Friday, January 10, 2014

She who casts the first stone...

Hello All (all 4 of you, that is!) -
      Happy New Year!  Wow, it's been such a long time since I posted, as you can see - apparently I'm a fair-weather blogger…  I never intended to be, I had great intentions of being a serious writer and getting ideas and experiences "set to paper", but so many things seem to get in the way of sitting down and typing a full article, let alone composing a clear, concise thought.  It's the usual list of important day-to-day priorities that will only sound like excuses if I tried to explain them!  All I can do is try better this year, so here goes…

       Six years ago today, my heart was stolen by this amazingly sweet, handsome, smart little boy - my baby boy, Quinn!  I don't know where the time has gone.  I look at pictures of him from over the years, and at some point, as if right before my eyes, he left behind the baby phase and has become a small man.  I have so many wonderful memories of my time with him, watching him grow and figure things out, and teaching me how to be a good mom and a great person along the way.  As his mother and his friend, I wanted his 6th birthday to be a lot of fun, despite being on a Thursday.  I think for him it was, although I had to deal with a big hiccup in the middle of the day that threw me off and distracted me for quite a large chunk of the day.
         All three kids woke up early - 6 a.m. - today.  And there I was worried that I wouldn't be up in time to make birthday pancakes!  Quinn was surprised to see streamers and decorations in his honor, hanging from the ceiling and draped over his chair (despite having his party somewhere other than home, I still like to decorate around the house for him).  The kids had adequate playtime while I cooked breakfast and packed Quinn a special snack for school (he's obsessed with the idea of Lunchables), and then we enjoyed pancakes before scrambling to get everyone dressed to go to the bus stop.  I don't always dress the girls for the day before we take Quinn to the bus stop (since it's been near 0 degrees most mornings, I drive the warmed-up minivan up around the corner, and the girls stay inside the whole time, and Quinn and I jump out as the bus pulls up).  This morning it was a "balmy" 20 degrees, a welcome warming, and since I do have a jam-packed morning, I dress the girls quickly before throwing on their coats, grabbing Quinn's backpack, and carrying out it all out the door to the waiting van.  As we wait for the bus, I run down my mental To Do list for the morning - drop Quinn off at the bus (almost 'check'), go to the post office (the Sudbury post office is slower than death so I had no idea what kind of wait we were in for), stop by the atm, drop off a pre-labeled box at UPS, take the girls to the 10:30 story time at the library, and then head up to Quinn's school for 11:20, to read a book to his class for his birthday.  So, once we saw Quinn safely onto the bus, I took the girls home to finish dressing them and cleaning up from breakfast, pack up their snacks and our packages, track down our due-today library books, and head out the door by 9:20.  We hit the atm briefly first, then walked into the post office to mail our packages (a belated Christmas gift and the wool coasters that the girls inadvertently stole from their Uncle and Aunt in Newburyport).  Thankfully, there was only one person in front of us, so it wasn't a horribly painful wait with the girls (what's a few cards falling out of the card carousels as the girls spin them as fast as they can…).
