Sunday, March 30, 2008

She wore a hijab

She wore a hijab, a scarf around her neck, a baggy sweater and a long, black skirt.

She smiled at me with pretty brown eyes as Graham and I settled in beside her and her toddler daughter at our local library’s story time and sing-a-long yesterday.

I nodded and said hello before turning my attention to Graham who had already slipped away and was pounding enthusiastically on the fire exit door at the back of the room.

I corralled him, returned to our seats and tried to interest him in the librarian whose story seemed to have the rapt attention of the half-dozen other toddlers present.

Graham dashed to the front of the room and began to hunt happily through the box of props beside the librarian while I watched him tensely, calculating whether hauling him back to his seat would be more or less disruptive than letting him continue.

He thrust a stuffed animal in the air with a gleeful snort. I cringed and leaned forward, ready to make my move.

The woman beside me caught my eye and shrugged conspiratorially. He’s fine.

“Here you go!” Graham thrust the animal in the storyteller’s lap, knocking the book out of her hands.

The reader laughed good-naturedly while I scurried forward, scooped up Graham apologetically and returned him to our seats. Within seconds he had bolted and was playing among the curtains at the back window.

The woman beside me giggled.

“I don’t know why he’s not paying attention,” I whispered weakly. “He’s been looking forward to this all week.”

“Oh, mine same.” She spoke in a thick accent I couldn’t place. She waved her hand at her daughter who was quietly busying herself with a doll.

I nodded grateful, for her kindness.

“Peek-a-boo!” Graham chimed from behind the curtain.

I sighed and started to get up. She stopped me with a gentle hand on my arm. “No worry,” she said. “Really. He enjoy himself, he not bother anyone.”

She smiled at me again, really smiled. I exhaled and sat back down.

A few minutes later Graham wandered up beside us. The woman’s daughter was sipping now from a huge cup, ornately decorated with princesses and fairies and I saw Graham’s eyes widen with interest.

“Juice mama,” he said, pointing. “Juice.”

And it’s quite possible that some kind of a disapproving look crossed my face, if only because I was picturing Graham’s s next move which I felt sure would involve screaming, tears and a lecture on ownership.

But I wasn’t prepared for my new friend’s reaction.

“No no,” she said. “No juice, no juice. Water only.”

And I realized that her eyes were beseeching me in the same way mine had hers just moments ago.

I shrugged and smiled as reassuringly as I could. She smiled back, obviously relieved.

“I no give juice,” she said firmly. “Only water. Water better.”

And then it dawned on me.

We mothers are all alike.

From Canada to the Middle East, from Europe to Australia.

We all love our children. We all want what’s best for our children.

And we all live in perpetual fear that the mother next to us will reveal herself to be a bitchy stereotype who observes our parenting skills and judges them wanting.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

66 comments:

E said...

I love the imagery here. I can feel the anxiety and see myself in you both years ago when my own kids were little.
It is a relief to be some past the hope of doing it all right, having done a lot of it right and having screwed up just about as much.
Beautiful post....

April said...

I agree with e - you wrote this beautifully (of course).

MommyTime said...

You are so right -- about the fear of appearing a failure, the fear of being judged, and the ways in which deep down, we are all really much more the same than different as mothers.

Lori said...

I think all mothers feel this way deep down we fear being judged by the others around us. And if we stepped back and thought about it I'm sure the mommy next to you has been there done that 100 times just like each of us!

Brittany said...

So true! We are all the same, aren't we? We all love our children to the deepest of their souls.

Great story with amazing imagery!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Well said.

kittenpie said...

I find it easy with mothers I know, mothers whose struggles I've heard about, whose children I know, who are a known quantity in being pretty relaxed and real. Blogger moms, moms of Pumpkinpie's friends. But unknown mothers are definitely tricky, because you don't know.

