The last day of the week-long summer day camp. The day when the parents are asked to come in for: "An opportunity to see what we've been busy doing this week and celebrate with your child!" Aren't we paying copious amounts of money for this camp precisely because we need someone to care for them while we are working? And that missing an afternoon of work completely defeats the purpose? So, maybe I arrived with my feathers already up. I will say that.
The campers and parents are sitting around tables while the director calls out each child's name to come to the front. There are withering mounds of snacks and a musty, unpleasant smell in the air. The kids, ages 6-12ish, are restless and hot because it seems the air conditioner is not really working. My own camper is melting before my eyes. Her back is on the chair, arms flailed off to one side, legs to the other, backbend-esque. And she's kicking me. Not in an I want to hurt you way, but more in the I'm about to lose it and if I engage in some repetitive behavior that also forces mom to pay attention to me maybe I won't.
This part of my life as a mother, this out in public with a child that's not behaving how everyone around her wants her to behave, has held some pretty painful moments. They've been some of my biggest parenting aha's. It takes every. single. ounce. of my self-control to not start screaming at my child to just do what I'm asking you to do and behave like every other kid in this room. But, most of the time and especially when I've had coffee and good sleep, I've trained myself away from doing just that. And when I say trained myself, I mean it's as if I've never walked across a balance beam and somehow came up with the goal of mastering the backflip on those four inches: it's taken years and endless piles of parenting books and a good therapist and many, many scenarios like these that did not end well.
Another mom decides she can't possibly take it anymore, my methods are ineffective and she needs to intervene. "You need to sit up, stop kicking and start listening to your mother."
My heart skips a beat and every hair on my arms stands up straight. Simply because you are a mother does not qualify you to understand what is going on here. Simply being a mother does not give you permission to parent other people's kids.
So often we don't know the struggles that other people face. Just like I don't fully understand lots of parenting experiences, many parents don't understand my child. Be mindful and lead with empathy. Our words can be knives that carve deep wounds into the hearts of others.