          Next stop, UPS, and all we need to do is drop off a box, onto which I had already printed out the return label.  Even with the unbuckling and rebuckling of two children factored in, this is a 3 minute job, tops.  I accidentally drove past the entrance and had to loop around (amateur move, I know), and as I drove up from the other side of the building, I saw a worker right at the counter by the door.  Oooo, if I can park in the open spot right by that door, I can hand him the box and not have to get the girls out.  So, I pull up and reverse into the parking spot, thinking added safety if they're closer to the building.  I grab the box, and for a second I reconsider not taking the girls with me - I've never actually left the kids in the car for even a few seconds, and definitely no farther than the distance to pump gas (well, other than running groceries into our house from the driveway before taking the kids in - safer buckled in than running rampant in the house alone, right? - or shoveling the driveway while they're warm in the car watching a movie).  But the guy is right by the door, so I can run the 5 yards, hand it off, and get right back to the car.  As I'm about to open my door, this giant white SUV storms into the parking spot right next to me.  I wait for this marshmallow-Patagonia-jacket-and-obnoxious-purple-Lulu-Lemon-wearing woman to slowly get her package out of her car, before I can jump out of my car and double-click my keychain to arm the alarm.  I speed walk around her on the other side of her car as she's getting something else out of the other side - the guy is still just inside the door, but he's starting up the ramp, so I rush toward the door, when I hear "Oh my God, are you leaving a baby in the car while you go inside?".  I'm stunned by this statement, but I say "No, I'm just handing off this package", still in my hurry-mode to get that package inside.  "Dropping off?" the man says as I open the door to the store, an odd look on his face.  "Thank You!" I tell him, as I spin around and rush back out the door, and starting to feel defensive and ashamed because this woman is still standing there spouting opinions and threats - how she should call the police, that I should not have a child because I'm an unfit mother, how dare I leave a baby in the car in this cold weather…  I don't even know what else she's saying because I'm already giving myself a guilt trip because I never leave the girls in the car and the one time I have taken what felt like an innocent (and still perfectly safe?) shortcut in three+ years, some high-and-mighty-elite-opinionated woman calls me on it.  I think I yelled something at her about "you try having twins and an older child and see how hard it is" and "the guy was right inside the door, I was eight feet from the car" and "who are you to pass judgment on me?"…  I was so pissed off when I finally got back in the car, and so stuck inside my own head, that I couldn't focus on anything else, couldn't think of anything else to talk to my girls about (luckily, they weren't looking for conversation - only about 90 seconds had actually passed since I'd gotten out of the car, and they were just happy to have Finding Nemo playing again on the dvd player).  My mind was filled with devastating thoughts, and I was riddled with guilt.
      I drove up to the library, about 2 minutes away, and my mind was racing.  I parked in the lot while the movie played, just trying reign in my stomach, and collect my thoughts.  Was I in the wrong today?   Were the girls actually in danger being there in the car?  Was I really a bad mother, leaving my babies alone in the car?  Was this bitchy woman right in everything she was saying?  Could I actually be arrested for what I did (I heard helicopters overhead hours later back at home and the thought crossed my mind that they had come for me)?  Did that one instance take away all the good things I'd done as their mother?  Granted even if I hadn't been caught, I would probably have thought back on that decision (to leave my precious girls alone in the car more than a few feet away) throughout the day anyway and second-guessed myself.  The fact that this holier-than-thou woman had yelled at me such horrible things at me just compounded it.  But, as I sat in the car, I saw plenty of people parking at the curb and walking down a ramp about 15 feet away from their cars to use the outside book drop, many of them leaving kids in the car - wasn't that worse, more unsafe than the distance away from the car that I had been?  Couldn't that be construed as a shortcut, too, not taking the kids to the book drop with them?  Surely that woman had left her kids in the car to use the book drop?  Despite it being my first borns birthday, I found this terrible person was occupying my thoughts instead (and was she awful because of her accusations or because they could be true? I couldn't decide…)
        We went inside the library, I held my girls close (they crawl over me and sit on my lap anyway, not like I was letting this woman alter the affection I showed my babies) but wasn't quite paying the usual attention to the librarian and the craft.  During the craft, I made myself helpful by dividing up the sticker sheets to be shared with all the children at the table; anything to get my mind off the altercation at the UPS store, to feel like I had purpose as a mother and a human being, maybe doing a few extra good deeds would take away the fact that I'd apparently left my children in jeopardy because I was too lazy to unbuckle them to hand off the package (was my mind rationalizing for me by defending it that the guy was right inside the door?!).  And hey, attention everyone else around me in the craft room - my girls can almost write the first letter of their names - because I love them enough to try to teach them that!  See, I'm not a bad mother!
        After the library, we hurried up to Quinn's elementary school to check in (and not be late as usual…) for our reading to his class.  Quinn had helped me pick out a story to read to the class, which would then be left as a gift to stay with his classroom (it focused on rhyming and repeated word patterns so I felt it fit right in with the kindergarten theme).  The girls and I walked into the classroom, and immediately disrupted everything; hey, it happens basically everywhere we go.  I noticed that the assistant teacher was there, but there was another woman there who was not their main teacher but also seemed out of place… but that's besides the point.  The assistant teacher focused the children on cleaning up their tables and heading over to the circle time rug so that I could begin with my part (it occurred to me that maybe I should have prepared more of a presentation).  I sat down in that rocking chair, all the children, two teachers, my girls and Quinn in the center, and realized that all eyes were on me.  I talked to the children, got everyone involved, read the story with the same animation that I read to my own kids at home, doing voices and expressing the attitudes and emotions as if I were in the story - they were all hooked, laughing, getting excited, asking questions; they loved every minute.  I loved every minute of it, and truly enjoyed seeing the smile on Quinn's face with his sisters and his friends around him.
