Tag Archives: life lessons

Greatest Mother in the World Spotted in YMCA Parking Lot

As published in the Rye Record on January 22, 2016

I saw a woman leaving the YMCA yesterday with a baby strapped to her chest, another, slightly larger one in a stroller, and a three year old holding her hand. She was infested with small children. I stopped to watch. How in the world are they going to make it to their car, I wondered. How is she going to cross the great abyss between where she is right now and bedtime?

When they got close enough, I could hear that the three year old was trying to make a scene. I say “trying to make a scene,” because he was waging war against his mother, and she was refusing to participate. With a steady gait and an even expression, she ignored him. It was the most spectacular moment in parenting I have ever seen. This woman, who I imagine lives in a shoe, should teach a seminar.

It seemed that I had walked in on the one-sided battle late. The three year old was saying, “You’re so mean to me” over and over again. I tried to think back to all of the things I would have said in this situation when I had toddlers to defend myself against. “I’m mean??” I would have started. “You’re the one who…” But she said nothing, and without a reaction from his mother, this kid was firing blanks.

He tried a new approach. “I’m freezing. I don’t even have any pockets.” To which his mother responded, “Oh, that’s too bad. You should have brought a jacket with pockets.” There was not a hint of sarcasm in her voice. She said this in the tone you would use to say, “I think I’m going to wear my blue sweater today.” The cold weather was not going to turn into an emotionally charged subject either.

There before me was a new existential question of parenting: If a child has a fit in the parking lot and his mother doesn’t react, did he really have a fit at all?

Pound for pound, a small child has more power in a public place than an adult. Small children have the advantage over the rest of us in that they are loud and they are not self-conscious. It’s a lethal combination. A temper tantrum at home can be tuned out. A temper tantrum on a full flight cannot.

Cute, right? Not on an airplane
Cute, right? Not on an airplane

For this reason, I bow my head out of respect when I encounter a two year old on an airplane. No one outside the cockpit has more control over how this flight’s going to go than this pretty little creature with the Hello Kitty backpack. I smile at her panicked parents in solidarity. They try not to make eye contact, embarrassed because we are about to find out what a beast their child is. I pray that they’re armed with markers, snacks and Benadryl.

The child hurling himself on the floor of the cereal aisle is exposing our worst insecurities to the eyes of strangers. Those eyes might actually be sympathetic or amused, but in them we only see confirmation of the truth we’ve suspected all along: We’re pretty much doing everything wrong. It was downright reckless of them to let us leave the hospital with a baby. Chances are we’ve ruined him already, so we might as well just give him the Froot Loops.

The key to our parking lot heroine’s success is that she was decidedly not self-conscious. She was aware that I had stopped in my tracks to watch this scene, riveted. But in the same way she wasn’t going to hand her power over to her three year old, she wasn’t going to hand it over to me either. If could go back in time and give my young-mother self one quality, it would be that ability to hold on to my power.

As they got in the car, the child threatened, “When we get home I’m going to my room!” His mother replied, “I think that’s a wonderful idea.” Checkmate.

A hundred years ago, in need of a nap
A hundred years ago, in need of a nap

They’re not Thoughtless. They’re Astronauts.

It’s funny when your kids start driving and noticing how frequently the adults around them don’t obey the traffic laws. Look, Mom, that guy didn’t signal. Look, Mom, that lady ran the stop sign. Again, I need to fill them in. I explain to my kids that it’s because these people are just a bunch… Continue Reading

This Just In: My Kid Got A Job!!!

As Published in The Week on June 19, 2014 Raising kids isn’t cheap. At first it’s just the basics like shelter, clothing and food, but it quickly spirals out of control into music classes, their own seat on an airplane and many, many pairs of subtly different cleats. The first time I saw the price… Continue Reading

Mastering the Bigger Game

As published in The Rye Record on February 10, 2013 Last weekend I met a high school basketball coach who told me, “We are not here to help your kids win. We are here to help them grow up.” I tensed the muscles in my arms to keep me from throwing them around this man. How… Continue Reading

I Finally Get What The Big Deal Is About Sports

As published in The Rye Record on March 26, 2012 When I was a kid, I didn’t play any sports. I don’t mean I didn’t play very well or competitively, I mean I never played any sports at all. At recess, I specialized in hanging out, a skill I mastered and carried with me into… Continue Reading

What? Me Wait?

As published in The Rye Record on February 27, 2012 Some of the best people I know are waiting for college admissions decisions right now. They’ve aced all their AP courses, and taken the SAT, the ACT, and the subject tests numerous times. They’ve scoured their souls for material worthy of a personal essay. In… Continue Reading

Playing the Game of Life

As published in The Rye Record on December 6, 2012 The great thing about Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders is that they can be played in less than 15 minutes and take very little mental effort. Even so, when my husband comes home from work, I can still add “played a board game with… Continue Reading

The Blessing of a Bad Haircut

As published in The Rye Record on November 8, 2012 From the first time I cut the crusts off a peanut butter sandwich, I have been chewing on this thought: By doing too much for our kids, we’re probably doing too little. Seldom has this been more apparent to me than on a recent Saturday… Continue Reading

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