It’s been a while since I last took Waleed to storytime. I need to take him. But its during his nap time. But he needs social interaction. Bad mom if I do, bad mom if I don’t, I changed his clothes put on his shoes strapped him in the car seat and headed to the library. As I opened his door to get him out of the car I looked at his feet. No shoes. He kicked them off before we got out of the house I realized. Fumbling through the diaper bag hoping in that moment for a magic pair of extra shoes I realized I also forgot his sippy cup filled with ice-cold water on the breakfast table. As the sun beamed down on us, I imagined myself bringing my barefoot baby into story time, the looks of disdain of the other mothers at because
other mothers strap on shoes with socks to boot
other mothers have extra sippy cups just incase one is lost along the way
other mothers never bring the wipes and forget the diapers
other mothers always smile. keep spotless homes. point out everything in the grocery aisles. and wipe the applesauce from their child’s cheek before guests arrive.
other mothers are better mothers than I’ll ever be.
I heard a car door slam. A mother in a yellow sundress plucked her chubby baby girl in pink from the back of her sleek black car and strolled her towards the library. As she walked past us I saw Waleed stare at them with a wide-eyed grin and suddenly illogical as it was I thought, he recognizes this other mother. He knows. I’m not like her at all.
In that moment I felt tempted, so tempted, to close the door, get in the car and drive home.
Instead, we went to the library. We sat in the middle row and as I sat him in my lap I looked over at another child walking about barefoot. And another. And then yet another. Some mothers proferring sippy cups, some with slim purses that seemed to hold nothing. I suddenly feel lighter.
Maneuvering through the library aisles after, I paused behind a woman blocking the aisle with her stroller. She glanced to see me waiting and blushed, I am so sorry she said as she moved to the side. No problem I said as I walked past her. Her little boy, a child of three, gap toothed with straight blond hair flushed at this. Don’t say that! don’t say sorry! he yelled. It’s rude not to say sorry when you’ve done something wrong, his mother said in a soothing voice. The boy stared at her for a moment his mouth parted, and then puffed up his chest, crossed his arms and screamed so loud not a person in the library could have misunderstood YOU ARE RUDE TO ME AND YOU NEVER SAY SORRY! WHY YOU SAY SORRY TO OTHER PEOPLE ONLY?
All heads turned towards them. I saw her through the corner of my eye, frozen in place by her son’s words. She glanced at me for a moment, and then quietly strolled her son away. And I realized, in that moment, as she saw me with my own toddler who at that moment was browsing a board book while I looked at books for myself- I became the other mother.
It used to be that I felt my self-esteem drop three notches staring at the photo-shopped celebs hawking new diet solutions at the check-out aisle, now its other mothers be it through bubbly updates of motherhood bliss on facebook, or the mother singing like she’s Mary Poppins to her darling child in the grocery aisle [yes, really]. The look on this mother’s face as she quietly left the library told me I’m not the only one who does this. As women, we do this. We judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else ever could. There are always going to be other mothers. Me? I’m his mother. Imperfect, learning as I go, flawed at best. But I love him. I’d walk on hot coals for him. Juggle them too if necessary. I will never reach the standard of the other mother, but I don’t know if any mother ever can. I just hope when he’s fully grown, he will look past the things I did wrong, and remember the one thing I did right, which is love him with everything that I am.