I love my children more than anything in the world. I not only love them, but I trust them and enjoy their company. They don't go to school, so we are together all the time, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. I love it and would not change any aspect of the lifestyle I have chosen to live with them.
However, and contrary to what some people might think, I do have a life of my own. Sometimes I'm not in the mood to play with them or watch a movie (because we've already seen it a hundred times!) So I do my own thing. They also do their own thing and we are still together. Sometimes we go out and I have a nice chat with a friend while they are playing with other kids. I couldn't do this until a couple of years ago, when my undivided attention and involvement was required to play hide-and-seek or to push a swing. During their first years I was constantly there, making sure they were safe and other kids around them were safe from my kids.
So on a rainy Saturday afternoon, not too long ago, I was sitting down on a bench at Simmo's, lost in my own thoughts while watching Dave (5) and Alex (4) from a distance. They were interacting nicely with other kids, some a bit younger. The parents were dutifully standing close to their offspring. Dave held a little boy's hand and said, 'Do you want to go to the boat?' His dad said, 'But please be gentle.' An unnecessary request as Dave is always very gentle with little kids and especially loves babies.
After a while Dave and Alex tired of playing with the little ones and started a game that involved just the two of them. In their excitement one of them knocked over a little girl. She fell to the ground on her nappy-covered-bum and didn't even cry. Her mother, though, went ballistic.
'You should use your manners, you two! Can't you see what you've done to her! WHERE'S YOUR MUM AND DAD?' she yelled at the top of her voice.
I got up and walked briskly towards the scene, but before I got there, Dave and Alex had reached me, running and crying their hearts out. Usually, I would have focused solely on them, scooping them up to comfort them privately. One of my self-imposed rules when it comes to parenting is never to tell another parent what and how to do it. I understand our circumstances are all different, but we all want what's best for our children and are doing our very best to achieve that. In short: I do it my way, you do it your way. The problem here was that this total stranger was doing her way on my children. I had half a second to try and impose some restraint on my protective animal instinct before I blurted out, 'Excuse me! You should use your manners! They were just playing, you scared them!'
'YOU SHOULD WATCH YOUR CHILDREN!' She was beside herself with rage.
Well, I would have, had I known there was a psycho around, but Simmo's is usually a safe place.
'You shouldn't yell like that, you're setting a bad example for your children!' I placed a hand on my hip and a wagging finger up in the air for good measure. (This makes me laugh now, because I swear that's something I never do.)
That was my last retort. She kept yelling, but I stopped listening. What a pitiful sight we must have made, two mothers giving each other morality lessons. So much for a sisterhood of mums. A small crowd of curious parents had gathered around her and she went on accusing me of abandoning my children to their own devices.
I was not proud of my reaction because I'm always telling the children conflicts should be resolved with words and no yelling, hitting, name-calling or blaming. Hopefully, they were too busy being terrified to pick up on my bad behaviour. Alex was drowning his tears around one of my legs. Dave was bawling and shaking, grabbing my other leg. He was trying to say something but couldn't get the words out. Finally he said it, 'We didn't do anything, we were just playing chasey. I hate her!'
I was momentarily distracted because he had never used that word before. (He's said it three more times since then.) 'Where did you get that word from?'
'From Grumpy, the Smurf,' he sobbed. 'I want to go and hit her!'
'I know you are angry, Dave, and you have every right to be. I am angry too. She's leaving now, so we'll just wait here for a bit.' I decided then it was a good time to have a pep talk. 'There is something I have to tell you, Dave: You are going to get hurt, like it happened just now. But it is not because of something you did. It is their problem, not yours. I believe that woman made a mistake. You didn't do anything wrong, and even if you had, you don't deserve to be yelled at like she did.'
'Well, I don't want to see her ever again!'
'We will never see her again. We were unlucky to find ourselves in her path and got dumped with her psychological poop, but that shouldn't happen again.' I was pretty sure she was not from town. It didn't really matter because I never got close enough to register her face in my memory. If I saw her again I would never recognise her. For the next few days, Alex would point at different women when we were out and about and say, 'Isn't that the lady that yelled at us at Simmo's?'
Luckily, they still love going to Simmo's.