We are outside a bagel place, a Fellow Mommy and me. Our boys are playing on the sidewalk. Our girls are prancing about. Fellow Mommy is holding her sleeping 11 month old. We are stealing some snippets of adult conversation. It's glorious.
A women in her mid-50s drives up and scowls at us. I smile back. That's my default with scowling. It's usually random and annoying enough that the person scowling skulks away. But she holds her glare, stomps out of the car, gives us a disgusted look and busted out with:
"Maybe you should watch your kids."
"Excuse me?" I said.
"I coulda hit 'em with my car" she muttered as she lumbered towards the doorway.
"I guess if you were driving on the sidewalk!" Fellow Mom bristled.
"You should look after these kids. That's what I had to do." the grouchy woman continued as she went in, presumably to gobble down an everything bagel with extra cream cheese.
I felt my face got hot. Was I not watching Big A and Little D, so enthralled was I with the adult conversation I was stealing in the middle of the day. Did I let them run around the parking lot? No, this was not the case, as the air karate chopping of the boys and the pirouettes the girls were doing were happening firmly on the sidewalk.
So my next thought was that the Grouchy woman was drunk. Maybe SHE should be the one watching herself.
Or maybe she was having a bad day.
Or maybe...just maybe...could it be...did she forget how hard it is to have small children? It seems that a number of older moms have forgotten how hard it can be to parent a young child.
They are the ones that turn around at church and glare at me when my kids drop a hymnal on the floor.
"I'm here!" I want to yell. "I could be sleeping in or going out for pancakes with my family that I didn't make. At least I'm trying to give them a life based in faith!" But I don't say that. I shush my kids and threaten to take away Wii privileges if they don't pipe down.
They are the ones that roll their eyes when my kids spill a lemonade at the WindMill. "It's the WindMill!" I want to explain. "It's geared towards kids! I could understand your reaction if we were at The Molly Pitcher but c'mon!"
They are the ones at Target that huff and puff if my child bumps their purse as my traveling circus is stampeding past them to get to the toy aisle. "I'm sorry!" I say. I apologize for myself and my children constantly. I'm sorry for their very existence because it might inconvenience someone else.
Why am I doing this?
a. I'm not the jerk that takes my children uninvited to parties and weddings. I never take them to a fancy restaurant, let alone after 8 pm and have them meltdown, thus ruining the nights of couples that actually did get a sitter. I don't assume that my children's company is a precious gift to be inflicted upon everyone.
b. Children can be loud, clumsy and spill things. Okay? They're kids, they're not perfect robots. I wouldn't want them to be. They're learning and I'm trying to teach them.
c. Most of you judging me are parents of older children. I see them with you. Did you forget? Did you forget what it's like to have small children?
Because I think you forgot.
I think you forgot how tired I am because sometimes my children are up in the night with accidents, illness or nightmares. I think you forgot that that my children are still so attached to me that sitting down to pay bills without a child wrapped around my bicep is a luxury. I think you forgot all that and now you judge me when you used to stagger around my Nikes.
Just because your kids are preparing for college and you can go out to eat without hiring a babysitter doesn't mean that you should forget that young(ish) moms like me still struggle with the rearing of small children.
Please don't judge me because you have amnesia regarding how hard those times were for you. Please share with me your wisdom, because you've gone through it, and tell me it's all going to work out okay. The next time my child melts down in the middle of Kohl's because I won't buy her a Hello Kitty sprinkler tell me you've been there and I'm doing a great job. I need to hear that.
You don't know how much I need to hear that from a woman who has gone before me and lived to tell the tale.
And please watch where you're driving next time when there are small children running about.