Mothers Who Break the Rules
A Woman On the Edge
I am at the mall. I don't enjoy the mall, but I arrive for the amazing gift awaiting all mothers that venture here. I call it the 'Big Toy' (a train for all you visual folks) . This is where all exhausted moms go with their preschool age children to let them loose and wear them out. The 'Big Toy' is available in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week and moms can go to just sit and stare. It costs nothing to come here...completely free. Fathers find relief in being here as well, however, for the purpose of my story, I am only going to discuss the mothers. If I am going to offend anyone, I prefer it be members of the same sex.
This 'Big Toy' is to be my salvation. Now, the rules for the 'Big Toy' are written on a big board, that cannot be missed, and are as follows: Only children six and under, no food or beverages, no shoes, and socks must be worn. Well, I am all for rules and I am a rule follower...until today. It is 80 degrees outside (which is 120 for Seattleites) and my daughter is not wearing socks nor would it ever have dawned on me to check. You see, the sun appears here but once every seven years for an hour. So as it stands, my child is six and under, I have no food, no beverage and she has no shoes on, so technically I am omitting only one rule...the wearing of the socks.
Let me clarify, I have no tolerance for parents that think the rules don't apply to them. They let their children run around the 'Big Toy' (also affectionately known as the petri dish) with no socks on, spreading their nasty little 'other child' germs all over it so that my child comes home with athletes foot of the mouth or is sick for a week. Yes, I am a hypocrite, for today I have deemed myself exempt from this one small rule. They need to know I am Not a rule breaker...however, I am uniquely qualified to have this one little indiscretion be overlooked for today. I am Yoda, the saint of all saints when it comes to following the rules or even making them. I have EARNED this one. I have plenty of "follow the rules" points and I intend to use them all today. Alas, I never inform anyone of this.
I am not a saint today... I have crossed over to the dark side. I am not Yoda but Darth Vader with a light saber and a big ass chip on her shoulder. However, I will keep these thoughts to myself so as not to be considered a danger if provoked. I need to be here. I have no choice. It isn't an option. I am safer to all, ensconced in the 'Big Toy' foam walls, the womb of all wombs. I come here to utilize all remaining energy I have to heal rather than hide. I am crazy, exhausted, emotional, pissy and hot. There is no reason to subject my daughter to my unmanageability of life, so here we are. These feelings are just under the surface and it will only take one little 'straw' to turn them loose. I do not specialize in hiding my feelings nor putting on a facade, it is way too much work and all my energy goes into not killing anyone. My guess would be, at this moment, I don't look all that well or approachable, but I don't look homicidal...this is unfortunate for the people who are thinking of talking to me or, god forbid, confronting me.
I'm on the edge and getting ready to jump, or more likely, push someone else off. I decide it is in my best interest to call someone and discuss my state of mind. A loving, kind and patient friend answers my call and I can now take the time to explain the condition I am in. I made it, I have survived and am now safely held in the place of commonality with other like mothers. I let my guard down.
I am not completely oblivious to my surroundings however. I am a mom and I have the psychic sense that allows me to know all that is going on around me within a five mile radius, even in my condition. So I know there are two big boys playing on the 'Big Toy' who are not six and under. There are also two mothers that could care less what anyone thinks about this. My rule breaker radar is on high and I know that this is very wrong. This scene only heightens my awareness that I too am breaking one of the cardinal 'Big Toy' rules. The rule I am breaking may not be as blatant as this, unfortunately however, it has been noticed. I have been found out. This I feel in my soul and from the prickly sensation running up and down my spine. Shit! Perhaps the two moms will get the brunt of the attack. Yes, this is what must happen and I consciously cross my fingers.
I am talking on the phone and I catch, from the corner of my eye, a mother looking at me. I try to look nonchalant, hoping beyond hope she can ignore this one little indiscretion. Really, why would another mother attack one of her own kind? If you are going to go after a rule breaker, I think the obvious choice would be to go after the big kid's mothers. I mean after all, these kids can jump on, throw, push, or mow down the six and under crowd. Unfortunately, the odds of winning are in favor of the big kids' moms, with two in their corner and the possible lie that their kids are just 'big for their age'. I have no one in my corner and being single leaves me an easy target.
The mother makes movements that lead me to believe she is readying herself to begin her attack on me (in all my glory). This is probably the same woman that is letting her two year old flail her arms wildly while standing precariously at the top of the train having not made the decision yet to jump. All the while, a steady breeze coming from the big boys mowing down the younger children is making the child sway from her precipice. The woman's child may or may not live through this experience...but she will be wearing socks.
To my disappointment, the big boys leave with their disrespectful parents. My buffer is gone. There is nowhere for me to hide and no time to pack it all in. The thought of going anywhere else hasn't even occurred to me. Besides, the community pool is way too much work, pricey and requires wearing a bathing suit, which does nothing to enhance my state of mind. The bowling alley and skating rink are dark places that may match my mood but will surely again, not enhance it. Staying home requires crafty ingenuity that I am not feeling nor can I access. Here I am in this sunny place of like minded moms, with the skylight for the possible SAD mom, cushy seats that roll into cushy floors for the overly worried mom and an enclosed area with only two ways out for the overprotective mom. These amenities all help, allowing what little energy is left to be directed to recouping and keeping the facade of sanity...if there's any sanity left. This last bit is questionable for me. All bets are off now that I am the chosen target.
