Don't you feel sorry for my poor kids? Look how disconnected they are.
It hasn't been a great morning.
I'm in a pretty deep funk. Sam's going through yet another sleep regression, and I can't function without sleep. He's also testing boundaries constantly. The way he kept kicking me - hard - as I attempted to change his poopy diaper without getting crap all over both of us. The way he constantly took off his shoes the moment I got them on him (and of course we were running late). The way he broke away from me at the park, sprinting to splash pad, clogged and flooded and nasty from yesterday's storm, and dove head-first into the water (and no, I didn't have any backup clothes).
Moments before he submerged himself in the nastiness.
But I was determined to make it better. I stripped him of his wet shorts, put on a fresh cloth diaper, and took my pantsless son in his drenching wet shirt to Mama's Hip, a local kids store, for a toddler art program.
I was with my tribe - cool and smart and low-key mamas. Although I wasn't really in the mood to socialize, I'm an extravert, and so I feel better if I can get out and be around other adults, even if I just sit in a corner and look at my phone the whole time.
That is, until I overheard a certain conversation. I'm a natural eaves dropper. I have great hearing and I'm curious about everyone's stories (hence my obsession with the Moth storytelling programs). These two moms were talking about being moms in older years, a topic I'm familiar with, having had my kids at 32 and 37 years of age. I was just getting ready to pipe up with my own story, when one of the moms said something like this:
"I'm so grateful we had them so close together. I see these moms with their kids 4, 5, 6 years apart and it makes me sad. That's just long enough for the older kid to know what they're missing when the little one comes along. And you know those kids will never really be friends."
These moms had no way of knowing that my pantsless toddler has a sister 5 years his senior. In fact, I was so quiet they may not have noticed I was even there. But even if they didn't notice me, I wonder if they noticed all the other moms around us. Moms whose personal stories aren't on their sleeves. Moms who might have also been offended by their remarks.
I let it go, and continued to check out Facebook. I figured these ladies would move on to a different topic, something I might be able to contribute to while simultaneously avoiding conflict.
But no. Sam nursed, played with toys, had a meltdown, ate some snacks, and received 3 hugs - and these ladies were still going on and on about why having kids more than a couple of years apart is a really detrimental thing to do.
I tried to muster up my compassion and outgoing nature to have an empathetic, informative talk with them. I tried to think of something to say like, "While I get that having kids close together is the best choice for you, I just wanted you ladies to know that some of us have kids much further apart and are really happy." I thought about telling them what a help Stella is, how close her and Sam's bond is, how he said, "Bye bye Stella"when I dropped her off for camp this morning. I considered tell them about the horrible post partum mood disorder that tortured me after Stella's birth. How it took a while to recover and find the courage to go through the process of having a baby again. I thought about a lot of things. And I guess I could have turned this tense moment into a positive, loving, learning experience.
But not today. With all that's going on in our country right now, I'm all out of compassion for anyone who can't take two seconds to think about others. I know that I've messed up and I've hurt others' feelings with my words. I know I'm being a hypocrite. I know I'm not necessarily right. But I'm over it, I'm done, I'm depleted. I can't tell people what to say or how to feel. But dammit, this would be such a better world if people could take two seconds to think about others' experiences and frames of reference and have just a tiny bit of tact and friggin' empathy.
So I gathered my diaper bag and my ragamuffin kid and said, "Some of us have kids 5 years apart and it's just peachy" and stormed out the door. And then I made a passive aggressive post on Facebook so all of my dear friends could tell me how right I am.
What I didn't have the patience or energy to say is this. It all boils down to the fact that there's no one way to parent. We pick and choose what works best for us as people, for our romantic relationships (or lack thereof), and for our kids' personalities. I do things that I feel strongly about as a mom. I also feel strongly that they wouldn't work for everyone. I love nursing Sam at 22 months, but I totally get that that wouldn't work for another person. So you'll never EVER catch me talking about how every mom should nurse her toddler. Both my kids sleep alone in their own rooms. Dave and I are not good at cosleeping (and neither were my kids, really, when I tried). But I'd never say that someone shouldn't cosleep.
And I'm not afraid to defend parenting decisions, even in the midst of a friendly conversation, even if it's a decision that's not my own. People know my passion for my own unmedicated births, and for helping other women who want to pursue unmedicated birth. So you wouldn't believe some of the hateful things I've heard about moms who want to use an epidural or moms who delivered via c-section. And they're shocked when I tell them that unmedicated birth isn't for everyone, and that I'm grateful for c-sections because they save lives. Or the moms who trash formula when they see me breastfeed, then get a mini-lecture from me about how Sam needed formula because I couldn't produce enough milk to give him at daycare, or how some women can't breastfeed due to former childhood abuse, or how parenting is hard enough, so why don't we cut women who weren't able to or don't want to breastfeed a little slack.
Ladies, stop it. Just stop it. We don't need parenting labels or sides or teams or what have you. We need empathy. We need understanding. If we're going to make this place better, more loving, safer for all of our kids, and free of the hatred that is consuming us like a plague, we have to lead the way.
Careful the things you say. You might hurt someone without even realizing it.