Give a little grace when you walk down Aisle 5. If you proceed slowly, you’ll see a woman fitting this description: oily hair shoved into a bun, sleepy body covered in spit stains, and grimy […]
Give a little grace when you walk down Aisle 5. If you proceed slowly, you’ll see a woman fitting this description: oily hair shoved into a bun, sleepy body covered in spit stains, and grimy hands wrapped around an itty-bitty SCREAMING baby. The woman looks like she could use a shower and a nap and—what’s worse—maybe a parenting lesson. Why is her 9-month-old screaming in the store?
OK, you’re now watching this woman like you gawk at “Real Housewives” or “The Bachelor” ‘cause you’re wondering: What next? How will she handle this? Surely she’ll remain calm, teach her babe about proper behavior in a store, and then lead by example. You pretend to check prices and continue observing the scene.
The resolution? The mama distracts her little one with wrapping paper and baby food. Quiet at last, the babe nibbles on Ella’s Kitchen and runs her hands up and down the shiny Valentine’s Day paper. A victorious mama wipes snot from her shoulder (a crying babe will inevitably have a runny nose) and then treats herself to an extra foamy chai latte. (You’re not stalkerish enough to follow her to the Starbucks by Aisle 9, but she turns that way and absolutely needs caffeine.)
If you could peek into nurseries and living rooms, see the daily battles about eating greens and the nightly wars about sleeping sound, then you’d have enough fodder to call your parents or friends with a ‘can you believe story?’ You could discuss how this mama let her daughter eat ice cream for breakfast and/or how that mama let her daughter watch “Thomas The Train” till midnight. What’s going on with these women!? Didn’t they read Baby Wise or The Happiest Baby on the Block? Parent, people!
Can I offer a different perspective? I’ve been the mama holding a SCREAMING baby in the produce section, and, just last night, I cuddled Max circa 11 p.m. while watching “The Gummy Song” on repeat. I thought maybe it was just me, but I’ve got about 30 friends with babies under age 1 (attending new mama group and prenatal yoga and baby storytime will do that)—and I hear similar stories every day. “I let her toss the contents out of the fridge” (it keeps Celia calm), “I watched her crawl through the laundry piles” (Gracie thinks it’s a discovery zone), and “I allowed him to play on the floor at Shake Shack” (Oliver wouldn’t stop screaming in his chair). Mamas, one by one, admit a daily defeat with a tired and conflicted voice: It obviously wasn’t the ideal scenario, but they were doing what worked in that moment.
You know what it all sounds like to me? Mamas choosing their battles. Dear world, raising a little bean brings hundreds of challenges, both small and large, every single day. Will he take his bottle in the morning or refuse anything but the Cheerios you forgot to buy? Is he gonna run from you when you try to change his diaper? Scream when you buckle his car-seat? The other day my baby poo’d while playing in his Jumperoo, and, before I sipped one glorious bit of coffee, I found myself cleaning stinky yellow chunks off the toy, the baby and the rug. How did you start the day?
The little battles happen from sunrise to sunset, and, ya know what? Once in a while I decide to take off the mama-armor and appease with Ella’s Kitchen and wrapping paper. Perhaps I’m teaching a lesson about eating what’s in front of you (you can’t always have Cheerios!) at breakfast, offering thoughtful words about healthy meals at lunch, and then letting Max turn his baby squash into a Monet painting at dinner. Perhaps I’ll win all day long, and then, heavens have you, find myself losing circa 5 p.m. in Aisle 5 at Target.
Dear reader, if you’re observing me (or any other frantic mama) losing one of her daily battles, will you offer her grace? Will you remember that this woman grew, birthed and nurtured that little babe into the strong-willed human you’re observing? She’s working, not just 8-5, but 24-hours ‘round the clock, to raise a kind, honest and hardworking child. And if you observe her losing a battle? Offer a sympathetic smile, and wish her luck as she raises a child the very best way she knows how.
And to all you mamas doin’ your very best every single day? Your little one loves you, and you’re doing the best you can. You baby is loved, and you can exhale. We’re all rooting for you.