There’s a moment when you kind of snap. When the world has shoveled just enough manure under your nose when you finally say ‘No More.’ My moment of truth happened during our elementary school talent show dress rehearsal. Those 6 words strung together stir bile in my stomach. In fact, elementary school talent shows in general gross out most people. The dress rehearsal is the drive heave before the actual vomit.
“Sorry” I said to the woman “actually my kids and I have been waiting in line for an hour so, no, it’s not okay if you cut in front of me.”
We were waiting to get our pictures taken. Since this wasn’t my rodeo, which would have had each photo time posted a week ahead of time, handed out to everyone the morning of, made into an app, and then posted on every vertical surface within a 4 mile radius, this was more of a Studio 54 set up. The woman with a clip board would emerge from the science room which was made into a make shift photo studio. She would look around for who was there and grab a group and pull them in. As you can imagine, gentle fellow type A reader, that resulted in groups of kids and parents mobbing in front of the door, people shouting that their kid was late for karate and could they go first. There was pushing, there was side eye, pony tails were tightened.
If I’ve learned anything from 13 years as a mom, if you are ever in the middle of a LuluLemon mob, if a bunch of women snap their phone cases shut and put down their Starbucks cups move da fuck out of the way.
Finally, I had to do something. I could feel stuff was about to blow. But I was new to the school, maybe this was how it was always done. I didn’t want to be the one that bucked tradition, but at the same time I can NOT STAND inefficiency, it makes my brain hurt and changes my sense of smell. What we had here was an epic spreadsheet fail.
I barked and started lining groups up by age. “Anyone else in 3rd grade, line up….okay, now, 4th grade acts, find a representative from your group and one of you stand in line….” At first people looked at me like I was nuts, but many saw the method to my madness and started to oblige. There was order, it was glorious.
Clipboard woman came out and her face fell in confusion then she smiled as I told her who her next party was and the ones after that. You see, people, especially 8 year old boys, like to be told what to do, they like when things are in order, and thankfully for all I am someone who loves to tell people what to do.
We went on this way for 8 happy minutes. Eight happy minutes of managed chaos and low stress.
Then it happened.
A woman, either a mother or grandmother, sadly for her I couldn’t tell, grabbed a child and dragged her to the front and told me she needed to go next. I asked what her grade was – “4th” she responded, then I pointed to the back of the line and said, “the 4th grade line ends there, she can stand behind the kids in the ref uniforms and before the girls with the unicorn hats.”
I didn’t realize then, but I was this close to my moment. If I knew it was coming I would have taken a selfie.
What I wasn’t expecting was her planting herself right in front of me and saying condescendingly “Oh, you must be new here. That’s not how we do it at our school. All children are treated equally.” She then tapped both sides of my arms and patted me on the top of the head.
Take a minute and put yourself in my shoes. When was the last time someone patted you on the top of head while insulting you. I imagine it hasn’t happened to you in like 30 years. Some gear in my brain got thrown – something in my mom belly stirred.
Now it gets weird, and I don’t mean to speak ill of the mentally challenged but she REEKED of alcohol. Not like left over margs post ‘The Bachelor’ night, more like addiction and sickness and sadness. “Your kid is in first grade? (He’s in 4th) you don’t know how things work around here, we don’t treat kids like that,” she wheezed at me.
Okay Moment. You’re Up.
I straightened my spine, which gave me about 6 inches on her and responded “Sorry to be THAT mom, but I’m not going to let you cut, you need to go to the back of the line. And you need to not touch me again” This just pissed her off, like spraying Raid at a wasp.
“You need to move. Now.” I said to mom/grandma and I turned my back on her.
Usually we mothers back away, we don’t stir trouble, we make nice and don’t make a scene. But I was kind of over it, I was over the whole damn thing. My mother sentiency was happening.
In that moment I became THAT mom. The mom who decides to show up on the playground and not be nice. The mom that calls other moms out on their bullshit. They say we aren’t supposed to judge, I say, how the hell else do you decide who’s a nut job or not? You judge them. You put them in buckets based on their behavior, you label the bucket and you tell your friends who you put in which buckets. It’s a right of passage for elementary school moms. If you have some ideal world where this doesn’t happen, you’re probably in denial.
I want to be clear before the troll digits start hacking – I do not judge people’s parenting decisions when it comes to breastfeeding, snacking, video games, dating – each mom knows what works for their kids better than anyone. To those moms you are in a judgement free zone. But if you are an addict, or engage in destructive behavior, that is putting your child and other people’s children into uncomfortable or potential dangerous situations you will be judged. I do not apologize or back down from this.
Mine bucket is the ‘I don’t care what you think, I have enough friends, I curse a lot, and I don’t have a lot of empathy’. I love my bucket. I love knowing where I fit in with the other moms. They know where they fit in with me. It’s been liberating.
For those that have had their moment, congrats. Although the best thing about claiming your bucket is you don’t need my, or anyone else’s affirmations, you are chill in what you’ve chosen.
For moms that haven’t had your moment yet – start thinking about what bucket you want to be in. There are lots, and if yours doesn’t exist – grab some chalk on write it on the front. Stew in it for a while and once you are convinced it suits you claim it to the world.
And once you do, we can’t wait to meet you.