We are in Micropolix, a sort of miniature city where kids can pretend to be adults “working” in different places (a supermarket, a hospital, a fire station, a newspaper, a library…).
While my daughters learn about a lot of professions I wait for them in the cafeteria. And by just sitting there, watching the tables around me, I learn a lot too. It’s a crash course on the most ancient occupation in the world: being parents.
To my left I observe a family of five. The eldest son, a full blown pre-teenager, has been stubborn for a while. He refuses to talk, he refuses to eat, refuses to collaborate. Arms crossed, defiant look; he is spoiling the experience for the whole family. The father decides to move to the other table with him. It’s clear this family has put in effort (energy-wise, economic, time-wise…) to be there and the father spends more than 10 minutes making sure his son understands this, with commendable patience and immense love.
On the table next to them another kid is opening the birthday gifts he received from his parents and siblings. Among running shoes, shirts and videogames the boy discovers a bag where his mother has hidden the most special gift: his first shaving cream. The little ones face blushes tomato red. His mother sheds a tear.
To my right, a couple tries to have a dialogue while dodging constant screams and smacks from their daughter, a girl on a wheelchair unable to communicate. Several people walk by and stare at the girl. The mother never stops caressing her.
Somewhere further back there is a mother dealing with an argument between sisters. She wants to convince the eldest daughter to accompany the younger one to an activity. Finally, and with negotiation skills that would easily earn her a promotion in many companies, she manages to convince her.
Two boys leave the cafeteria to go for a workshop and their mothers take the opportunity to talk. They eagerly share lots of things; you can tell this conversation by themselves was pending for some time now and watching them enjoy it is fantastic.
If you are reading this and have children I am sure you have empathized with at least a couple of these scenes. Because whichever your parenting style, there are battles, challenges and gifts that are common to us all.
However, lately all we do is make war. Caesarean sections, breastfeeding, pacifiers, homework, schools …everything seems like an excuse to judge each other, to create labels, to single people out.
A shame. Because we are the most important tribe, that which carries the greatest responsibility. Because we have no time to be judgemental.
We mothers make mistakes. Yes, a lot. But our choices are always from the bottom of our hearts and with the best of intentions. We learn by teaching, amongst joys and frustrations. We are exhausted but we decide that we can. Because we know it is worth it.
I propose a challenge: from today until next week give away 5 gifts to other mothers. I don’t mean material things. Smile to a mother who is dealing with her child’s tantrum in the supermarket. Offer your seat to a person who huffs because they have a baby next to them on the plane. Babysit for your neighbour or your sister-in-law for a few hours. Cook something with love and take it to your colleague who has just come back from maternity leave and who has spent several months straight without sleep…
Our kids need all of our energy. Let’s stop criticising one another and get ourselves to work.