I have a crazy idea.
Let’s not judge people we know absolutely nothing about. Let’s not even judge people we do know things about – because we probably don’t know the full story.
I’m tired of getting the look. The one I got when I was trying to cope with a threatened miscarriage, when the nurse in the ER asked my marital status – as if only young, single women could possibly run into trouble with their pregnancy. The same look I got from the book store clerk when, at 21, I bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting. The one I got at my first *real* ultrasound appointment, when my Mom and Dad – not the father of my child – came in to see. The look I got sitting in the hospital room alone, terrified of the idea I might go into labour without the support of my Mom and boyfriend.
I’ve tried to dress “grown up” when I’m out with F. Do my hair a little nicer, wear sophisticated clothing. I even wore my wedding band and engagement ring out shopping after my break-up, partially because I felt naked without them but mostly because it’s a little thing people notice. At the end of the day, though, I’m still a young single mom. It doesn’t make me less of a mom or less of a person. I’ve gone without the look for some time now, or perhaps I just haven’t noticed it. I was [un]fortunate enough to receive it about seventy times simultaneously on Friday. Have you ever experienced that level of mortification that makes you wish you could evaporate? Yeah, it was that bad.
After over five hours spent in the car, an hour of unpacking, and three days spent with a cranky, over-tired Mommy, F was not a happy kid. He was both anxious and confused, cooped up and uncooperative. I was stroller-less, and we were in a mall. I’m sure you can anticipate how this story ends. What you probably can’t anticipate is the exact moment that led to the look.
“NO MOMMY!” he screamed at me. Both hands collided with my face at the same time, he stuck his tongue out and spit, flailing his arms and arching his back. At over forty pounds, I can barely carry him for any length of time or distance when he’s cooperating. I pleaded with him to settle down, and then it came – out of nowhere. “FUCK OFF!” As clear as day, those two words echoed through the busy food court. Even over the buzz of people, my toddler was heard by every person around us. People turned and stared.
“We’re leaving,” was all I could muster. I clambored through the crowd as F cried and cried. We were both tired, hungry and frustrated. He was mad at me, and I was mortified. I could feel eyes burning into me as I walked away and I could just imagine what people were saying. It boiled over in the car in the parking lot as I collapsed into tears.
“Maybe I’m not cut out to be a Mom. I’m so mortified, and my kid is swearing at me. My toddler is swearing at me! Every person in there just looked at me like the worst mother ever. What kind of mother am I to have my two-year-old using the “F” word?”
That look. The one we all have, the one we make when we think no one is going to see us. The one that crosses our face as we lean over to point out what a plight on society another human being is, without having the slightest clue what that person’s story is. Do you know where my sweet little guy learned the F-word? I don’t. I’d love to. Was it when he heard me talking on the phone, angrily letting it slip? Was it listening to my brother, my Dad or even my Mom? Was it on a movie that I was watching and didn’t think he was paying attention to? A song?
It’s not the only bad word he has in his vocabulary, unfortunately. My brother, who I love dearly, is responsible for teaching him a fair few. He thought it was hilarious to see my two-year-old throwing out words like “shit” and “bitch”. What he didn’t realize is that two-year-olds don’t have filters like we do: they throw those words out in the moments when it is least acceptable. Or maybe they realize that it’s the absolute worst time to say the words, and that is why they do it. I’m not entirely sure on that one either. What I do know, is if I were one of the people standing and staring at me marching out of the mall with an F-word slinging, hysterical two year old, I was make the assumption that the mother was swearing at her kid.
And that’s just not the case, but not one of those people will ever know the difference.