Sometimes I think Fate, perhaps God, has a way of showing us what we otherwise wouldn't realize on our own. What we have been too blind to see, too stubborn to accept, too ignorant to learn. It takes a chance encounter, and even then we don't smack ourselves on the head say, "Oh, that's what I was supposed to learn," until way later in the day. Or maybe the next day. Or maybe in ten years.
I did something today that I try so hard to avoid doing at all costs - I took all four boys with me to the grocery store. Between the triumph of getting Baby E to actually nap, to cleaning out my filthy mini-van, to having a mommy and kids lunch and playdate, I just didn't make it there today. And I needed something for dinner (damn my family for needing to eat every day). So after school we went.
Each of the three older boys wanted their own mini-cart to push. Okay fine...review started about how to appropriately push the cart. Two boys take off running with said mini-carts and go sliding across the polished floor, while third boy runs in circles with his cart.
First warning is given.
Someone has to go to the bathroom, so we go to the far opposite end of the store from where we need to be to get to the restroom. While boy is in restroom, two other boys chase each other around a display with the mini-carts.
Second warning is given.
Back in the deli section, two boys are playing kamikaze carts and ramming them into one another, almost catching an elderly woman in their crossfire.
Everyone is told to put the carts back, which incredibly they do without arguing. Of course they all run at full speed to do so, ducking and dodging through the produce section.
As we make our way through the store, I forget several things, due to the concussion I surely have from smacking my head on the trunk door of my van earlier in the day. The headache has been building, and now my brain feels like it will explode out of my skull.
And I have three decent-sized boys hanging off the back and sides of the grocery cart as I try to maneuver it through the aisles.
We stop and argue in front of the Lunchables display over whether a certain boy will actually eat the turkey sandwich from the one he has chosen or just drink the juice and eat the Oreos instead.
And the meat shelves are void of the one item for which I came.
At the check-out, the boys are playing Ninjas and getting in everyone's way as they walk by. But even though I have had it, I refuse the offer of help to my car (must be the concussion talking), and we make our way to the parking lot.
One boy not paying attention weaves in front of the cart, and I run him over leaving him sprawled in the path of oncoming traffic. Another runs ahead, not noticing a car backing out. And still another engages in what can only be described as something out of the final scene of Scarface.
I grab his arm, saying, "I have had it. Get in the frickin' car!"
And then it happened. I looked over and saw myself. The Me from fifteen years ago. The twenty-something single gal loading her two bags of groceries in her car, looking at me out of the corner of her eye with a smirk on her face.
A look that said, 'Lady, why did you have so many kids if you can't handle them?' And a smirk that announced, 'I will never let my kids act like that when I am a mom.'
I know this because that was me looking at so many moms who had their kids with them at the store. Kids who were throwing tantrums and running away and talking back and being too big to ride in the cart.
And I was being judged now as the moms that I judged then.
I was that mom. That mom who was unable to handle her own kids. With grace, no less.
I wanted to either say to her, "Give me a break. I have a concussion," or run over, grab her by the shoulders and shout, "This is it. This is what motherhood really is, and you need to know this so you can avoid this fate of being judged for how you handle their kid-ness."
But instead, I got into my van, took the whole crew home, and let them have the run of the house while I put an ice pack on my head.
Yes, I have learned not to judge "lest ye (me) be judged." Oddly enough, everything I used to judge moms about before I was a mom, has come back to chomp down on me.
Earlier tonight, as I sat nursing Baby E and crafting this blog in my throbbing head, being assured by Hubby that I did not have a concussion because I was not forgetful and confused (more than usual anyway), I checked a blog I had commented on earlier. Underneath my comment, another mom had replied to what I had said in a way that really upset me.
The crux of my comment had been how it upsets me when I see moms on social media complaining about their children - their healthy, living children - because I lost a son, and it pains me that they don't seem to be thankful for what they have.
Her response, in short, was to tell me to "ease up on the people that have different challenges" than me.
I was incredulous. She was telling me that I needed to be okay with listening to her bitch about struggling to parent her three year old - her living three year old - as I sit here mourning a dead child - surely the biggest parenting challenge of all. The audacity and ignorance of her comment threatened to cancel the blog post I had been planing in my head. I considered writing back, emphasizing my point about my dead child, but I didn't want her pity, nor did I want to engage in a written volleyball match of comments either.
Words my sister-in-law has said to me many times swam into my head, Don't let this person steal any more moments of joy from your life. And since writing gives me joy, I set about writing.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really haven't learned anything. That I was judging this woman by her one comment without knowing anything more about her. Maybe she is a single mom. Maybe her husband is deployed. Maybe her child has special needs. Maybe she has special needs. Maybe there are other things going on in her life, and her child's behavior is just the tip of the iceberg.
Sometimes, when the rage and sorrow over Joey's death build up inside me, I go to that place of entitlement that says, 'My tragedy sucks more than everyone else's,' and I expect everyone else to see it that way, too.
But then, I remind myself that not everyone has lost a child. Just as I have not ever lost a spouse or been divorced, or fired, or hungry, or anorexic or in an abusive relationship. I have never had everything taken away from me and been stripped of my dignity and left completely alone in this world.
Maybe the above are more extreme examples, but everyone has something she is fighting, and hers is no more important than mine, nor is mine more important than hers. They are simply different, but tragic to each in it's own way.
Sisterhood aside, we are all in this world together, and bad things, tragic things, happen to us all. We all have bad days, we all feel inadequate or lonely or heartbroken or overwhelmed at some point in our lives, and to be judged by another person just adds to our feelings of anger, isolation and resentment. Instead of superiority and judgement, we should be offering empathy and understanding and a helping hand.
To that mother who is struggling through her day.
To that wife whose husband is overseas.
To that friend whose divorce has been bitter.
And yes, even to that neighbor whose biggest problem seems to be where to spend their two-week vacation this summer.
Because even she could be hiding something. Maybe it's something that you know all too well about.
Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Be her. Understand. Accept. Love. Forgive. Let go.
And hope. Hope that she can put herself in your shoes, too.