Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bad Mommy Moments

Since moving to New York City with almost-2-year-olds, I have been on the receiving end of many, many disapproving looks.

There were the parents and babysitters rolling their eyes at me as I let my kids splash in rain puddles while their children (singletons all) looked glumly on. There was the lady who scolded me for not picking up the Pirate Booty, strewn on the sidewalk in a tempest of a double-fisted tantrum just two days after we moved. In August. Don't you think some creature would scoop up 10 pieces of Pirate Booty? I sure did, but that lady thought I was an incorrigible citizen for not sweeping up my mess.

I've been stopped for letting my kids have sticks, and today a guy who ran a red light gave me an arch look for letting my daughter stand by herself on a street corner. I was 10 feet behind her, but still I warranted his disapproval.

The worst looks, though, are reserved for when my kids fall out of their stroller. It happens when we try to go over bumpy corners or sometimes going over a manhole. Our stroller is falling apart, my kids, now 3-and-a-1/2, are pretty big, and I don't strap them in. One big bump and they can go flying. They cry, we hug, and we brush ourselves off, lesson sort of learned. We try to do better the next time, sometimes we do, sometimes, you know, falls happen. But they're ok. I'm a little shaken up, and we go on trying to do better. At this point, though, I'm tired of getting the look that says, "I would never let THAT happen to my kids." Well, maybe you wouldn't, but odds are good that you'd let something else happen. Because when it comes to kids, despite our best intentions, sometimes, stuff we wish wouldn't happen happens.

I have plenty of moments when I make mistakes as a parent. I yell about something, I'm inconsistent about something, I give in to the cookie when I should just ride out the tantrum. In those moments, I apologize, I check myself, I really try to learn some lesson and move forward. But those moments of personal despair aren't observable to anyone on the outside. They're between me and my kids. No one else. I have to remind myself of that sometimes, what with the judging eyes of the world fixed on my little ones. Seems people don't want to pay for things like better schools and health care for children and families, but everyone's more than willing to pass along some free judgment on stroller technique and puddle principles. From my local lane, all I can say is this: Thanks! And stroll right on.

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