November 22, 2008

My Inner Costanza

I'll admit it. I can be judgmental about parenting skills. Once when I was in college, a woman in the grocery store line in front of me handed her baby, a little boy who couldn't have been more than 10 months old, a package of ground beef. When he poked his finger through it and began sucking the raw beef off his finger, his mother smacked him and started screaming at him. I told her she was an idiot for handing him the beef and to knock it off. I told her to stop hitting him. She did. I think I was perfectly in the right there.

Another time, I wrote about another mother who was a complete idiot. I was in the right there too.

Tonight however, the tables got turned on me. After knowing me for exactly 10 seconds, a woman seated at the table across from me and my family made a judgment about me. "What kind of woman lets her little girl go to the bathroom with a man?" she said to her husband, but certainly loud enough for me to hear.

She didn't stop there though. She continued to rant and rave about me, seated just five feet away from me in a restaurant with only two other tables seated. Never mind the fact that I had just taken Lil C to the bathroom at the store we had come from. Never mind the fact that I was searching through my purse to find a band-aid for Big I. How could I allow my little girl to go to the bathroom with a man, her father? I mean, seriously, what kind of woman am I?

I took a couple deep breaths and tried to ignore her, but she didn't want me to ignore her. She obviously wanted me to hear her. She ranted at her husband, when she really should have been doing it to my face. Of course, she didn't have the guts for it, and after the day I had today, she's really quite lucky she didn't.

I was seconds away from saying something. My inner George Costanza was about to rear it's ugly movie theater head to tell her, "You know, after 10 seconds you've made your mind up about me huh? That "man" I just let my daughter go to the bathroom with is her father and we share parenting responsibilities. She's a 3-year old, and in case you're still stuck in the ice age, it's o.k. for daddy's to take their little girls to the bathrooms these days. So in your rush to make a judgment about me, maybe you'd also like to know that I gave up my career to stay at home with my children, that I drive my kids to their multiple activities each and every week, that I read stories to them all the time, that I prepare three home made meals a day for them pretty much every day of their lives, that I volunteer in my daughter's school every other week, and that I avoided every last drop of caffeine when I was pregnant with each of them despite the fact that I had headaches for three months straight because of it because I wanted them to be perfect and was terrified that I would harm them if I did get something to drink other than water. Did I mention the two natural child births that each topped 14.5 hours, for the same reasons as the caffeine? Maybe you'd also like to know that I keep every drawing they ever made for me, that I keep journals for each of them where I write letters to them, and that I spend pretty much all of my time on this Earth since they were born doing things to make them happy, and keep them safe and healthy. But see, in 10 seconds, and after one request for my husband to take our daughter to the bathroom, you figured me out, so good for you."

I would have also liked to call her a really bad name.

I didn't have to though, because her husband, after listening to her rant, said with disgust, "she's helping her other daughter for God's sake" and that finally shut her up.

After dinner, we went to Kmart and bought our Christmas tree. While in line waiting for the cashier to figure out why our tree wouldn't ring up, three aisles away a verbal argument began between two families. An Hispanic man, whom I had spent a great deal of time with in the Christmas tree aisle with his son and his friend, had touched the hand of the little girl belonging to the customer standing in line behind him. She was about to knock something down from the display and he removed her hand since her parents weren't paying any attention to her.

There was a scream of "don't touch my kid" instead of what should have been, "I'm so sorry, thank you." Then the colorful language started to fly. No one did anything except watch as the couple and this man and his friend began throwing obscenities at each other. Then the threats were made. "I'll see you in the parking lot and we'll settle this man to man." "If my son weren't here, I'd kick your. . ." and then they started yelling at each other to suck various body parts. The whole thing was ridiculous and completely bred of ignorance, stupidity and prejudice.

As security stood 20 feet away in the women's clothing, doing nothing, the cashiers nervously tried to keep things moving. It was uncomfortable and scary. I kept Big I and Lil C right near me in the aisle. I wanted to keep them out of eye sight and behind something substantial. What if a fight broke out? What if one of them was carrying a weapon? What if things did get crazy in the parking lot?

Eventually, the first group paid and left, threats still flying. Both families had young children with them. The second family, the ones who yelled instead of saying "thank you" was too afraid to go outside unescorted. As we packed our kids and our tree into the van, three police cars pulled up. The Hispanic guys were nowhere to be found. They had gone home. I took a guess that I'm betting was pretty accurate that the screaming was more the result of the fact that the Hispanic guys knew they were being targeted unfairly because they weren't white trash like the couple who wasn't watching their kid. The family still hadn't come out when we were leaving.

It made me glad I kept my inner Costanza inside at the restaurant. It may have made me feel better to tell that woman off, but I know what kind of mother I am and I certainly didn't need to prove myself to some ignorant stranger.

Neither did either of those guys.

I think I'll be doing the rest of my holiday shopping online.

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