This morning Riley had his toddler music class, which is quite large--about 12 or 13 kids, with a parent each and sometimes a grandparent as well? I really love this class, but this morning I didn't really love one of the other moms. I had a momma bear moment. Riley really, really loves babies. His eyes light up when he sees one (the smaller the better), he breathes in this funny "Ohohohoh" pattern, and he hovers near them. He usually doesn't touch them, he just looks. So there is this two month old baby who comes to the class to sit in her stroller while her older sister participates in the music with her mom. Twice today I had to distract Riley away from the stroller, but not after a few peeks in the carseat to ooh and ahhh over the baby. The first time the mom came over and moved the stroller to a different place, about five feet away from its original position, but didn't say anything. The second time, she said, "Can you keep him out of there? She's sleeping."
That's what I wanted to say. I was so mad. Isn't there a nicer way to say that? And what is the big friggin deal anyways? She's an INFANT, she can sleep through anything, there is massive noise in this room during the TODDLER MUSIC class, and he is not touching her!!! He's only LOOKING at her, for pete's sake. Besides, he is genuinely fascinated by your baby! You would think she would be inclined to like someone who is fascinated by her baby.
Actually what came to mind to say [I didn't actually want to say Okay bitch--that only came to mind when I started typing this story out] was, "If you want to be anal retentive, that's your business." But I bit my tongue and ground my teeth and walked away without saying anything at all.
For the remainder of the class I was silently furious. Part of me knew that maybe I didn't have the most balanced reaction to her rude request. Momma bear meets mood disorder, you know? Sometimes when my anxiety is higher than it should be, I have inappropriately strong emotional reactions to small events. I didn't think I was anxious, but I forgot to take my supplements yesterday morning so it is possible that was part of the cause. And so I just let it slide.
And later, as I was driving around doing errands with Riley, I cooled off and started to remind myself of a few pertinent details that my brain had been trying to mention but which I was too angry to acknowledge yet. Firstly, I remembered the dark circles under this mom's eyes. Then I remembered that her baby is only two months old. Then I remembered that I didn't see any bottle paraphernalia so likely she is getting up alone numerous times in the night to feed her baby [too bad dads don't have boobs to share those night feeds, eh?]. Then I remembered that she has just recently become a parent to TWO children, and I remembered how hard that transition was for me. Then I remembered all the times last year when I cried in my bedroom or in my kitchen or in my car or on my blog, wishing people would be just a little more gentle with me, because you never know when someone might be struggling and fragile and wide open vulnerable to the smallest hurt. What if this mom is there? What if my keeping silent is actually a kindness to her, as she muddles around with a new baby and parenting a toddler and who knows what else in her life?
What if her marriage is hurting? What if she recently lost her job? What if her mom has cancer?
I decided that I can take one for the team. Moms have a hard job. Don't I know it.
I'm glad I kept my mouth shut, and I'm glad I remembered in the end that gentleness is generally best applied liberally. Sometimes it is tough for me, because I have to be on guard against the bullying and harassment that is an entrenched part of paramedic subculture where I work. Learning to be assertive in THAT context has been a constant battle for me, and sometimes I forget that I can let that guard DOWN when I'm not at work. Not that I would tell anyone at work that if they wanted to be anal retentive it was their business--I probably would have said something more diplomatic! That was probably the Momma Bear on top of normal defensiveness.
Anyways. Good lesson.