           I took Quinn (and the girls, of course) home afterward, as opposed to him riding the bus (though we stopped by the bus to check the lost and found, where his snow pants and new gloves were found).  We had a nice lunch at home, completed with sandwiches, blueberries, and Quinn's favorite sour cream and onion chips.  The kids wanted to put on their slippers and watch a movie on the couch under blankets - My Little Pony, oddly enough it was Quinn's pick.  I stacked the lunch dishes so I could join them on the couch.  The girls sat on either side of me and Quinn sat on my lap - it was heaven.  These are the moments I love, where the kids are all over me, I can smell their skin and their hair and hug them tightly (without them telling me "Mama, no more kisses!").
          I couldn't help letting my mind wonder back to that evil woman's opinions, but this time I decided she was the one in the wrong - how dare she make a snap judgment about another person without having any idea of their situation?!  She doesn't know me or have any idea just how much I love my children - how I hug and kiss them all day everyday simply out of love, the great care I take of them and have since before they were even born, how my eyes tear up randomly during the day simply thinking of how precious my babies are and how my heart bursts with love for them!  I am an amazing Mom, and a wonderful person - I'm so thoughtful of other people's feelings, I have a good and generous heart and go out of my way to help people, even complete strangers; I put myself in everyone else's shoes and really try to feel how they feel.  And now that some time has passed since that woman's accusations, I feel confident again in myself and my abilities and my past decisions to know that I don't need to justify any of this to anyone else.
           One lesson I can take from this is to make sure I never put someone in that same position myself - to make sure that I curb my judgment of someone and see if there is something I could do to help the situation.  Instead of being part of what she felt was the problem (leaving a baby in the car, clearly she didn't see there were two babies!), she could have tried to be part of a solution and tried to help - she could have offered to stand by my car while I ducked inside the door or she could have offered to hand the box to the worker while I watched from my car.  She didn't need to say a word to do the first option, she could have done that without even offering, and I probably would have been none the wiser because I was on a mission to get back as quickly as possible.  Maybe she didn't know I was just going inside the door to drop off the package (but seriously, who would ever go all the way inside the store, conduct business at the counter for several minutes with babies all the way outside…?)  Instead, she took what is probably her usual route in life - to cast judgment on other people so she can feel better about herself, and I wish I hadn't wasted so much thought on such a ridiculous person; I wish I could have rolled my eyes and moved on, to focus on Quinn's birthday and all three of my children in general.  I'm used to people giving their unsolicited opinions - you shouldn't nurse in public, you shouldn't dress your twins the same, your boy's hair is too long, etc etc.  It comes with the territory of being a mother, and if that woman is a mother, she should have known that, too.  I think her opinion of me not being a good mother struck a cord because with the holidays, and preparing for and taking down of them, I definitely have felt guilty that I wasn't being as attentive to the kids as usual, but my love for them has never faltered, I just had to show that love in other ways (trying to give them great holiday memories through decorating and activities and gifts from Santa!).
            Who knows, if I hadn't driven past the entrance to the UPS Store the first time, the whole confrontation with that woman might have been avoided, or maybe the worker might not have been by the door and I would just have taken the girls inside with me anyway.  I wonder if God or whatever 'powers that be' wanted me to learn from this or to reaffirm my confidence in myself as a person and a mother (wish they'd picked a day other than Quinn's 6th birthday though…).  Bottom line, what I should take from this "experience" is this - she who casts the first stone had better be without fault…  I don't pretend for a minute to be without fault, and I'm sure that awful woman isn't either.  I just need to make sure I never let my actions or opinions make someone else feel the way she made me feel today.  Tis' better to be part of the solution, not the problem.  Surely, Karma must be on my side, right?