For instance, when I take all four kids to TJ Maxx, I hear in my mind, 'To the mom who takes four small children to such a store... I see you trying to keep all eight hands occupied while you browse the coffee mugs...' *teeth gritted*
Or when I buy a coffee at Starbucks and one of my boys puts his face on the pastry window, I hear, "Dear mom, telling her son to remove his face from the pastry glass, I feel your pain. How could we have known how often we'd tell our kids to take their face off something it shouldn't be touching, or remove from their face the vial things they've pressed to their sweet cheeks....' *Sigh*
There's the trips to the grocery with three or four of the kids where I hear, 'Dear mom, please keep your kids grubby fingers off the beautifully stocked shelves. I know you need to be here to buy food in order to feed your little ones, and I know you want to get it done while your husband works so you can preserve your evenings, and I know you're doing the best you can, but please, could you get a grip on your children?!' *I can't even on this one*
The dreaded, 'Dear mom whose pre-schooler hit my pre-schooler, we don't allow such behavior in our home so I'd really appreciate it if you'd talk with your son about keeping his hands to himself...' *Of course, because in our home, we love and reward hitting hands. (read insanely snarky)*
So, the most recent in this (I know its a little crazy) inner dialogue world I live in, happened at the ball park where our 4 and 6 year olds play on a peanut league team. We pulled Eli up a year early so we weren't navigating three different fields to watch the boys play. He's not quite ready for it but learning and having fun, nonetheless. So, when those sweet little hands got him sent out of the dugout last night (and rightfully so) because 'he won't keep them to himself', my first response was to sit him down in a gruff, timeout, kind of way. But as my hands reached his shoulder to set him down, his body curled and collapsed into mine and he fell into a heep of broken tears. Compassion over took embarrassment and I held him, curled in my lap, sobbing snotty tears all over me. And then the loop began, 'Dear mom who coddled her crying son instead of disciplining him for not keeping his hands to himself, shame on you. You missed an opportunity for a valuable lesson. If he were my son I would have...', or, 'Maybe if you didn't spoil him, he'd stop hitting.' or, possibly there would have been the, 'Thank you for showing him love instead of anger, after all, he is just four.' And I realize there's also those who didn't even notice. Bless you people, I love your non-judgy ways, your lack of opinions, and your own issues that keep you from concerning yourself with others'. There are probably more of you than there are 'open letter to mom' types. I fancy myself as one of you, only pausing to notice the "I feel you, sister" kind of moments, but who knows.
We're probably all a little more opinionated than we should be when it comes to someone else's kid, or parenting ways. Because, the reality is, I could have whooped his disobedient little behind for so many reasons, including, but not limited to, we've doled out consequence after consequence on this, we've talked, we've read books, we've spanked and you know what? Someone would have been unimpressed and he would still struggle to keep his hands to himself. (I'll take this moment to apologize to my parents and my sisters. He is me, made over. I hit, popped, smacked, pushed...all. the. time. as a kid. It wasn't because I was mean or wanting to be hurtful, I just had busy hands that reached and grabbed and played and hit non-stop. I can see now, the pleading in my parents eyes, as they fussed at me again to stop.) As I did, I know he'll outgrow this phase. I know we will fuss and fuss at him, that I will be embarrassed by this again before it's all said and done, and that we will continue to make the best choices for him that we can in each moment. Which last night, included holding him as he cried while I whispered reminders to him that we can't hit, not with hats, gloves or hands.
In conclusion, I am going to write my own open letter to myself.
Open Letter to the Mom at the Ball Park,
Dear mom, I see you with your four little ones. I see how busy your boys are, but also how happy, encouraging and loving they are. I see your daughter running around you, asking for snacks and needing to go pee. I imagine your days, that it never ends. That those three boys chase, wrestle, fuss, laugh, play superheroes and bad guys, that they are both your greatest joy and your toughest trial.
Your little guy, he needed you. I'm glad you held him. I'm glad you scolded him. I will pray for you, and for your family, that you won't get discouraged, that you will find joy, that you won't parent based on what you perceive others expect, but on what you know your child needs. It's tough, it really is. But hang in there...it's all worth it.
A mom who saw you