Finishing a spirited debate over the pronunciation of “GIF,” they had just begun to broach the topic of marijuana farming when, above the distant din of the nearby adult folf team, they heard it:
“IS THERE A REASON YOU BOYS ARE SPITTING AT HER?”
The three of them turned their heads in perfect synchronized form in the direction of the reverberating, disembodied voice. A woman (she could only assume was another mom) stood at the foot of the jungle gym. Facing their direction. she shielded her eyes from the sun as she continued her verbal witch hunt.
“MY DAUGHTER WANTS TO COME UP THERE, TOO – THERE’S ROOM FOR EVERYBODY, RIGHT?”
Her mom friend leapt off the bench beside her, beelining toward the crime scene. Thankful for the sunglasses that masked her rampant eye rolls, she felt the hot, burning mix of embarrassment and irritation she always felt when “confronted” by another mom about her children’s various misbehaviors.
But spitting? That wasn’t usually her son’s style. Innocent until proven guilty… she murmured.
Her friend – a far better example of love and grace than she – exchanged brief pleasantries with the yelling mom, offering up a quick explanation and apology. She, herself, remained steadfastly glued to the bench, daring the Yeller to approach, almost hungry for an altercation. Bring it on, bitch, she thought, lightly pounding her fists together like a female Rocky Balboa.
Despite her thirst for blood, everything on the playground returned to normalcy.
The accused spitters headed for the toddler slides, and she took the opportunity to casually call her son over to inquire about his involvement (no sense in getting up to walk anywhere). Reluctantly, he dragged his feet across the entire park, shuffling wood chips in an effort to prolong the inevitable.
Finally, he reached the bench, circling around behind her like a creepy stalker.
She prepared herself for yet another tiresome “life lesson” speech – an attempt to condense the Golden Rule into words a 5-year old could buy into while not really feeling it herself. She tried to focus on the sun’s warm rays soaking into her body as her husband took over the reins.
The gist: spitting is gross and bullying isn’t cool.
She looked up just in time to see the spitting victim kicking wood chips at her own daughter. “HEY. NUH-UH” she bellowed, keeping it short and simple while shaking her head in disapproval.
“Babe, come on,” her husband pleaded, “She’s just a kid. Way younger than our kids. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
Shit. She knew he was right. Her ears began to burn hot with shame… and then anger. Why should I calm down? Why am I the one who’s over-reacting?! WHY AREN’T ADULTS ALLOWED TO RETALIATE AGAINST TODDLER TERRORISTS RUNNING AMOK??
In vain, she struggled to gather herself. But then: “SHE’S no angel, either! I don’t appreciate being YELLED at across a PLAYGROUND – there are a HUNDRED other ways that mom could’ve handled the situation without SHAMING us PUBLICLY!” She could feel her heart shriveling to a raisin as her inner 5-year old threw its tantrum in all caps.
“Do you remember when our kids were that age?” her husband inquired.
She didn’t have to think very hard to recall those days. It really wasn’t all that long ago she’d been exhausted, overwhelmed, burned out, and ready to spew fire at any and every older kid who threatened the safety or happiness of her young.
Just a few short years previously, she’d been the mom giving the evil eye to parents of older kids, jealous of their ability to sit still… carry on a conversation… to relax.
Now, she WAS that parent. And she was chomping at the bit to FINALLY enjoy the freedom she’d earned – freedom from following her kids all over the playground, having to constantly intervene in their affairs. These days, she resented the parents of smaller children – their ever-watching eyes, their constant helicopter tendencies, their angsty, overprotective interference.
Chill the f*ck out, people.
From behind her sunglasses, she scrutinized the Yeller, who had parked her stroller next to a picnic table and was now rummaging through a diaper bag. Animatedly, she talked to her other child – probably not yet a year old, from the look of him. Honestly, she seemed nice. Rational. Even personable.
But with distance comes judgment. “Us” and “together” felt a universe away. “Me versus you” was far more appealing, more natural. It was a concept to sink your teeth into. A cathartic outlet for all the pent-up rage that accompanied the disappointments and failures of everyday life.
WHAT is the deal? Why am I so angry? Why can’t I calm down?! She worried this feeling might never abate. That she might just grow from an embittered young woman to an enraged middle-aged woman, disgruntled at every bump and jostle, incapable of compassion and empathy at the moments when it mattered most.
It was then she realized… she counted the days on her fingers and recalled the last time this blinding, uncontrollable rage had overtaken her, making everything seem dark and difficult and hopeless…
All signs pointed to PMS – that time of month when she couldn’t trust her own thoughts or emotions, when everyone around her seemed intent on catching a beat-down. This was far from the worst it had ever gotten, but still incredibly unpleasant to experience. She hated it. All of it. Every damn part of being a woman.
The fact that her skincare routine determined her social place in the world, while her husband was free to simply splash water on his face and call it good.
The fact that she had to give up alcohol and starch, and choke down 500 million vitamins + supplements just to keep her internal system functioning so she wouldn’t want to murder everyone or cry uncontrollably at every Randy Travis song.
The fact that she couldn’t even LOOK at dessert without it keeping her awake long into the night.
And of course, there was the fact that her body couldn’t seem to get the f*cking memo that the curtain had fallen on procreation, making this monthly hormonal upsurge feel like a futile bloodbath (and an extra kick in the ass she certainly didn’t need when her kids were constantly listing out her many shortcomings).
Her inner tirade at the unfairness of it all was suddenly interrupted by the sound of her own whining kids, now fighting over a quarter they’d found on the floor of the nearby port-a-potty. This should be fun, she thought, cracking her knuckles and preparing to unleash her inner gargoyle onto the unsuspecting offspring.
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