Now that the other rule breakers are gone, the mom eyeing me is headed this way. As she approaches I realize she isn't trying to even look friendly. This is the final 'straw' approaching. I am about to act like a crazy person. I hold my ground and stay on the phone as she approaches and says something to the affect of..."your daughter needs to have socks on." What I heard was "I am attacking you because you are alone and vulnerable and I didn't have the balls to attack the disrespectful parents of the over six kids that just left." Doesn't she know I feel the same way about the other parents? We are the same!! She just has to know, the small fact that my child's sock-less feet has no bearing on the continuity we share. I don't normally do this. I am her (the crazy version maybe) and she is me. We have a connection, dammit!
I am devastated but just stare at her. I stay on the phone and say I am leaving soon. The crazy person is still under wraps but closer to the surface. I now need to end the call that is my lifeline to sanity. I am not thinking straight. I'm not ready to leave. I need more time! Pack up my things and reel in my child? Now?? Apparently all this does not matter for the "together" mom. No skin off her back...yet. She strode away and sat back down all the while drilling the hole of shame into me. I continue talking on the phone, not disclosing the injustice put upon me. I don't know how to end my phone call so I keep talking, hoping my sanity will return or the mom will give up on me leaving. The clock runs out and again I see her approaching me...
I felt something snap inside me. I hang up the phone and I feel my body heat up and start shaking as she repeats what I heard before...you are not one of us and must leave. If this is not bad enough, another mom from the cozy womb club is rallying behind her. Now I have two moms forming an alliance against me. Do they not know who I am? I am the queen of rule following. I need this safe haven and I have all my 'follow the rules points'. I earned my right to stare off into nowhere without consequences. Why do they not understand this? Don't 'put together' moms have spare socks in their little baby bags? Could they not offer me a pair and if not, then couldn't they mind their own fucking business? We are no longer the same. I am not her and she, sure as hell, is not me. There is no more continuity...was there ever? She and I are not cut from the same cloth...I now just want the scissors to gouge out her eyes with.
And that is it, I have toppled over the edge, but I'll be damned if I'm not taking one of them with me! I am unleashed, broken open, all the energy used to contain myself has imploded within and is going to come out and I have no control of this. I stand up, turn and...to this day I don't remember what happened. Possibly a barrage of angry babble that blames them for ruining my feel good moment or big words explaining my flawless 'follow the rules' character. Or perhaps it is unintelligible garble, sarcasm, a loud shriek or just a low animalistic moan. All I know is that I am in motion. I no longer am capable of rational thought or behavior. I don't have a clue as to how I am going to leave in a calm and orderly fashion. I don't have a leg to stand on in this fight and they know it. I am breaking a listed 'Big Toy' rule and I know this is the punishment. I either withdraw on my own terms or be removed with force by some mall security person, who owns a badge and not a gun and missed passing the police test by that much. I decide to resign myself to leaving with my light saber sheathed.
As I'm leaving, words are still pouring out of my mouth in torrents. Unable to stop them, I feel the eyes of everyone in that five mile radius following me. Perhaps they are waiting for my hair to light on fire or for me to shed my human skin to reveal the lizzard like creature with the pointed tongue...the only thing capable of the barrage of filth spewing forth from it's pursed mouth. The women are performing a high five as I leave the protection of the 'Big Toy'. They act superior knowing they just won the battle with the crazy, skinless, pointed tongue rule breaker. I am unable at this moment to leave with any dignity intact. I am also yelling at my child, who is in shock and on the verge of her own meltdown, as we leave the now claustrophobic and tainted 'Big Toy' sanctuary. The shame is immense.
It takes me a long time to go back and always with the knowledge that one of those moms would recognize me. I, on the other hand, couldn't pick out those women that confronted me to save my life. I never register their physical appearance, only their behavior towards me and my reaction to it. From here on out, I always have my kid in socks or buy a pair at the store next to the 'Big Toy' just in case. That's one rule I never break again.
...To date, my daughter is no longer six and under and the option of going to the 'womb of comfort' has expired. I no longer need that 'Big Toy' to gather myself and my emotions...there are plenty of other tools I use to help preempt another episode like that one. I will not say I haven't had a meltdown of that magnitude since and I suspect I will have to tolerate a few in the future. It is just the nature of the beast for me. All is well at the moment and I haven't killed anyone to date. As some say, it was another opportunity to learn. I haven't killed them either. I'm doing ok. Wish I could say I cherish every moment that befalls me in my life, but who the hell does. What I can say is this... I don't follow all the little rules anymore and I don't care as much as I use to if I'm caught doing just that. I will always care a little and I will be ok with that too.