You’ve Seen This Mother Hundreds of Times

gnomeYou’ve seen her hundreds of times.

She’s pushing a cart through the grocery store at warp speed, a toddler trailing behind her spilling a box of cereal on the floor, another hanging, head perpendicular to the floor, from the seat, wailing at the top of his lungs.

She’s sitting two tables away from you at the restaurant, screaming baby thrusting the blanket from his head as she struggles to nurse in the most discreet way possible.

She’s parked in the spot closest to the park entrance, and as she’s buckling one youngster into his car seat, another is zipping out the door open on the other side of her minivan, coming thisclose to being hit by your car.

You’ve seen her. You’ve rolled your eyes. You’ve gritted your teeth. You’ve judged her.

Maybe it’s because you have never been her. Or maybe you have, but it’s been so long that you can’t remember, that your own parenting foibles have disappeared in a cloudy haze of hindsight. The passage of time makes us all better parents than we were in the moment.

What it doesn’t do – at least not often enough — is make us better humans.

A better human would see beyond the spilled cereal to the bags beneath the mother’s eyes and remember what it was like to go 54 days on about 54 hours of sleep.

A better human would see the mother’s eyes darting around the room, terrified that someone might say something about her legally-protected right to breastfeed in public.

A better human would see the moment before the toddler hopped out of the van, that moment when she undid the buckle her mother had just tightened in a bid to keep her safe.

A better human would quietly scoop up that cereal. A better human would catch mom’s eye and offer a smile and a thumbs up. A better human would hold out a hand to that child running loose in the parking lot, and escort her safely to her frazzled mother.

This Mother’s Day, the ads will tell you that mothers need flowers. They need chocolate. They need jewelry. They need handmade cards and macaroni necklaces.

But what mothers need most, not just on Mother’s Day but all year round, is better humans.

 

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