Thursday, June 12, 2014

Judgment Day

I was just thinking to myself the other day how one big benefit to having kids who are a bit older is that there seems to be a decrease in the amount of judgement - expressed or perceived - as they grow and thrive and become civilized people, more or less, in view of the general public.  Entering Target recently, I had a sudden flashback to a judgement I'd received some years before when Pax was just 2 weeks old (and I was in the throes of of post-partum depression) and I was accosted by a woman who was offended by the pro-choice bumper sticker on my mother's car.  Never mind the irony - me, with a newborn baby in arms; a car that wasn't even mine - while she cast her judgement upon me, the exchange ending with the mutual promise that we would pray for one another.  The baby days list of judgments goes on and on, but in the older kid days, the list is much shorter.

Until this morning.

After dropping off Aidan and Leo at golf camp for one hour of time away from me and somewhat away from each other, I loaded Pax into the jogging stroller and set out, desperate - absolutely desperate - to rid myself of the frustration, anger, and sadness I felt simmering, threatening to boil inside me.  Yesterday had been an endless cycle of taunting and teasing, tattletaling, and throwing punches.  I'd refereed all day long, was exhausted and out of patience.  I felt guilty at the end of the night because I wasn't handling my own emotions well, and I was angry and frustrated with the kids.  And so, despite the misty rain falling and humidity near 100%; I knew I had to rid myself from the negative energy that was consuming me; I set out on the longest run I could manage in the remaining time I had.

We set out and I started to take one of my usual routes - until we neared a playground and I had a stroke of genius.  Instead of pushing 30+ pounds of weight and worrying about every oncoming car that would pass us on the narrow, 2 lane route, I decided, instead, to park Pax on the edge of the less-than-quarter mile track that encompasses a baseball diamond where I could run without having to push him and he could sit, content to watch PBS Kids on my iphone, in full view of me and in easy hearing distance. 

We were the only ones there for the first 10 minutes; then two maintenance trucks pulled up.  I went on high alert, watching carefully, assessing the situation.  Suddenly, a third car, an earth-friendly little Prius pulled up, wasting no time with a parking spot and instead parking helter-skelter across the spaces.  A grandmother-aged woman jumps out and hollers at me as I was rounding the corner nearest Pax, "What do you think you are doing, leaving your BABY in that stroller like that?"  I paused, trying to calm the adrenaline that had built up in my run, and said calmly "Yes, my four and a half year old is in that stroller..." She began ranting at me, gesturing her arms and saying, "You are unbelievable!  I cannot believe you would just leave him while you're blahblahblahblah..." (I cannot even think of what she said because I was so consumed with her judgement.)

I responded in a way that I instantly regretted.  "Screw you," I said as I unlocked the brakes on the stroller wheels.  "I don't have time for this shit."  She responded, "You don't have time for this? You want me to call the cops?"  "Go ahead," I said more evenly this time.  And ran off.  I ran for half an hour longer, thinking of better responses, more appropriate ones, kinder ones.  And I burned with anger and frustration at being so unfairly judged.

Clearly, I failed.  I failed to handle the situation with grace and kindness, failed to turn the moment into a teachable one.  But she failed me, too.  She looked at me and assumed to know me, know my kid, know my situation.  She failed to see that I was gasping for air, that I was desperately trying to put on my own oxygen mask, as the saying goes, before helping those around me.  She failed to see me working out my anger and frustration so that I didn't spend the day taking that same anger and frustration out on my kid who was safely parked in the stroller nearby, no further away from me than when I take him to that very same playground to play in the open field or sprawling equipment.  She failed to see the risk-benefit analysis I'd conducted in my head, failed to know of my plan of action should I feel threatened by anyone or anything, failed to understand how much deliberation went into my decision making.  In assuming me to be Worst Mom Ever, she failed to see how hard I was working to get back to being the best mom I can be for my kids....

I cannot change what I said or did, but I can take this experience and remind myself of it the next time I find myself unfairly wielding judgement against another.  A mom "checked out" on her iphone? might be taking 5 minutes to calm herself down rather than rail on her kids again.  A mom buying Doritos and pop tarts, soda and candy with 3 kids in tow? might be going on vacation when these are the only time these treats are purchased.  A dad not wanting to push his kid on the swing, preferring to sit on a bench instead? might be reeling from terrible news received, and chose the playground over parking his kid in front of the screen.  

And I hope that the next time someone sees me running, with my kid or kids nearby, they look at me and think, huh.  There's a mama working hard to keep herself healthy - body, mind, spirit.  There's a mama who shows her kids it's important to take care of herself, her own needs.  That when you feel angry, you need to get it out. That it's okay to run when there are tears streaming down your face, if that's what's going to make the tears stop.  I hope they see a mama who is trying - desperately trying - to be her best self for her kids.  Even if it looks different to you than what you think it should look like.

(I'm not editing or revising this.  This is raw and posted straight away.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Last Days

Schooooooools out. for. SUMMER!  Schooooools out. for. EVER!!!  Is it any wonder that the last day of school is such an awesome feeling, with Alice Cooper's rockin' song a permanent earworm in our collective minds?

Pax bid farewell to his preschool teacher who so lovingly guided him through his fits of anger, his frustrations, and his tendency to draw himself in, and was rewarded with many displays of his warm and affectionate, truer - yet more guarded - personality.  I absolutely *love* that he rewarded us with his "showman" pose, complete with a ta da!!  He never does this when prompted or asked; only when the spirit moves him....

We enjoyed one final picnic at church together.  Every Tuesday and Thursday, for the entire school year, Pax and I have shared lunch together on the floor of my little office, on this blanket.  He is going to a different preschool next year, and I will sorely miss this most lovely tradition.

Another tradition grew from our office picnics; our beloved office manager, Ms. Nancy, managed to have a treat of one kind or another stashed in her desk drawer for Pax, after he'd finished his lunch.  On his last day, Nancy's drawer revealed an extra special treat:  cake pops from Starbucks, enough for Pax to share with Nancy, me, and Jeff.
 And then the next day, it was The End of 4th grade for Aidan, The End of 1st grade for Leo.  They both reported having wonderful last days of school.

(In case The End hadn't gone so well, I created some "insurance" for myself on my last morning with Just Pax.  We, along with my girl Clancy, headed to the beach with a cooler of mimosa fixins, plus a bunch of snacks.... which might just be my most favorite New Tradition ever.)