My grumpy voice arrives by 11 am. On an early autumn day, when three of my four children happily play in the brisk morning air, my very youngest, the last twin by 10 seconds, wails. Her body at my side, I try all of my toddler tricks, from distractions to hugs to pretending this isn’t happening in hopes it will stop. It doesn’t. So I admit defeat and lead all four away as the expectations of a day not experienced fade behind us.
“Mom, what now?” my oldest asks.
My wailing child is starting to calm, the car ride moving her away from her previous location causing her to forget why she is upset.
“Another park,” I pronounce boldly, though I feel like a determined fool, not at all brave.
We arrive at a park with no swings since those were the source of the last scene. My weeping child, Asher, is still staying close to me, her body language telling me she is on the verge of an encore performance. I sigh and keep walking, passing the table where another mom is having lunch and watching her sons play.
It doesn’t begin well. The twins want to climb up the slide, but their shoes aren’t made for that. They tumble to the bottom, one landing on the other, her foot lodged squarely in her sister’s face. The crying starts, again.
“This isn’t an easy age,” I hear the other mom say. At first, I don’t want to look over to her face, her eyes that are watching me fail, her ears that are hearing me speak words of frustration to my three year-old because logic doesn’t seem to be an option. But I do look.
“It’s very hard. Three is not my favorite time, and two three year-olds is breaking me.” Being this honest with a stranger convinces me that the day is farther gone than I thought.
“I know. My husband called while I was grabbing my Diet Coke. He said, ‘Really? At 10 am?’ And I said, ‘All anyone has done all day is yell at me, and it’s only 10 am.’”
My head nods in understanding, and I look down to realize the wailing has stopped. My daughter is playing peacefully with her siblings, my grown up conversation too much boring for her to bear. For me the conversation is a light, a path to feeling human. We keep talking about our kids and our lives, what we expected versus what is real.
I think our day might be okay after all.
The cry is from pain; I know before I look. My son is on all fours having skidded across concrete when he tripped playing a game of chase. There is blood and we’ve been at this park for less than 15 minutes.
As I give kisses and check scrapes, a little boy, the son of the woman who sympathized with me, is by my side holding a Band Aid. I take it and look over at his mom. I nod my head in thanks, and she nods back in solidarity.
We leave the park early again that day, but I’m a little less broken than when I arrived.
This is but one tale. There are so many I’d have to write a book, or maybe enough books to fill a shelf. As much as I didn’t expect motherhood to be the willful voices, the angry screams, the overwhelming love that, mixed with the overwhelming need sometimes threatens to drown me, what’s surprised me most is other moms. I’m surrounded by empathetic warriors trudging the same path, holding me up when I am on the verge of falling, allowing me to do the same for them when it’s time.
So, to all the moms I’ve known, met, talked to at a park on a particularly bad day, I’m thankful:
For the lending of Band Aids and sympathy.
For offering compassion over judgment.
For seeing through my anger to my hurt and disappointment, not at my kids but at myself because of how often I am not the mother I thought I would be.
For teaching me that while the women who fit the unfairly drawn stereotypes of females—catty, judgmental, happy when others fail—do exist, they are rare. Women are treasures, a society of hope, and most women would rather let you lean on their shoulders for support than tear you to the ground and walk over you.
For teaching me that when the judgmental women arrive on the periphery of our tribe after their kids did that thing they said their kids would never do, the right response is to welcome them with love because we were all much better parents before we actually had kids.
For love, unconditional, overflowing love that I want to pass on to my kids, the kind of love that knows you at your core and can’t be swayed by a bad day or week. A love that doesn’t let me hide in pity but sits with me in pain, that walks alongside and builds me up.
To all the moms I know or will know or have known: this journey would be impossible without you.
Kristy Ramirez writes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, grocery lists, and love letters. Her work has appeared online in Literary Mama, Parent.Co, and SheLoves Magazine, among other places. She is working on her first novel and finds joy in writing about daily life atlivesinprogressnow.blogspot.com.
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