I am not a mom blogger. But I do happen to be in this season of life, so I have a lot of material on the subject right now.
I live Redefined Love every day. And I don’t say that in a self-righteous, “I practice what I preach” kind of way. I mean I see it around me, I learn it, I experience it, I am humbled by it. Every. Single. Day.
Here is what happened this week…
I picked up some sandwiches from a deli and went to a park with my boys for lunch. Normally when I go to a park I don’t pay much attention to the other people there, which is as it should be. Just me, minding my own business, enjoying my family and friends.
This week was different. I have a terrible cold. I ache all over and my throat hurts and basically I only took my kids on a picnic because the idea of going home after my son’s orthodontist appointment to try to put lunch together before crawling into bed was more than I could bear.
(We were late for the appointment. I stumbled up to the front desk and said, “We’re sick! I mean we’re late!” When the receptionist suppressed a giggle I started laughing like a madwoman and said, “He’s not sick!” pointing at my son. “I am!” She looked at my mortified tweenage son and said, “You take care of your mom today, okay?” Dear God, help me.)
When we got to the park I immediately began making judgements. I made note of the loud mom friends who I felt were obviously not paying any attention to their kids. I internally gasped when I assumed they were drinking beer but then I saw it was only soda (seriously, I was in rare form).
My younger son was whining about every little thing. He hated the turkey on his sandwich. He hated that we didn’t bring his swimsuit for the wading pool. He hated that it was too cold in the shade. He hated that it was too hot in the sun. He hated the ice in his cup. He hated that the ice in his cup melted.
My older son immediately noticed two girls his age sitting on the merry-go-round. This was a deal breaker for him. He wanted to go home and brood over whatever almost-12-year-old boys brood over after noticing girls at a park whom he does not know but has seen at school who may recognize him having a picnic with his mother and younger brother.
I also noticed the two girls. Just as we arrived they were taking over the merry-go-round. I watched two little girls who had been happily playing run away as the two older girls stretched out their long legs and took out their cell phones. My blood boiled.
At no point during this experience did I once think about Redefined Love.
My children and I bickered through our meal. I prayed for patience a few times, but I did not pray for love, not for my children, not for myself, not for the other moms and children in the park.
My younger son wanted to stay and play, and my older son wanted to leave. I wanted to leave, too, but it seemed like a cruel joke on a five-year-old boy to come to such a cool park and not let him play. I knew if those girls weren’t there my older son would join his brother on the structures. The longer I sat there watching them, the angrier I got.
My mind roiled. “They sit there with their ripped jeans and their black tank tops and their shaved heads…” Technically only one of them had a shaved head, and only one of them had on ripped jeans. The other one was wearing pink shorts and a Hello Kitty t-shirt. But whatever.
It didn’t matter that maybe I was a little bit jealous because secretly I’ve always wanted a really short pixie cut but haven’t yet had the guts. But whatever!
Several of the younger kids, including my own son, gazed longingly at the merry-go-round. It wasn’t like the metal circles of death of my childhood. It was a spinning double decker trampoline encased in a spherical rope cage. When I was a kid the only one who got that cool of a play structure was our gerbil.
After he’d made the rounds of everything else on the playground, my five-year-old joined his brother and I on the grass. He crossed his legs, rested his chin in his hands, and stared longingly at the merry-go-round.
“That’s it!” I thought. I suddenly forgot I was sick as adrenaline surged through my veins. I was going to teach those girls a lesson. I told my son if he went over and got on that merry-go-round, I’d give him a push.
His face lit up. “Really!” Off he went.
When kids saw him crawling up inside the sphere they all came running. I was smug as I sauntered up. I felt like the Pied Piper. The girls had their backs to the entrance and to me. They didn’t see a thing coming.
I was going to rock their world. I was going to spin this thing until they puked their guts out. Yes, the little kids might be terrified and also puke their guts out, but puking your guts out on a merry-go-round is a childhood rite of passage. And this was justice. And I was serving it. Boom.
This went wrong for me in a number of ways.
First off, I was so focused on besting these tweenage girls that I didn’t notice the toddler who was trying to climb on at my feet. I began pushing with all my might and it took me a few seconds to realize I was stepping on something. Or rather, someone.
Yes, people. Yes. I stepped on an adorable blonde boy with a NASA swim shirt and big brown eyes who looked up at me like a puppy who has just been beaten by a master he once trusted. “Why? Why are you hurting me?”
His mother, who just moments before I’d wrongly assumed was drinking a beer at 12:30 on a Monday afternoon in a park while her children ran amok, was very rightly upset that I was carelessly stepping on her kid.
Thankfully, he was unharmed. I apologized way more than was necessary (although is there really any way you can apologize enough for stepping on someone’s kid?) and asked her if it was okay if he got on. She looked at me like I was a little nuts and said, “Uh, yeah. It’s fine.”
As I helped him climb on I… can you even believe this, people?… I thought to myself that this lady really was awfully lenient to let such a young child ride a merry-go-round. He was about to die, but whatever, it wasn’t my kid.
Still I was judging her, even after I’d just about killed her son with my own feet.
The lady turned back to her friend with a knowing smirk. “Have fun,” she called over her shoulder as I began to push. “It’s a workout.” Why did I get the feeling she and her friend were enjoying this?
I started running. One of the older girls said, “Oh God.” I felt triumphant. I was really sticking it to those little snots. As I rounded the corner I stuck my tongue out at my older son like Gene Simmons. He looked back at me like I was a lunatic, because really, in that moment I kind of was.
I only made it once around before it dawned on me that I was working really, really hard, yet the merry-go-round was spinning at a very leisurely pace. It didn’t keep spinning like the merry-go-rounds of my youth. As soon as I stopped, it stopped.
If I kept this up, the only one puking was going to be me, and it was only going to take about two minutes. Suddenly I remembered how crummy I felt.
After the spinning stopped one of the little girls called out, “Mommy! Can you come spin us?” The lady I’d so harshly judged – the one whose son I’d almost killed – said, “Not today. I spun that thing all day yesterday.”
I staggered back to the grass next to my older son. He rolled his eyes. “Can we go now?” he asked.
“Yes. Yes we can.”
I drove home in utter defeat, and in utter awe of the humility of life. Life does not allow for arrogance. Life does not allow for self-righteousness. None of us are immune. None of us are infallible. And just in case I might not have quite learned my lesson at the park, I had the following conversation with my son as we pulled into the driveway:
“Hey, Mom. You know that girl with the shaved head, the one on the merry-go-round?”
“Yes,” I responded. “She is beautiful.”
“She went to my school last year. She has cancer.”
Awesome, Sara. Just… Awesome.
Published August 8, 2018