Dear Lady Who Lost Her Mind on Her Child at the Zoo,
I am writing you this letter to apologize for the level of judgement and shaming directed toward you after your complete meltdown at the zoo. You see, we stayed at the zoo until closing time, like you did, until the staff ushered us all out. And like you, we saw children begin to absolutely be destroyed and fall to pieces that their day of fun was over with. As we were all herded toward the exit, toddlers began dropping to the ground in agony left and right- like there was a sniper on the SkyLift, taking them out one-by-one.
This is where our pack converged with your pack and the unfortunate event took place... Near the unsuspecting Parakeet Encounter. I'd noticed your family earlier, as you were remarkable in having 2 sets of twins- girls around 5-6 and a set of boys maybe 3? And this is also where I began judging you. You see, you had those little leash backpacks on your boys. And while I have one for my son as well, your boys "looked too old" for that. Obviously if you disciplined them better, they would walk with you and not need to be leashed. This judgy thought process clearing ignoring the fact that my 18 month old LOOKS LIKE he's 3, and he too is a little delayed in actually learning what the word NO means.
As our groups converged on that fateful road exiting the zoo, apparently one of your girls struck one of your boys. This was CLEARLY the proverbial straw, and a string of curse words and violent threats came pouring forth from your mouth, at a volume that even made me blush (and I'm pretty darn loud). As the crowd all exchanged sideways glances, knowing looks, and rushed away from this uncomfortable exchange, my stomach began to turn as you continued a torrent of rage-filled threats and general craziness toward your daughter. By the time we got to the gate, I was mildly debating a call to child protective services as I was confident you must routinely physically and verbally abuse your children, and based on this display, you are undoubtedly an unfit mother. I wanted to run back and rescue your poor children from you and take them home with me, to be safe from such egregious behavior. I felt flushed, overwhelmed, and my eyes brimmed with tears. But I kept walking, as everyone did, hoping this 2 min long rage that felt like an eternity, would be left far behind me.
However, when I got to my van, I realized we had an empty sippy cup and no water to fill it. I didn't want to hear my toddler having a psycho fit of his own in 40 minutes of traffic, so I ran back to the entrance to find a fountain. Your family was finally exiting the gates, and you were all fine. You lit up a cigarette and took a deep breath. Your kids were all smiling and happy, and your husband looked like he'd unloaded an elephant from his shoulders at the gates. No one seemed worse for wear.
Except for me. Because as I walked back toward you and wondered at your now totally calm demeanor, I realized I was looking in a mirror. Replace that cigarette with a Coke and those two sets of twins with my 2 girls and 2 boys, and you were me.
I judged you so harshly for two reasons. You chose to have your tantrum IN PUBLIC, and you dropped G-D in your rage. I'd never behave like that IN PUBLIC, and I totally don't use "that word". So you see, your sin is less than mine. (<--- total sarcasm) Those differences are why I judged you, and those judgements are why, in that moment, I was a bigger sinner than you.
On my best day, I live out how much I love Jesus to the four little members of my ministry. In my worst moments- when I'm hot, hungry, tired, jonesing for some caffeine, sleep deprived, stressed about money, overwhelmed by my to-do list, PMS'ing, and I'm having to correct a child FOR THE SAME THING FOR THE 150,000TH TIME IN A ROW, I lose my mind too. I scream at my children, threaten things we both know I'd never do and cuss like a sailor. Over the years, with time, practice and A WHOLE LOT OF JESUS, these fits of mine are much fewer, less severe, and farther between. But they aren't gone... And I'm not sure they ever will 100% be.
Why? Because we all get overwhelmed, overworked and all-the-stuff just piles high until we absolutely lose it. We can all become the kid at the check-out line when we aren't taking care of ourselves and managing our weaknesses.
Some of us would never curse. Some of us would never raise our voices in public. Some of us would never threaten things we'd never do. Some of us swear we will never do it again. But those of us who have been momming and adulting for very long know that sometimes, despite best efforts, practices, and intentions, we can all just lose our ever-loving minds...and how we act that out looks different for each person, but it doesn't make one person's fit "less bad" than another's.
And the truth of the matter is that, like I'm sure you've done ever since, we hate ourselves for it. We have instant guilt and instant regret... Slathered in overwhelming shame. As I walked out of the zoo behind you, I had a desperate need to walk up to you, pat you on the back, and tell you it was ok... that we all have bad days. But my own shame (and honestly, slight fear of you) stopped me from doing that. And I regret it.
Mama, I hope today has been a better day. I hope you can take a few lessons from your moment and make better decisions next time... Maybe taking a snack in with you, working on stopping smoking, counting to 10 and praying, leaving a little earlier to avoid over-exhaustion for your family... Whatever might avoid such high tensions in the first place. That's all we can do when we lose it- apologize, try to figure out what went wrong, and attempt to do better next time.
Fortunately for us, our children- like our God- are excellent at not only forgiving but forgetting. Your babies love you anyway, and just in case you didn't know, your Savior loves you anyway... Because try as you might, you'll likely fail again. And when that happens, and your face to face with your sin, like I was yesterday, it makes you so keenly aware that you don't DESERVE grace, but He freely gives it anyway. So if you aren't friends with Jesus, I do recommend you meet him (insert shameless plug for Church of the Highlands). Not because He fixes your sin overnight, but because He fixes it for forever.
I hope that you'll forgive my sinful judgment of you... Of how I ranked your ugly as uglier than my own. Please know that someone you don't know is praying for you and rooting for you to succeed at Mom-life. I think we could all use a secret cheerleader in our lives, and now you have one.
Best Wishes and in His Grace,