But let me assure you, librarians are used to all kinds of crazy behaviour, and we pretty much just carry on and let the mom deal with it unless she really isn't and it's really disruptive - like screaming so no one else can hear kind of disruptive, not just curious about our stuff. That we are used to. I usually set my books in front of me as I finish with them so that curious kids can pick them up, and I will hand out other props as I finish with them, too, then gather them at the end. Trust me, it's fine.

ourlittlefunnybunny said...

Wonderfully written. I can so relate to this, it's a comfort knowing that another mother is not out there judging you on what you do or don't do.

Gabriella

flutter said...

Seriously, this mom thing is so hard. I don't know how you all do it.

Momma Mary said...

Nail. Head. Meet.

In other countries, though, a crying child isn't as big of a deal as it is here. Here, if your child misbehaves a bit, you are judged much more harshly than in other countries. Other countries tend to see kids as kids who are naughty sometimes, cry, etc. We tend to see children as 'mini' adults who are unable to control themselves and behave properly. Did that even make sense?

Great post.

Kat said...

That was a great observation and you are so right.

Trudie said...

When bringing up my son, I don't know how many times I thought people would call me on my non-exisitng parenting skills and take him away from me. As the years went by, I came to the conclusion that common sense and love for my child went at long way - but I was still never sure that I really was 'good enough' at being a mother.
Not until my then almost grown son told me that I had been the best mother ever & that he was so happy I was the one to have brought him up.
Also - a mother who takes her son to the library on a Saturday has my seal of approval!

Mom, bookworm, teacher.

Kami said...

Totally! But why?

It's crazy. Pure and simple craziness.

Laura said...

you sure have a way of nailing it...another post to get me thinking!

Cheers!

Laura said...

you sure have a way of nailing it...another post to get me thinking!

Cheers!

Dawn said...

This was a great post. I hope an pray that when I'm around other mothers that they feel a camaraderie with me and not any kind of judgment .

Jenifer said...

Graham sounds a lot like my godson at that age...even if he loved something his energy was such a force of nature. He was always bouncing from one thing to the next.

We ARE much more alike than we think and usually our biggest worries and struggles are universal. We just need to realize that.

Jennifer said...

Right to the heart of it all. This is fantastic.

Heather said...

Amen to that.

tommie said...

You hit the nail on the head!

OHmommy said...

I can't wait to meet you.

Seriously, I can't. Beautiful post. :)

Maureen said...

Wow, beautiful story... bravo.

Amy said...

You never cease to amaze me! Right on the mark, per your usual! =)

Corey~living and loving said...

yup....it is universal. It is our jobs to be understanding of eachother. It surely will make us all better people.
Great post.

painted maypole said...

great post. did you get her name and number so you could set up a playdate? ;)

caramama said...

What a great post, and so beautifully written with perfect detail.

What really speaks to me in this story isn't even the fear of the other mom judging, but the beauty of the understanding that passes between you two. Instead of judging, you both were comforting and accepting. That apparently transcends cultures as well. And that makes me happy.

Cheri said...

Brava, Don Mills Diva, brava!

mamatulip said...

Amazing, amazing post.

Thank you.

krissy said...

Fabulous story.....

I had a situation somewhat like that today. How quickly we can judge eachother by differences, until you realize the big picture.

You really are a diva!!!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

True that.

Are You Serious! said...

♥ I took my kids to story time a couple of years ago and it was insand. Vowed to never do it again until they were much older! :)

Maybe now that the twins are almost 4 I can try again! :)

JCK said...

Well said! I especially loved your last line.

And can I EVER relate to having an active boy!

Stomper Girl said...

So true. And my first-born never sat still for the library story-times either. I tried him again when he was older (4+) and it was much better.

Kyla said...

It is like a rare treasure to find that kind and common ground.

Becky L said...

I love taking my daughter to the library.
Though in Lancaster County, there aren't many Moms wearing a hijab. Instead, we've got the mennonite and amish.
I had a similar experience with one mom. After several weeks, I was starting to think of inviting her and her daughter over... but then she said they were moving. Sad.

