I was putting a cart away in the Lowes parking lot. My son was dutifully by my side. He always helped me put the carts back in the chorale – insert lesson on responsibility. He smiled, waved, and introduced himself to everyone who walked by us, as normal. He brightened my day, made the trip wonderful, and was freedom personified.
And then he decided to run away from me laughing … toward the parking lot.
This story does not have an accident in it. But, my mind went blank and I just yelled “STOP!” Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at me, but all I cared to view was whether my 4 year-old was listening. He did hear me, stopped, and looked at me smiling that charming smile that said, “I love you, Mommy.”
My heart beat started to return to normal, I allowed my breath to release, and I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer as I walked to my son. I did not run – that would scare him or make him think I was chasing him in a fun game of tag.
Right as I was about 20 feet from him, he took off again, right into the travel aisle of the parking lot. This time, I started to run, but a lady who was next to him, grabbed his arm and told him to wait for his mom. I was right there in a second, thanked her, picked up my son, and started to walk back to my car, ashen white. How could I have let this happen – I have been so careful in the past!
When I looked up to thank Mrs. Hero of the parking lot, I saw it … the judgement. The ‘how-could-you-allow-your-son-so-close-to-the-road’ – where were you? What would have happened if I was not there? I got an X on my mommy card that day – the ‘you-don’t-deserve-your-child’ X. The lack of compassion and understanding is one thing, but when you question yourself already, that judgement is deadly.
I returned to my car, my son got a swot on the backside and a lecture on pedestrian-vehicle safety. He got mad at me for the swot (it’s never forceful enough for a painful reaction) and yelled at me for making him upset – thank you Pre-K! Then, I started to shake and cry in the front seat. The reaction was purely adrenaline and release from my nerves. I had been hit by a car in my front yard at the age of 6 – flashbacks and fear got the better of me. That is when my son realized that what had happened was actually serious. He apologized, asked me for a hug, and we continued on our day.
But that look I received. It still gives me shudders. What it really does, however, is solidify the fact that being a mother is the most judged ‘job’ I will ever have. Everything I do and everything my son does will be judged under a microscope by any other man or woman we encounter. My 4-year-old did not realize proper safeguards in a store parking lot. That is my fault for not being a heliocopter parent predicting his every move. Then, we get criticized for not allowing our children to make mistakes on their own. Then there are those that think we do not teach the right things, we model poor behavior and etiquette, this, that, and the other. It is a no win situation.
I am learning to accept responsibility for what I can, while allowing my son some freedom to make minor mistakes – you know, eating a leaf will not taste as good as these yummy peas, do not touch the splintered wood, etc. I already judge myself so harshly because I want to do right by my child. But, if I have learned nothing else, it is that I will look out for other children, help any harried mom when necessary, look at her, and say – Hey, I’ve been there … an hour ago. 🙂