Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Frazzled Parent Solidarity Signal
I saw her last week in the parking lot of Target. I had just given the extreme stink eye to my own children and for once they were actually holding my hands and walking next to me in the parking lot. Her were not. She was trying to push the cart, corral a kid and find her car all at the same time. I was too far away to help her; and I'm not sure she would have accepted help from a complete stranger. More than anything I wanted there to be some sort of hand signal or bird call I could use to let her know that I had walked in her shoes (still do, frequently) and she was not alone.
I see her at Mass on Sundays too. One of her kids is arching his back to let out a scream, while the other is tugging at her clothes and loudly trying to ask a question. I can't get to her either. Not without vaulting across a few pews, which, I'm guessing, would be strongly discouraged. Part of me wants to turn and smile at her, but I don't know her and I don't want my smile to come across as "Can you please make your kids be quiet? I'm trying to pray!" I want it to look like, "Hang in there Mom! I know how you feel!" There's a fine line of distinction in those smiles and I am afraid if I messed it up I would make her feel worse.
On the playground, some kid hits another kid and the parent of the offender looks mortified. The other mom is attending to her (slightly) injured kid. I need a hand signal I can shoot across the playground that says "my kid hits other kids too, sometimes."
I have people tell me that I'm a good mom. In fact, a guy I work with said it to me this morning. Thing is, while it's a nice thing to say; he's only met my kids twice. How does he know? He only hears the stories I tell. You blog readers only read the stories I write down. And I don't write down stories about how I yelled at my kids last night. Or how when one hit the other, I told that child to hit back. Harder. My kids aren't perfect. My parenting has lots of flaws. I don't feel like I'm lying to leave out those stories. I am making a scrapbook here and those are not the memories I choose to remember. I also don't want to write anything that will come back to haunt my children in the future.
But in real life, I want to be real. I want to be supportive of other parents I see struggling through their daily lives. I want some sort of a bat signal that I can use to show them that they're not alone. Something that won't come across as condescending or sarcastic. Something that won't be misunderstood, like a commiserating smile could be. Any ideas? I tried once to spell "blood" with my fingers like some gang member. I can't remember how to do it anymore. Maybe some kind of "BTDT" (been there, done that). I'm not sure my fingers would go that way.
I'll keep working on it. In the meantime, if I catch you struggling with your kids out in public and it looks like I might be flipping you off; please know that I haven't yet perfected that hand signal. I'll give you the same benefit of the doubt!