Two weekends ago, a friend’s Mother passed away. There have been many times within the past few years that our little group of 5 has needed to rally around one another during a time of loss. We communicate from different states via group text to send love, affirming messages and care packages all while feeling fully incapable of helping in the one way that we would have liked; by being able to stop the impending loss from happening. There is nothing worse than having to stand by helplessly and not be able to change a negative outcome for someone that you love. I was powerless to help my friend.
My own parents have always been fun and appear eternally young, like my friend’s Mother had been. The mortality of my Mom and Dad was something that I had never really considered. My parents play on the playground with my kids and will climb the play structures. My Mom will go down slides and my Dad would easily jump on a trampoline. My parents can dance along to Wii Dance Party without missing a beat. I was suddenly faced with the realization that having a youthful appearance and zest for life, does not always equal longevity. My parents may not be as invincible as I have always deluded myself into believing. I am powerless to change this reality as well.
With limited power, comes poor judgement. I already established that I felt powerless. I’m a take charge kind of gal and I dislike not being able to rush in and fix things. This is where the poor judgment part enters the equation. As the stream of text messages regarding my friend’s Mother continued to flash across the top portion of my phone, I was attempting to handle a phone call with the Mother of one of my daughter’s friends. I never should have called when she asked me to talk. I was sad for my friend and worried about my parents. My own general health has been a struggle lately, as well. I was not in a good headspace. You can probably imagine how well that phone call went.
*****Hint: it went horribly. I was emotional. I was irrational. I was physically shaking. (and this was all before the conversation had even begun)
I tend to be a relatively mellow person but if you mess with my kids, I WILL GO FULL ROARING MAMA BEAR on you. I usually manage to roar in a level headed and calm manner, while attempting to see all sides and not just my own. When I say that I go into ROARING mode, I really am only referring to the fact that I will not back down from defending my kids when I feel they have done nothing wrong. This was NOT one of those times where I managed to have self-restraint. Not at all. No amount of calm was happening on this day. In stark contrast to the serious sadness that was happening around me, this woman’s gripes with me and my daughter seemed petty. I was being barraged with group text messages about how my friend’s Mama was suffering at the end and it did not jibe well with a discussion of teenage drama amongst two Moms who just were not seeing eye-to-eye and most likely, never will. Our own individualized perceptions become solidified in our minds as truth and reality. I was not going to change her mind. She was not going to change my mind either.
My ill-timed conversation had been prompted by an email where I requested a parent meeting to discuss assisting with better communication skills among our girls and their group of friends. I thought that my message was well-intentioned, but it had been misperceived, possibly as a personal attack, and the resulting conversation did not go as I had hoped. My words and intentions would become twisted when relayed to others afterwards. I had hoped for an honest, open discourse. Nope. Why would we be adults? (I include myself in this) Instead of having a productive discussion on how we could help the girls, it became a fight of whose child was more at fault. I never said that my child was perfect but do not pretend that yours is either. Kids mess up and that is how they learn and grow. Other people are welcome to tell me if my kid has misbehaved or acted in an unsuitable manner. I mean it…….you are always welcome! In my opinion, we all could use the help. Despite my willingness to be open with you, it does not mean that I will accept having my child made out to be something that they are not. I will never allow you to trash talk my kid and trust me….once you are the first to “sling mud,” prepare yourself to be assaulted back. I became angry. I was already overwhelmed, and I lost my shit. I am not sorry. Well…..not massively so, and probably also not for the reasons I should be. I am only sorry that I didn’t remain more composed, so that my message wouldn’t have been weakened.
One might think that feeling powerless or sad about a solitary situation should never have been enough to make me lose my composure, but it went beyond this single instance. Sometimes multiple issues have been juggled for too long and the perfect storm of events will make it all come tumbling down. I have been keeping numerous figurative spheres airborne for many years and I was done. A beautiful woman had just passed away too soon, and my heart was breaking for her family. I was also finding myself increasingly worried for the continued health of my parents. (Now…..don’t forget those numerous figurative spheres being juggled daily) I had zero patience.
I do not have the time or patience to cater to a fellow parent who prefers divisiveness over working towards unification. I have time for genuine friendship. I have time for fellow Mamas who support one another, even in the face of disagreement. Tell me that my kid has done something wrong but don’t be insolent about it. Kids are going to mess up. Tell me that I have done something wrong but don’t be superior about it. Parents are going to mess up too. It is not a competition. We all screw up equally and it does not mean that we aren’t trying our absolute hardest. We do not fully know what we are doing. Parents need to support one another because this parenting gig is tough, and it really does “take a village.”
You can be a supportive part of my village, or you can kindly see yourself out. If you decide to go………….Please don’t let the door hit you in the ego on the way out.
Jenn Miele Leslie lives in Woodbridge, CT with her husband, three kids ages 8, 10 and 15 and two bulldogs who likes to fart and snore. Originally from Long Island, N.Y. (yes, that IS how you say it – if you’re from there you just understand) she misses being able to find a decent bagel or breakfast sandwich. Once an Art Therapist specializing in working with adults with various developmental disabilities, Jenn now spends her time shuttling her minions to: school; playdates; dance classes and competitions; occupational therapy; coding classes; and what feels like a million additional places, on a daily basis. In her occasional down time, Jenn enjoys photography, painting and an iTunes playlist that boasts way too many 90’s alternative songs.