Last week, I went to the “Welcome to Kindergarten” meeting that our elementary school puts on for parents of incoming kindergartners. When the principal asked parents to raise their hands if they were sending a child to kindergarten for the first time, more than half the people in the room had air in their armpits. When he asked for a showing of second-time kindergarten parents, the rest of the room responded. My battle-scarred, oven-burned, cuticle-gnawed hand waved alone when the principal asked for third-timers. I felt like a grizzled veteran.

image from autoevolution.com

Five minutes into the presentation, a young woman slipped into my row with her small son. I smiled at her and nodded when she asked if the seats next to me were open. She sat down. Her son scampered away to play. I have a surprisingly high tolerance for children when a) I don’t know them, b) I have absolutely no responsibility for them, and c) they aren’t close to my person. So, when he started rolling his monster truck across the linoleum ten feet away from us, it didn’t bother me a bit. It bothered his mother.

When my kids do something in public that embarrasses or otherwise annoys me, they get the Mommy Glare. It’s a freeze-you-in-your-tracks look that can be thrown over great distances such as across a crowded cafeteria or it can be focused like a laser beam such as when employed in a restaurant or a church pew. My Mommy Glare is given with a furrowed brow, gritted teeth and cement-lips. It is normally followed by a just-wait-until-we-get-home speech. I won’t guess at its rate of effectiveness since I use it, regardless of its efficacy, 100% of the time.

The mom next to me fidgeted in her seat, sighing. Here it comes, I thought. Instead, she did something surprising: she leaned forward and smiled. She held this position until her child looked over at her. When he did, she wagged her finger at him while shaking her head and mouthing, “No, no, no.”

The little boy paused before he shrugged and resumed his monster truck rolling.

I stopped listening to the principal so that I could concentrate on watching this woman without appearing to watch her.

Where was her Mommy Glare? Why wasn’t she springing out of her seat? Which Mommy tactic would she pull from her toolbox?

Without taking her eyes from her son, she waited for him to look at her again. When he did, she smiled and crooked her finger at him. He picked up his truck and walked over to her slowly. She continued to smile benevolently. I waited for her to rip off her mask but the moment never came. When he reached her, she whispered in his ear and kissed the top of his head. He rolled his monster truck on the palm of his hand and leaned into her.

I tried not to gape.

I’ve thought about this mom many nights since. I wish I had her patience. I wish I was quicker to smile and less quick to scold. I wish it wouldn’t bother me when my crazy–as it inevitably does–shows.

When I first started blogging (lo, twenty-one moons ago!) I posted about how quickly women – and particularly moms – judge one another. What I didn’t mention is how harshly we judge ourselves.

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