Today another woman’s out of control child caused me to change my attitude toward his mother from superior to sympathetic. I took my older daughter to a swim lesson this morning with my toddler in tow. While I was busy managing multiple needs in a new setting, someone’s constant screaming punctuated the lesson. A five-year old blonde boy was throwing the mother of all tantrums as his seemingly calm mother held him down on her lap. I recall glancing back at her periodially, held prisoner on a close-by picnic bench by her son’s insane temper tantrum, feeling haughty. “I can control my kids,” I thought. “What is her problem?”
Of course I’ve been overpowered by my children’s bad behavior in other situations from Target to a family dinner out. I’ve been at the receiving end of those scathing glances, most of them from moms who probably felt superior to me in those moments.
Soon, we were all in a shuttle which would take us from the lesson site to the parking lot. I felt a sense of dread as the out of control kid’s mom picked her seat next to me and my girls, her writhing, screaming son tethered to her lap against his will. As the van began to move, the boy reached across his mom and grabbed a chunk of my hair, pulling it with force.
Calmly, the woman removed her son’s grip from my mane and told him patiently, “No, we don’t do that.” For what seemed like minutes, I waited impatiently for her to offer an apology which eventually she did. As my blood boiled, my superiority reached the height of its arc.
Then, we reached the lot and before the mom unboarded her brood (her quiet, well behaved younger son was sitting patiently in the row behind us), she turned to me and said, “Not that it’s an excuse but he is autistic and he doesn’t know any better.”
I felt a wave of shame rush over me and in that moment, I saw that she was doing the best she could, just like me and just like every other mom in the universe. She has her hands full, just like me and she is just dealing with each moment to the best of her ability. And I felt a pull of compassion toward her, despite my throbbing patch of hair follicles.
Without thinking my hand reached out to rub her back soothingly. “No worries,” I said. “Please, it’s okay.” And just like that, I was over it. In fact, I felt so close to this unfamiliar mom in that moment. I understood and I learned something too. I shouldn’t rush to judgement. I shouldn’t get caught up in feeing superior to my fellow warriors. We are all dealing with our own problems and I have no right to think I am doing any better than any other mom.