Becky L said...

I love taking my daughter to the library.
Though in Lancaster County, there aren't many Moms wearing a hijab. Instead, we've got the mennonite and amish.
I had a similar experience with one mom. After several weeks, I was starting to think of inviting her and her daughter over... but then she said they were moving. Sad.

Karen MEG said...

Perfect post, on so many levels.

SaraLynn said...

you are a wonderful storyteller yourself! Love this post!

Kathryn said...

This is just beautiful! So many times women are judgemental of each other. I love these small gifts of kindness that come up out of nowhere. Love it!

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Lovely post!
I still find myself doing this at times, feeling self-concious of my children's behavior...What will people think?! Especially if I don't show myself to be on the ball.
Now that I am older and have way more children, I am so much more relaxed though, and far less judgmental of other mothers.
What a great reminder of how easy it is to reach out a hand in friendship and solidarity to another mom.

Heather said...

And even when we attend functions clearly meant for children, where there will be children behaving like children, we still are stressed out when our children act like children.

Melody said...

Oh - Too true! Beautifully written story. Haven't we all felt that way??

Thanks.

Angie said...

I love your last 2 posts so much. Just cathing up from being out of the blog world for a few days. I love knowing how universal it is to feel like we have to be a certain type of mother and knowing that on the inside, most of us are so similar in our mothering.

KEEP BELIEVING

Motherhood for Dummies said...

that is sooo true. I always worry that other moms are going to judge me for what I do with my child. And I have to admit that I myself have judged other moms for their kids behavior. You put it soooo nicely!

Cecily R said...

What a fantastic reminder. You have a wonderful writing voice. Honestly a pleasure to read.

chelle said...

You totally took me there ... Nice ... Very Nice! And so true!

HRH said...

Yeah for the sisterhood of motherhood.

Joanna said...

Very true - just like everyone else said.

Molly said...

Love it! Great post.

Loralee Choate said...

It's so very, very true. This post was gorgeous. I'm going to stumble it if you don't mind.

Becky said...

Hehehe.

I laugh because it's completely true.

Jen said...

This is so true. And so sad that we are all in "perpetual fear" of being judged, really unfortunate, but really true.

Amy said...

This is so true.

I have found a lot of these similarities in the other mommy bloggers too. There used to be areas of my life that made me feel set apart or embarrassed. Through blogging and reading blogs I have found that people are more alike then we think.

Fire Hunt said...

So true. Graham sounds a lot like my two sons. I still find myself doing this at times, feeling self-concious of my children's behavior. This post was gorgeous, thank you.

Kelly said...

I'm always awed at those random moments of interaction that teach us simple truths.

Beth said...

Great post! And so true. We are all alike.

Victoria said...

I've said it before - Moms should totally run the whole world. =)

Very well written - I could just picture the whole scenario. =)

Oz said...

lovely, lovely post

Lisa said...

How true. How lovely.

Becky said...

GREAT post! I love this! And it is so very true.

Chantal said...

What a beautiful story.

wheelsonthebus said...

Anything that my eldest does that reflects well on me, the other one does not do. And vice versa. I have learned that judging another mother is foolish, because we have so little effect on how they turn out :)

But, it had not occurred to me that all the other mothers worry about being judged, too... Thank you.

foop said...

I read this days ago and am still carrying it around with me like a little secret smile.

Thanks for reminding me how connected we all really are.

secret agent mama said...

What excellent and spot on observations, from both mothers!

Rachel said...

Wonderful Kelly!
Wonderfully written and so spot on.
Thanks for the reminder and the touching story.

Deb said...

What a perfect reminder. I just returned from a trip to the Middle East with my 20-month-old son, and the same conclusion reached me there. Mothers are mothers the world over.


I don't even know where I found your blog, but you've just picked up a new reader.