Today I was sat with Max in a cafe, we have taken to bringing crayons along and he now happily sits on a stool and draws pictures. He will scribble away and then point at the resulting chaos and say “car”, he will point at the most frenzied scrawl and say “wheel” and then scan for the most circular scribble and make a steering gesture. I do what any parent would do and pat him on the head in congratulations of his fine work. He will then start eating the crayons and art class is over.
When I’m not critiquing Max’s artwork I tend to listen to the conversations that are taking place around me. I listened to the cyclists, you can’t not hear the cyclists they seem to talk louder than is required, get overexcited about their respective bikes – it was like a conversation with Max I understood the odd word here and there but most of it was technical bike gibberish. I listened to the couple who only seem to disagree on things, I listen to them most days and they are yet to find common ground on anything. I listen to the girl on her I-phone strategising her night out, from outfit to venue and back to outfit.
The real action was going on at the table next to us, three mums were deep in chatter about a fourth Mum. It started off fairly tamely, with one mum explaining why their usual quartet was reduced to a trio, number 4 was meeting up with other friends that day. Boring I thought to myself, but probably more potential than the cyclists indulging in bike porn, the couple that shouldn’t be and the girl with a fabulous new dress.
My ears pricked up when one of the mums began to question Absent Mum’s decision to return to work and call on childcare. I discretely drop Max’s crayon and shuffle my little stool across to be closer to the action, blame Mrs Under she has taught me all I know about earwigging. With first blood drawn, the 2 listening Mums, smelt blood and sensed it was time to move in for the kill. Poor Absent Mum was stripped bare and left for dead as the trio set about questioning, mocking and generally attacking a series of Absent Mum’s parenting choices – her choice to still breastfeed and her decision to let Absent Child cry it out. Things then took a more unpleasant and vicious tone as her wardrobe was ridiculed (not the piece of furniture but its contents), her age was brought into question and even poor Absent Husband found himself in the firing line, apparently he doesn’t earn what he should. It was along and drawn out affair that required me to order another soy latte.
I recently opened an unintentional can of worms on my Facebook site by asking Mums for their thoughts on mothers groups and some of the lively debates that are prevalent. I was shocked by the response and received more comments than I have received for any other update I have posted and the comments were bristling with emotion. There was a real mixture of positive feedback about Mother’s Groups and some negative stating all manner of potential flair ups. It seems to be ingrained in the human psyche to analyse and criticise things that are done differently to our own.
In the early days before I found me some parent buddies to call my own, I found staying at home with Max to be isolating and lonely, but I would take isolating and lonely over what I overheard this morning. I love that me and Max have largely got acquainted without unwanted outside interference or judgement. Perhaps I still crop up in some bitching circles for letting Mrs Under go to work whilst me and Max have a grand old time getting up to all manner of mischief, but on the whole I’ve been allowed to make my own parenting decisions without prejudice. Every parent has the right to decide what is best for their child, that’s sort of our job, and to have something so personal and important torn apart by others must be humiliating and belittling. I have lots of my own ways to humiliate and belittle myself and don’t need any outside help!
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