, but seriously, he is two. He has no idea why he is in trouble. He doesn’t remember pulling that boy out, or hurting him. He simply is in love with trucks. His whole world is shut out when he is with the love of his life, Chuck the Truck. It was three minutes ago and to him it might as well been a lifetime ago. My beautiful and brutish son has a memory of goldfish.
I can feel the woman’s eyes on me. I am now acting in fear of more judgement now. I better do something, I tell myself. If I don’t act fast, I am terrible mom who lets her kids bully other children. The worst mother. If I don’t do something the whole world will know I am fraud. A child pretending to be a mom, because sometimes that’s how I feel. Like I am playing dress up in my real life. Like I am pretending to be an adult and soon someone will catch on that I really am nothing of the sort.
So I put him in a time out, for an event he does not remember and I did not see. Its insane. He is screaming, I am frustrated as I pin him down to the bench. He is kicking me and I am getting more upset. Nobody is winning, and I want to cry with my boy.
I decided to give up.
I take him in my arms, wipe his tears, hug him and whisper in his ear that I love him and he can go play with his trucks. I still do this very silently so no one will know that I gave up. I did not follow through, I did not go make him apologize for something he does not remember or do I take away the trucks, since now the other boy is busy with the ball vacuum as his mother stands near him. With a new smile on his face, Canton skips away and keeps on playing.
We don’t last much longer in the room, Nina and I both sense eyes on us. Our free playing, fun-loving children are weirded out that we keep coming to play with them. They stare at us and walk away. They were happy to be doing their own thing and telling us the stories of their adventures once they felt like finding us. But we are simply trying to do what good moms do. We are following the rules.
We leave the museum, pack the kids up, get them cozy in their car seats and let them nap in the car. We are in a mission to find a Starbucks to get coffee. Our minds our busy with the preoccupations of the daily lives of a mom.
On the forty minute drive home, we finally talk about what happened. We let words replace the silent energy that we both felt. The feelings that made us so uncomfortable, that we were judged for not being there with our kids. For not letting our kids be the center of our world for 15 minutes. For failing as moms for those moments. We knew they were safe and happy, we were doing what we thought was best.
I realized as we talked, as we let our feeling free, that mom rules are bullshit and makes most of us feel bad.
These rules are designed to give us hope that we are doing OK as moms. If there is a set of rules to follow, whatever set you choose to follow, you can feel better about who you are a mom. We can judge others who follow a different set, then we can feel better about out choice. We can feel good and know that we are doing a stellar job. The judgement gives our ego a sense of superiority and in motherhood, a world so foreign to us all, that makes us feel good.
but I have a secret, YOU ARE AN AMAZING MOM! No one can tell you any different. Just take a moment to look deep into the eyes of your child and you will see just how beautiful you are. Just how loved you are. Our children love us unconditionally, and their opinion is all the matters. Not the opinion of the parenting gurus, or the grannies at the grocery store, or even the moms at the museum. Your kids are all that matter. They love you. That makes you a great mom. That makes me a great mom.
You are a beautiful mama, no matter what ‘style’ of parenting you adapt. You love your kids no matter what. You show up everyday, even if tattered and broken, you show up.
Showing up the hardest part.
So lets stop judging ok? We have no idea what each mama’s stories is. As they have no idea what our stories are. So instead of judging and breaking down all the wrongs, lets band together as storytellers.Telling our stories to one another with honesty and love, too show our kids that showing up counts and love is powerful. Lets show our children what it is like to embrace the world around you with compassion and grace.
Lets simply forget the judgments.
Who cares if the mom next to you is on her phone the whole time he child plays on the jungle gym? Maybe she is working from home and took the time to bring her free-spirited child to the park. Maybe she has a family emergency she has to deal with and doesn’t want to alarm her child, so she brings him out and deals with it silently. Maybe she is tired and this is the only down time she gets, browsing her phone. The possibilities are endless. So who are we to judge? Smile instead. Act with beauty and project love and acceptance. Simply know that another down fall as a mother is not meant to make you a better mama. Your kids know you are a great mom and they are all that matter.