Today’s guest post comes from Amanda Williams of Life. Edited. When she sent it to me, I was struck by its messy honesty and beautiful grace. I’m happy to pass both along to you today. –Tamara
There was a ninety percent chance of rain, but we went anyway. One mama, one papa, two grandparents and three kids under four piled into two cars and piled out at the zoo.
We had been feeding lorikeets and herding children for about twenty minutes when the rain began. Opting for lunch over misery, our party of seven took cover in the Zoo Cafe.
It was our typical game of Maintain Your Mealtime Sanity. Papa retrieves two high chairs while Mama prevents runaways. Mama settles twins into high chairs while Papa orders lunch with extremely vocal four-year old in tow. Mama attempts to entertain hungry toddlers with stale Cheerios, one book, and crayons with no paper. Magically, food appears and the invisible timer starts ticking.
T-minus ﬁfteen minutes until meltdown.
[Our children arenʼt much for being restrained.]
As if on cue, it begins. Sippy cups bang the tabletop. Half-chewed bites of PB&J are tossed to the ﬂoor. An animal cracker soars overhead. Squeals of delight become all out ear-piercing screams. We try all the usual remedies – threats, paciﬁers, peace offerings of sugary treats, singing about the mamas on the bus going shhh shhh shhh. No dice.
I hear her before I see her. An unhappy girl, maybe twenty years old, rounds the corner on the other side of the room and yells in our general direction. “TAKE YOUR KID OUT OF HERE! Itʼs ridiculous!”
Everything inside of me caught ﬁre. Had she been within armʼs reach I may have
punched her in the gut, though Iʼm generally not a gut-punching kind of woman. I wanted to swoop my babies up, all three of them, and hide them from the mean yelling lady, a mama bird protecting her young. I wanted to jump up and scream back. “Do you think I enjoy this?! At least youʼre halfway across the room!”
Itʼs the zoo, lady. If you want peace and quiet, go to the freaking library.
I wanted to do all those things. What I did was nothing. We gathered up our people and our possessions and we left.
We were ﬁnished eating anyway.
Did you hear that, Mean Yelling Lady? DO NOT THINK YOUʼVE WON.
My insides burned all the way to the car, in spite of the falling rain. My heart ﬂamed red the whole ride home. My mind spewed retorts while I silently stripped my boys of their shoes and socks and lay them in their cribs.
I have thought about this incident approximately 1,362 times since. The disgust in her words. The “Yeah!” echoed by a faceless voice in the crowd. The couple at the table next to ours leaping to our defense. “Nice! Real nice!” he yelled back at her. Then to us, “Donʼt listen to them.”
The way she wouldnʼt look at my face when I went back inside to apologize.
The sadness in her eyes that trumped the annoyance a hundredfold.
The discontent manifested as irritability and impatience. I recognized it because it looks just like mine.
When I think of her now, there is no more anger. The ﬁreʼs gone out and the thing left burning is a need for more. More hope for the mean yelling lady. More grace in my heart for my kids. More common ground between a mother of three and a mother of none, each panicked by our lack of control, our inability to make wrong things right and hard things easier.
A church sign I saw a few months ago on the way to Parentʼs Day Out [insert Hallelujah Chorus here] has embedded itself in my brain. Iʼve since decided it might be my favorite ever.
“Be kind. Everyone you meet is ﬁghting a battle.”
Mean Yelling Lady and I should both take the hint.
Amanda Williams is the stay-at-home mama of 22-month-old twin boys and a spunky four-year-old girl. In her spare time, she likes to stare at the wall, inhale coffee and chocolate, take pictures and write words. Her life goals include celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary, keeping her children from breaking a limb before age five, and successfully executing a no-spill refill of the kitchen sink soap dispenser.
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