This isn't a quiz. Nor is it statistics from interviews conducted on mothers across the world.
This is what I was asked today. "What kind of a parent are you?!?" By a woman clearly disgusted with me. In public. At the grocery store. Loudly. Where about 5 other people stopped what they were doing to turn and stare.
In front of my kids.
My twins are 8. They are my world, and there is nothing I wouldn't do for them.
Recently, they've taken to hanging out in the toy department when I go shopping at the grocery store. They bring their notebooks and pens/pencils and sketch in the aisle. Sometimes they find me to show me something they want; other times they find me just to say hi.
This is brand new to me, and not necessarily something I'm 'cool' with. I don't like not having them in my sight. I will leave my half full cart in the middle of an aisle (yes, I'm that person) and make sure they are ok. I am constantly sweeping the store and taking stock of the customers in it, silently judging on who looks like they'd be the type to snatch my kids up, ready to give a full description. I'm also looking at these same people, wondering if, when our eyes meet, they're silently judging ME by being 'the mom that lets her kids wander off." It's not the best way to think, nor is it the 'yogic' way to think, but along with parenting comes a heavy dose of realism. Something that I'm still coming to grips with, eight years down the parenting highway.
I've also realized that, along with age comes the pull on the invisible leash we get from our kids to trust them and let them go so they can learn to fly on their own. So, letting that leash out a little, I've allowed them to venture over to the toy aisle with strict rules: No fighting. No running in the store. Check in with mom every 5-10 minutes, and don't get mad when mom checks in on you. If someone looks suspicious, find mom right away. And about 4-5 others that slip my mind but will rattle off to them as their scampering away, enjoying their freedom, embarrassed I'm calling out to them.
Today was no different than any other day. They said bye, I called out the rules and reprimanded my son that he is to never just 'walk away' from me without telling me where he is going, and I got to work shopping as fast as I could, scared and on the defensive I was getting judged by other customers in not keeping them with me all the time.
A short time later, my daughter approached me in tears and very upset, stating that someone in purple had yelled at her to "watch out" when they had bumped into each other. My son backed the story up. She/They wanted me to do something about it, and I calmly told them that I hadn't witnessed it, and it wouldn't be right for me to yell at someone when I didn't know the whole story.
When my daughter was calm enough to move from the spot she was cemented to (my lap), I asked them to collect their sketchbooks in the toy aisle and come back to the aisle I was in. The managers in the store wear purple; I assumed there was a slight run in with them, and it scared my kids. Part of me was thinking, "well, maybe they'll stay with me for the rest of today."
No sooner had I thought this, I heard someone say, "Where is your mother!? Go find your mother, now!" A small, scared voice said, "No, you aren't in charge …"
By this point I had turned around and pulled my cart towards the beginning of the aisle to see what was going on, feeling as though I was moving through molasses the entire time.
Enter the Woman In Purple. She had no groceries with her, she was just doing laps around the store, speed walking. And right now, she was speed walking right at me.
The onslaught of her attack began at Aisle 13, walking toward me at Aisle 11. "What is wrong with you? What are you doing, letting your kids run around in a store? They shouldn't do that. What is wrong with you?!? You should be ashamed of yourself. What kind of a parent are you!?!"
By this point, my jaw was hanging open, and she was at Aisle 10, speed walking away.
I was in a state of shock. I didn't know how to answer my children's questions any more than I knew how to answer my own. What kind of parent am I?
Thoughts raced through my mind on what I wanted to say and what I wanted to do in this situation, very hyper aware that WHATEVER I did was on display for my eight-year-olds to see, and probably use as their basis for reaction to these very rare but very REAL situations when they arise.
The first thing that ran through my head was a very loud, "Eff you, lady!", followed by extending my middle finger WAY up high in the air at her and smiling that special bitch smile every woman saves for these special occasions.
