I don’t mean to look like a bad mom. I don’t wake up in the morning and think, hmm, how can I damage my children today? But I read the internet. I’m a battered veteran of the mommy wars. And apparently, if I don’t do everything perfectly, I do not love my children. No, not only do I not love them, I also don’t deserve them. I shouldn’t have them. I am actively attempting to injure them and should be locked up.
Except this isn’t about actual injury. This is about stupid shit every mom does. And I live in fear that real, actual people — as opposed to virtual ones — will judge me for it. I should own my life. I shouldn’t care. But damn if I don’t sometimes see the side-eyes. Okay, maybe I imagine them. But they might be there.
1. You will judge the state of my kids’ faces.
Maybe my kids had peanut butter. Maybe they drank chocolate milk. But whatever happened, they ended up with a rim of it on their faces, specifically around their mouths. I intended to do something about it, I really did. But then someone couldn’t find their shoes; the 3-year-old let the dogs out the front door; I lost my phone; my kids were more interested in picking flowers and clambering up the magnolia than climbing into their car seats. So I forgot to wipe their faces and didn’t remember they had crud mustaches until I got them out of the car at Target. By then it was too late because I forgot wipes again. Yes, they look neglected, but they are actually well-cared-for.
2. You will judge my kids running up and down the Target aisles.
Maybe you never had kids. Maybe you had kids, but totally fucking forgot how they behave. But my kids behave in an age-appropriate fashion, and that means they run to see what’s ahead of them, especially when they are excited. Couple this with a typical 3-year-old throwdown over a Triceratops he can’t have, and not only will old ladies glare, but younger ones will also ask if I need help. This makes a humiliating situation far worse. Dude, of course I don’t need help. Target chaos is my bread and butter. This is normal.
3. You will judge my kids going to the bathroom alone.
My 7-year-old can be trusted to supervise his 5-year-old brother through peeing, washing hands, and walking back to us without instigating chaos. That doesn’t stop Goodwill from making some overblown announcement about keeping kids with you at all times. “Stay right with me, or they’ll bitch,” I told August afterwards. “What’s ‘bitch’?” he asked me. Oh, shit.
4. You will judge my kids alone in the car for two minutes.
I have to pay cash for gas. I am not about to unstrap three carseats, unload three boys, march them across a parking lot, make them stand still and un-grabbing in a land of delights (Candy! Toys! Bright-colored soda that I’m not buying!), then do it all in reverse before I can even start pumping gas because that shit just took ten minutes and two tantrums. Instead, I make sure the car’s in the shade (and already cooled from the air conditioner), lock all the doors, and go inside, staring at them the whole time through the giant picture window. It takes 90 seconds. Yes, I’m terrified you’ll call the cops. But my state says it’s legal as long as the car isn’t running. You might not call child protective services, but you’ll judge the shit out of me — probably in the comments.
5. You will judge my kids’ shirts.
Look, my youngest wanted a Zootopia shirt, and this one was on sale. So what if it has puffy “girl” sleeves? He loves it, and that’s what freaking matters. And my middle son? His shirt is covered in “penis-appropriate” Marvel superheroes, except it’s tight-fitting and purple. Coupled with plaid pants and a fedora, this is not a fashion statement, but a total fashion disaster. You may assume he dressed himself. He didn’t. Judge away.
6. You will judge my 3-year-old’s banged-up face.
First, he fell on his head and earned a giant goose egg. This required a Paw Patrol Band-Aid. Then he ran into some wire at gymnastics as he was falling off a trampoline. This gave him a slash right across the bridge of his nose and required a Paw Patrol Band-Aid. Then he got some teensy cut on his upper lip, which required a Paw Patrol Band-Aid, except he put it on himself, and it covers his nose so he can’t breathe through it. Now he looks like someone has flung handfuls of broken glass at his face, which is more Paw Patrol than skin. He’s fine though.
7. You will judge me hollering down the Target aisle.
Only the baby rides in the cart — and not in the seat, only in the basket. The other two orbit us like demented electrons. They stop and look at things. I remind them not to paw the merchandise. They run for the joy of running. I shout at them not to chase each other. My 7-year-old tries to pick up the 5-year-old, and I yell at him to stop that too. Then they ask for the fiftieth time if we can go look at the Legos now and my head explodes. You think I am the meanest mom in the world, and maybe if I would just talk to those kids, they would behave. I am trying to make sure they don’t burn down the Target, and believe me: I spend all day talking to my kids and Target is not the place for heart-to-hearts.
8. You will judge what my kids ate for lunch, and probably breakfast too.
Sometimes my kids eat snack foods as a meal. And remember their dirty faces I mentioned earlier? Those smears are likely syrup from microwave pancakes. Or — horrors! — I let them inhale fast-food fries with ketchup, most nefarious of condiments. They may have had leftover fried rice for breakfast. One day, I gave them frozen fruit (thawed) and pickles because that’s what they asked for, and I knew they would eat it. Moms react to this with either high-fives of solidarity or pearl-clutching horror.
9. You will judge my 3-year-old peeing on a tree.
Why? Because he’s 3, and he has to go right fucking now, and if he doesn’t, he will pee his pants — an indignity no one deserves. Yes, he drops trou completely, mooning the world with his cute little butt. Yes, he might toddle stiff-legged to me for help pulling up his pants, showing half the playground my stance on infant circumcision. But he needed to pee. There was no bathroom. And for the record, I make the 5-year-old hold it, no matter how much he yowls, so judge away.
I know you’re going to judge me for something. And it’s not because I’m insecure, or I read too much into things, it is because it is fact. I know that someone, somehow, will find me to be a bad mother. But I know I’m an awesome mom. I make my kids eat green beans. We play games and read about Elasmosaurus. We construct art objects out of nothing but hot glue and Target party supplies (yes, I let the 7-year-old use the hot-glue gun — keep judging). I take them to museums and parks and streams and plays. But you’re going to judge me for something. So it might as well be this stuff.
And while I’m not particularly a fan of being judged, I don’t care enough to change my ways because my kids are happy. And so am I.