No, this is not a quiz, but rather a nasty accusation thinly disguised as a rhetorical question posed to me in a Kohl's parking lot. I was out with my 3 small girls, the youngest of whom was about 6 weeks old at the time. It was a cold day, not frigidly so, but certainly cold. My infant daughter was in her carrier car seat snapped into a stroller, fully papoosed in her “Bundle Me” fleece lined blanket (one of the most brilliant baby inventions, if you ask me). She had a tiny pink knit hat on her head which I had removed while shopping in the store. Upon leaving, I thought about putting her hat back on but my car was parked in the closest spot to the door and I figured it was a short enough walk. I left the hat off, for better or for worse. It was an executive decision made by pretty good (though far from perfect) harried and sleep deprived mother. The stage was now set for Act II.
As I was loading my 2 older girls in the car, a woman in her mid-70s walked up next to me. Newborn babies draw a lot of attention, especially from the grandparent cohort, so I figured she wanted to sneak a peak at the tiny angel by my side. I smiled and said hello and we exchanged social niceties. She then gazed at my cherubic girl sleeping peacefully, bundled up in her seat. The woman raised her eyes to meet mine and snapped out “Why don’t you have a hat on her head? It’s the middle of winter!”
Oh boy, I thought, here we go again! I am no stranger to unsolicited advice and general commentary from random people on how I fall short as a parent. Since I became a mother, it has never ceased to amaze me how many judgemental wolves dressed in "well-meaning citizen" clothing there are, stalking unsuspecting mothers in malls, eateries, libraries and parks across America. In fact, I am quite astonished by the number of “Perfect Parent Experts” there are walking around…I assume they must be perfect because I can't imagine anyone less having the audacity to dole out advice to complete strangers.
Her comment hung in the air for a brief second while I processed it. I thought to myself, "Okay, she’s old... I'll cut her some slack. She’s just doling out Grandmotherly advice ... trying to be helpful..." Then, she delivered the knockout punch: “What kind of mother ARE you?!?!” It was said with both a conviction and a casualness that stunned me. With that, a line was crossed. I was completely leveled.
Her saving grace was that she was like, OLD. Had she been a few decades younger, someone might have got a hip broken. I certainly know that I would not have censored myself as much as I did had I not been taught to respect my elders. Though I did have a sarcastic yet polite retort, it was much tamer than my unbridled fantasies. I certainly was not going to get into a verbal smack-down, trailer park style in front of my kids. That's just not me. Her question of course stayed with me for days and for my own sense of closure, I came up with my answer.
What kind of mother am I? I'm a mother who serves mac and cheese and chicken nuggets for dinner far too often, yells more than I like, and sticks the kids in front of the TV more than I should. I’m a mother who bawls at their dance recitals, cheers at their soccer games, tries to read to them 20 minutes each day, and stays up until 2 am to make a multi-tiered Barbie cake with elaborate homemade icing flowers to fulfill a 4 year old's birthday wish. I am a Mom who checks on them every night to make sure they’re breathing and thanks God every single day that they are healthy, happy and in my life. I’m the type of mother who stays up all night with them while they’re sick and catches vomit in my bare hands. I'm a mother who bathes, dresses, and changes the diapers of my 13 year old, severely impaired daughter; sometimes with frustration and self-pity, but most often with tenderness and love. A mother who nursed each one of my children even when I was in excruciating pain, bleeding, and had mastitis. I hug them. I love them. I kiss them. I sometimes act like a raving lunatic. I always say I'm sorry if I do.
Sometimes I'm even a mother who does not put a hat on her baby's head.
I am the kind of mother who, after hearing a hurtful comment that questions the very core of everything I am, chooses respect over retaliation, gets calmly into her car, and sings Old McDonald to her children the entire ride home.
This is an original post to http://www.welcometomyplanet4.blogspot.com/ by Alicia DiFabio.