Then, I thought of speed walking after her, kids in tow, scared, saying, "What kind of a mother am I?!?!? What kind of a woman are YOU??? You don't KNOW me! You know NOTHING about me! Yet you stand there in judgment on me and my children because you bumped into my daughter and now it's OUR fault? What's wrong with ME?!!?! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?!!!?"
I thought of apologizing, even though I had no idea if I was actually in the wrong in this situation or not.
I thought of asking her why she felt that way, armed with reason upon reason of proving her wrong.
I did nothing. Nothing. Not. A. Damn. Thing. I tucked my tail between my legs, gathered my shocked children, closed my mouth, and walked away.
I didn't see her again.
My son hugged me. My daughter suction cupped herself to me for the rest of the shopping trip.
Both of them brought it up numerous times throughout the day, whether it was showing me a picture they drew of the "meanie in purple", or telling me what they should have said or would have said, if given another opportunity.
I took each and every one of those opportunities to tell them that sometimes, as hard as it is, the best response is no response. That sometimes you might feel small, but that you're the bigger person by walking away.
Every time my mind wandered today, it wandered back to that question: What kind of parent are you? What did it say to my kids that I didn't say anything? What message was I sending by turning around and walking away? In that brief 30 second span, did I just teach my children to become doormats and never stick up for themselves?
I don't want to wax poetic and say that one question cut me deep, but it did stop me in my tracks. Cold in my tracks.
What kind of parent are you?
What kind of parent am I? The kind that loves her children to pieces. The kind that, from the moment they were born back in 2006, has put them ahead of myself, every day, all day, because THAT is what I do. The kind that tries to read to them every day, says "bless you" at every sneeze, wipes their tears, kisses their booboos, smiles through fear as they charge towards the ocean with abandon, goes to every sports game I can. The kind of parent that promised myself to answer every question I could, and look up the ones I couldn't. The kind that cleans up after them with a reminder to clean up after themselves, but cleans up after them when they're too sick.
I am the kind of parent that will let my kids watch TV, but don't let them do it all day. The kind of parent that will look up the age range of the shows they watch to be sure they aren't watching anything too mature. The kind of parent that tucks them in each night, and makes sure we wave by to their daddy each morning he goes to work, and says hi as soon as he walks in the door at night.
I'm the kind of parent that lets my kids stay up late if they're good, but puts them to bed early if they aren't. I have rules they must follow and don't turn a blind eye when I'm too tired from telling them the same thing over and over again. The kind of parent that enforces time outs, and explains why they cannot act certain ways to certain people, or each other.
I'm the kind of parent that teaches my kids to love by showing them love every.single.day. With hugs, words, kisses, giggles, tears, laughter, and lessons.
I'm the kind of parent that is prepared to do whatever I can to make sure my children are raised as safe as possible in this ever changing, ever growing, and sometimes, ever scary world. Armed to answer anything they ask, to teach them as much as I can, and prepare myself to be ready to let them go when they're ready to fly on their own. (yes, I cried as I typed that sentence)
So, what kind of parent am I? I am the BEST kind of parent there is, because I am the BEST version of myself when I'm surrounded by the love they show me back. The love that proves to me that what I'm doing, how I'm parenting, is teaching them the right way to act in the world.
Oh, and the fact that, while they WANTED to yell at the Meanie in Purple, they didn’t, because they knew better.
This is where my fingers itch to type, so I will have my moment of immaturity, if you will, since, if the Meanie In Purple IS reading this, I know she'll have plenty to say in response... "the next time you go around judging other people, don't, because you never really know a person until you walk a mile in their shoes,... and most of the time, their shoes won't fit your feet."
When all was said and done, and I did my usual "Day Scan" of how my day was, I was happy with how I acted. It hurt my feelings, it made me question how I responded, but to put a positive spin on it, I was able to really think about how much I actually give to my children, so when I do let them watch that extra bit of TV, or maybe let a snarky comment sneak by without reprimanding them for being sassy, I realize that, looking at the big picture, I am a damn good parent.
Love, Happiness, & Coffee,