There she was, in all her disheveled and irrational glory. Dressed in nothing but her bra and underwear, screaming at the top of her lungs. Pacing outside her tent in a sold out public campground. And the obnoxious wind, that friend that never really could keep a secret, carrying her voice through the trees. Curse words flying to and fro, doing their undeniable damage. Her daughter continuing, incredibly, to argue back.
Welcome to the sh!t show.
The entire place stood still. Everyone was watching. Listening. Like it was a Broadway musical. Only instead of the singing and merriment, we were all subjected to a documentary on how many ways the f word can be used in a sentence. Truthfully I was slightly impressed.
I sat at our campsite’s picnic table not blinking. Along for the ride. This incredible emotional roller coaster. I had a front row seat. And my thoughts and emotions were immediate.
“Where are her clothes? This woman is out of control”
“Why does her daughter keep talking back?"
At one point my husband said to me, “What are you doing?” I immediately replied, “I just don’t understand why that little girl keeps responding. She needs to just keep her mouth shut.”
And then it came. The words that you swear you will never say. The person you think that you will never be. The kind of attitude that we claim we never have.
“I do feel bad for her but her daughter has clearly been enabled to talk back like that. I would never allow that with the boys."
My regret and self-disgust was instantaneous. Like a shot to the gut. I called myself out on the spot to my husband. As if some other person had taken over my body. Shame on me. And as we drove away from camp that day I had time to process what I had just seen and experienced.
A mother went camping with her young, teenage daughter. If you’ve ever gone family camping you know what a feat just getting to your destination is. A brave activity by itself. And I did not know a single thing about this woman. What she has been through. What it took to get there. Or what her breaking point is.
Because we all have a breaking point.
If you think that you don’t, you are either a liar or haven’t hit this milestone yet. To experience what the edge of sanity looks, feels, tastes, and smells like yet. Someday you will understand. For now you can stand down with your judgment.
For this mother there were a set of circumstances that led up to this ridiculously hot day inside a boiling tent with a mouthy child (even the good ones have their moments) and that was all it took. I am sure this was the last thing she had imagined when she planned this trip.
“It’s gonna be great. We're gonna go be one with nature. Roast marshmallows. Sing some Kum Ba Yah. Hold hands. I’ll run around half naked, screaming like a lunatic. We’ll take pictures for the scrapbook."
I wanted to go back and hug her. Invade her personal space. Look her in the eyes and say, “I am with you and I am for you, Mama.” Because we have all been there. Had that moment. For most of us it just hasn’t been such a humiliating public display. We have all had that moment of questionable parenting. When sleep has been lacking. And our sweet little cherubs resemble something closer to Children of the Corn. If you don’t know what that is, imagine your perfect children. Now imagine them without souls.
Why is it that we feel better about ourselves when we see someone else getting it wrong? As if that somehow lets us off the hook.
PARENTHOOD IS NOT GRADED ON THE CURVE, PEOPLE!
I have watched over this last year as story after story hit the news about a supposed parental failing. A child that was injured or tragically died. I found the social media trolls throwing their empty opinions into the judgment pool to be worse than the situations they were critiquing. Seriously though, do these people not have lives of their own?
You are responsible for your family. It’s not you against other people’s families. We are all in this crazy thing together. And the sooner we figure this out the better off we will be. The sooner we start looking at each other with a little more compassion, the better off we will be. Whether it’s what kind of food we are feeding them, what kind of sunscreen we are putting on them, what kind of tragedy may have hurt or even taken them from us: a hot car, a pool, an alligator.
Dear Mamas: Your loss is my loss. Your struggle is my struggle. I grieve with you.
And why? BECAUSE at some point...
My loss is your loss. My struggle is your struggle. And hopefully you will grieve with me.
Grace in the face of trial is reciprocal. You will never realize how important compassion, understanding, support, and love are until you are at the breaking point. Until you find yourself in that place of need. In that moment of loss. Until your world is suddenly turned upside down.
Standing in public, half naked, cursing at the top of your lungs. Like a psychopath.
And I am here to tell you that if you are the parent that disagrees with, or regularly finds fault in other people’s parenting strategies, my door will be open. When you need it. When you eventually have a bad day. When the unexpected finds it’s way to you. When you finally break. Waving bye bye to your own sanity. You will be welcome here. No judgment. Just love. Always.