Thursday, September 3, 2009

The slap heard round the world

wanna binks, mama still turns on a dime

Almost every word Deborah Copaken Kogan writes in her Huffington Post essay about the slap heard round the world has me shaking my head in agreement.

But a few have me just shaking my head.

Something about calling unwanted or unsolicited advice "agression" just doesn't sit well.

To be honest, watching the internet implode with anger and stunned disbelief that a stranger (in a Walmart) would actually lay hands on an unrelated child (in a Walmart) seems like watching another train wreck from the safety of the wrong side of the tracks.

Perhaps I am the cold, hard byotch I sometimes worry myself to be.

When I heard that story, after I fretted for the child and placed myself in her mother's shoes and mentally hugged her, I wondered if the man was having some kind of medical malfunction and not merely exhibiting the manifestations of a life lived with the meanness of a junkyard dog.

Surely he must be having a stroke. Or is presenting with Alzheimer's disease. Anything that would explain such abhorrent behavior.

But her essay wasn't really about him. It was about everyone who would talk to a stranger negatively about their children or their parenting skills.

Even the annectdote Kogan related in her essay - that of a stranger telling her that her son was on an beach and in a hole, genuinely (it would seem) concerned that the boy could be carried away if a tsunami-like wave were to somehow make its way to the place far from the surf they were sitting - seemed to only reinforce the judgemental snark we wish to stop perpetuating.

I know, it's not fair. People are asshats. They shouldn't just say every damn thing that comes into their head. (I promise I'll shut up after writing this out). We are all guilty of wanting that perfect retort that will demote the pompus fool to the under portion of the bridge most fitting for their troll-ness.

I mean, afterall. ... What would I do in the situation?

Same thing.

When Ittybit was born, in December, we took her everywhere despite it being the coldest winter I could remember. Numerous people chided us for "taking a baby out in such cold." The anger and indignation of being challenged rose in us. A slap in the face.

I slapped back.

"Thank you for your concern, but you can go shit in your hat and pull it down over your ears."

I think it may have been the first time my husband gleefully told people he comes from Minnesota, where he spent a few of his less-than-memorable teenage years, and where no one would ever leave home if they were waiting for timid winter weather. Otherwise he tells people he's from Maine, where he was born.

I had even convinced myself that when The Champ came around - a summer birth - at least we'd avoid the same type of earboxing.

But no. As I stepped out on the street one August afternoon, a sleeping infant in a sling and a preschooler in tow, a man sneered at me about how it was a crime to have a baby out in such heat.

I shrugged and gave him that pained expression that translates into "what-am-I-going to-do? I-have-to-get-groceries." And I let it go.

He's never going to understand my seething rage. It's not going to change his genuine concern. I know my baby is in no danger. I know I'm doing the best I can. I know I make mistakes. I know I am a good mother. Inhale. Exhale.

So now, instead of slapping back, I make it a point to smile at the women who have their babies out in the cold or in the heat. I mention how beautiful their children are as they cry or tantrum at the checkout. I tell them some days I'm there, too, and that I understand.

I don't need to rage against the injustice as much as I wish to offer a hand of support - a hand I know one day may be slapped away.


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