This Matt Walsh Blog post -- note, the responsive comments outnumber the population of my hometown -- has me lately thinking about the sisterhood of motherhood.
First case in point: I was crouching on the floor at Target, agonizing over whether I should buy Size 9 or Size 10 purple fuzzy snowboots, when a button nose peered down at me, topped by the tiniest pair of Clark Kent glasses I ever have seen.
"I'm reawwwy FAST," the owner of the glasses announced over the edge of the shopping cart wherein he was riding.
"I'll bet you are!" I automatically looked up with a grin.
"I'm faster than the Fox!" the little Clark Kent continued with great pride.
"Are you faster than all the superheroes?" I temporized, with a cautious glance at the Mama pushing the cart. Because you don't want to be thought creepy for having an extended discussion with somebody else's kid. Even if you are looking at fuzzy purple snowboots yourself at the time. And you don't know if superheroes are okay in somebody else's house, and so forth, and so on. But the Mama is grinning at her child as he continues.
"I'm faster than [mumble] and I run really good, and I have sheets with [mumble] on them but now we live with Grandma so I don't have my sheets all the time . . ."
The cart-pushing Mama interjected with, "Um, she doesn't need to know all that, honey -- "
While little Clark, who has taken a huge shine to me, is informing me that " -- I had to leave them at our house and we live with Grandma now because -- "
Whereupon the Mama got pretty "UHM!" with the kid and he subsided into the cart.
"Oh, they'll tell you everything about everything, won't they:? Mine's five, and she will tell you everything," I blathered, trying to set her at ease.
"Well, yes," she said flatly, "but you don't know me or anything about me."
I paused a second from my vantage point at her knees, still smiling up at her. "Well, I know you are a mother, and I am a mother, and that's enough to know."
Later, loading my purple fluffy snowboots into the car, I so wished that I had added, "And you're clearly doing a great job, if your terrific outgoing little kid is any indication!" Because I have a feeling she might have needed to hear it. So I was not, in Target, the sister I should have been. But, cart-pushing Mama, I am thinking of you and your cute little kid, and hoping that it all works out for you.
That said, and I am sure my own sister will agree, "sisterhood" does not always connote "solidarity."
Second case in point: I am driving through the Starbucks and staring absently from my car window into the outdoor seating area. A Mama is outside, enjoying her coffee. She has three (3) boys in tow: probably ages 2, 5, and 7 or thereabouts.
The boys are all dressed in darling little outfits with sweaters against the summer breeze. They are ranged around the table, swinging their feet and smiling while Mom drinks her coffee. Charming. I glance back at the carseat, where my own offspring has stopped howling only because she is now happily pouring milk onto her seatbelt and watching the drops soak in.
Even more tooth-grittingly, the mama is tanned and toned, wearing a poppy-colored ribbed tank top and a breezy peasant skirt -- in white -- with a big floral print. Her long dark hair is effortlessly tamed in a messy French twist. She is wearing big hoop earrings and carrying some sort of painfully simple hobo bag that is painfully perfect with the whole ensemble.
I turn around to dig out my wallet -- reminding myself to just be grateful for the resources to buy this latte even though I will undoubtedly spill a bunch of it on myself and therefore I have no white breezy skirts in my personal future -- when I hear a wail from the Starbucks courtyard.
All three boys have popped off their chairs and are rampaging around the gated seating area. Two of the three are in complete meltdown mode. The smallest one is under the table, minus his sweater and a few other articles of clothing, drumming his heels and shouting, "I HATE my hat! I HATE my hat!" The whole Starbucks yard sounds like the aviary at the zoo. The Mama, clearly a pro, continues to sip her coffee. The mien that I had previously taken for "smug and haughty" now reads more like "zenlike resignation."
I don't want to wish her ill. We are, after all, sisters in the cause. But I collected my Starbucks and drove off feeling just a little bit better about my own day.
Then there is the third case: Ourselves as Others See Us. I was wandering around Old Navy with both kids in tow (why? I really cannot say). We were having a good day. Dragon Girl was squirmy in the stroller, and He'en wanted the coloring table instead of the leggings selection, but I cannot fault either of them for that.
As we chased around looking for some new He'en pants, I caught the eye of a mother with two girls who were maybe 9, either twins or sisters close in age. I smiled at her and we smiled at me:
I grinned at the mother and asked cheerfully, "How old are your girls?"
"Oh, 9 and 10," she smiled. "They are only 15 months apart."
"Wow, that must be fun!" I said, as I bumbled my bags-kids-stroller-pilfered-crayons load into the dressing room behind her.
Thereupon followed the predictable two-kid dressing-room experience: chirpy discussions with He'en, the baby trying to crawl under the door, trying to hold Dragon Girl while buttoning Helen's pants for her, flicking dustbunnies off of everyone because of course we had all landed on the floor, and so forth. It was all basic Mom-stuff, and everybody was cheerful throughout (except maybe Dragon Girl, who rather fiercely wanted to investigate the loading bay and wasn't shy about expressing it).
Still smiling despite the light sweat, I got everybody out of the dressing room and pretty well lined-up for the checkout. I was feeling mighty smug that we had not only gotten pants, but that everyone had a good time at the store.
At the checkout, I got in line again between the nice mom with the two girls. They were loaded with cool neon sweaters and one had a jazzy pair of horn-rimmed glasses. "Looks like you found some great things!" I said.
"Well, we did, but you, now you sure look busy right now!" she smiled.
"Yes, well, it's the busy time," I smiled back, prying something shiny out of Helen's hand with a no, we're not buying that whispered aside, simultaneously shoving DG gently back into the stroller where another concerted escape attempt was in progress, and digging for my wallet with my third hand.
"It gets so much easier. I promise," she assured me. She just oozed warmth and empathetic concern. Like . . . oozing at the level that might have been appropriate if I'd been whacking one of my kids in the dressing room and she wanted to give me one more chance before calling Child Services.
So I gushed and smiled and thanked her, but I drove home checking the rear-view mirror for frown wrinkles. Her heart was totally in the right place. I give her full credit for proper sisterhood behavior. But . . . do I look that whacked? Or maybe I look like a good Mom who just needs Botox?
"If there is a single point," my own sister said as I discussed this post with her, "It's simply that we're all in this together. Every mother everywhere." And, yes, that's all I really had meant to say.