Tuesday, June 07, 2016

I Saw You

To the pregnant mom with four kids at Taco Cabana,

I saw you. I saw you come in, four little towheaded ducklings who all appeared between the ages of 4 and 8 trailing behind. You ordered your food and wrangled the kids to a booth sitting down in that carefully, very pregnant way. I thought holy crap, she's got her hands full.

We ordered our food, we filled our drinks and loaded up on salsa and cilantro and napkins. You and your children sat quietly in the booth, Nothing to see here, folks. Then, the inevitability of a spilled drink (at your table, not mine, just to be clear).

I braced myself for the impending drama (screaming kids, yelling mom, freaking out) but there was none. You calmly ate your food. The kids got to work, grabbing napkins, righting the fallen cup, assessing the damage, moving the smartphone with the captivating games out of the way.

I noticed the cup had been filled with water and thought holy crap, that's one smart mom. You didn't yell or get upset (like I would have done), you sat and quietly ate your lunch. And not in the I'm pregnant and I'm tired and I'm eating this damn taco sort of way that I might have, but in a I'm a grown ass woman and I am eating my taco so deal with your mess please children sort of way.

I thought, Holy crap, she makes it look so easy.

I wanted to talk to you, to tell you Great job, mom or Holy cow, your kids are well behaved or something; but I didn't. I don't know why. I don't even know if you needed the acknowledgement from me, the woman without her kids enjoying lunch with her husband, but I saw you.

Is she hovering in approval or trying to control the mess?
It didn't seem real, it seemed like one of those impossibly happy families you see on stock photo sites or those families on TV, where the Dad just smiles when the kids wash the inside of his car with the hose. Those darn kids! his face says, like the impossibly happy people in the Mentos commercials.

Meanwhile, I'm screaming Oh, hell no! at the TV and giving my children a pointed look that says Don't. Even. Think. About. It.

Yes, I'm the mom who yells over spilled milk. I'm the mom who runs to clean up the mess instead of letting my kids learn the lesson to clean up their own messes.

I remember when my oldest was about 18 months and he spent a happy 10 minutes alone pulling all the tissues out of a box we kept on the shelf in his room. He was adorable, sitting in that pile of tissues, and my husband called me to come and see... I came in and immediately started to clean it up. No shared aww, our son is so cute!, I went right into cleaning up the mess mode. I might be a little controlling. I own that. And I wonder, if I could go back in time and handle that differently, what else would have changed? Would I have been more easygoing with them? Would I have been more accepting of the messes? Less yelly over spilled milk?

But you, you were smart enough to get them water. Water will dry. Water won't make them sticky or curdle or smell really bad later when you forget that they made that mess. It's just a little water.

I learned a lesson about parenting and grace and you reiterated to me that messes are okay, they're a part of the process, but we can make choices in advance that might make them easier to manage. Most importantly, as a mom of a tween and a teen now, you reiterated to me that  our children rise to the level of responsibility we expect from them.

So, thanks to the pregnant mom of four little ducklings for working so hard at making it look so easy.

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