Picture this. You are eight hours into what should have been a three hour trip home from your beach vacation and you’ve only gone about seventy five miles. Frustration, boredom (for the kids), hunger, and straight up agony are being fed to you in heaping teaspoons. Suddenly, you hear a surprised gasp and a powerful expletive spew from the mouth of your husband who usually suffers silently on these road trips with only an occasional loud sigh. “THAT WOMAN IS WAILING ON THAT BABY!” he screams. Now that he’s got our attention everyone pipes up- “Where?” “What kind of baby?” “Which car?” “Daddy, catch up to her so we can see the baby slapper!”
As we creep closer to the alleged offender (notice I give her the benefit of the doubt by using “alleged”) we see only a woman driving with what looks to be an infant in the backseat. “Are you sure she wasn’t adjusting her car seat?” I say, hoping that in fact is the case since this is a TINY baby I’m looking at. “NO” my husband thunders, “She was slapping the shit out of that kid!”
Now, given the level of seething rage and impatience in our own car after that many hours confined, I can only imagine that someone somewhere out there is going to completely lose it with a kid. Who knows, maybe she had been crying non-stop for ten hours and throwing plastic crap toys at her beleaguered mother who simply wanted to pull over and just end it all by running into oncoming traffic. Although, on second thought no cars were moving so that’s not a good way to die. Seriously though, people sometimes lose their minds and my husband and I did feel badly but we did nothing.
Cut to several weeks later and my spouse has another story for me involving a mother losing her shit and a kid paying the price. “Today I saw a mom kick her kid in the ass right across the crosswalk and then leave him there”. I let this sink in before using my junior detective skills to ascertain the steps leading up to this event witnessed again by my husband. There was clearly the issue of the child’s age. “Two years old, maybe three tops”. Was the mother alone or with her other kids? “She had a school aged child with her, and they were clearly walking home with the younger sibling”. Did anything precede this ass kicking, or was it unprovoked? ” The little boy was screaming uncontrollably the whole way, and then turned and whacked her with his bag”. That was the point that I began to sympathize with this woman’s plight. I have been there. Anyone on the receiving end of the reign of terror tantrum that a difficult 2-3 year old little boy can dish out knows that it is easy to snap and make a mistake. God forbid you are somewhere that makes a spectacle of you and your little demon because you do not want others judging you at your least stellar moment, and judge you they will. I once spent an afternoon at a local park with my friend Beth and our kids where we sat on the side of the sandbox and chatted about celebrity gossip and all the recent headlines. A week prior a local foster family was all over the news for keeping some of their more difficult kids in cages and we both laughed hysterically as we said that keeping kids behind bars didn’t seem like a half bad idea. CLEARLY, we were joking but the disgust and horror of those around us made us acutely aware that these parents probably didn’t spend more than a few hours a week with their ONE child. This was confirmed as the parade of nannies came to fetch the young toddlers so their parents could have even MORE free time. It’s easy to be an award winning breeder if you have endless hours to pamper and think about yourself, now try that when you are ankle deep in garbage you haven’t had the time to pick up because you’ve been busy breastfeeding your Irish twins simultaneously and changing their diapers while pregnant with your third. O.K. that is a bit of an exaggeration, I wasn’t pregnant with my third until my first two were older, but still…you get the idea.
Now, next time you see some poor frazzled woman going bat shit crazy on one of her kids, consider her day. Has she slept at all? Are two of her four kids down with a fever? Has she broken the world record for weeks gone by without a shower? Is her house a disaster? How many days have passed for her without a morsel of adult conversation? Is her brain ringing from all the temper tantrums she’s had to deal with? Have her children thrown bowls of food it took her hours to make right back in her face? How many diapers has she changed and how many runny noses has she wiped? You will never know the answers to these questions or the level of difficulty in her life, but you can offer a helping hand by letting her know you’ve been there, and if there’s anything she needs just give you a call.