I could feel your eyes on the back of my head all night. I know you and your husband were staring at my kids and me from the moment we were seated next to you at dinner tonight. I’ve been getting stares a lot lately. I’m getting used to the stares, the comments and the judging. I’ve been hearing, “You’ve sure got your hands full, don’t you?” several times a day. I get “Are they all yours?” at least once a day — twice at the airport alone last week. I get glares with, “How are they so close in age?” at least a couple times a week. I am asked, “Isn’t anyone else joining you?” quite a bit these days, too.
I know your husband was probably annoyed when my 5-year-old bumped him as she tried to get out of the booth to go to the restroom. I was just happy she had to go before the meal arrived. I’m sure you probably judged how I let them play iPads at the table and how they were probably too loud and started bickering about who got to have the turtle stickers instead of the pirate ones that the waitress brought over.
I know you may have thought I could have done better at disciplining them, that maybe I snapped at them too many times — I don’t exactly have what they call a “quiet” voice. You’re not the first to notice.
But I heard you when we were getting up to leave, as I was standing within a foot of your face. You muttered to your husband and nodded disapprovingly at me and said, “And she has four kids — four!” Your husband was real subtle, when he craned his neck to turn around to stare at us, too. I felt so hurt as I watched both of you, stone-faced and expression-less, glaring at my kids walk past you.
Yes, you surely noticed that I had no wedding ring on. I know. So from your point of view, you only saw what looked like an unmarried, impatient woman with four loud, ill-behaved kids. You see, I know all this because I can be a pretty bad Miss Judgypants myself—I’m not proud of that, but it gives me a damn good sense of when someone’s got their laser eyes on me. So trust me when I tell you that you were really wrong about me, lady.
Your disapproving looks — your evident distaste for us as we walked away made me so mad. I could feel my throat close up and my face get hot. I was so hurt and all I wanted was to hurt you back. I have never felt as worthless or as incompetent as you made me feel tonight, lady. We are in the holiday homestretch and I only wanted to scream at you and put you in your place— and people who know me can appreciate that my reservation in doing so was a Herculean feat for me— just ask anyone about the confrontation I had with the neighbor who honked at me the other day.
But I didn’t. I didn’t tell you anything. I took hold of my youngest one’s hand and marched all four out trying not to cry as they happily bounced out the door, asking me innocent questions about the crescent moon and about alligators in that pond over there.
You see, if you would have used your nosy energy to look deeper at me rather than judge me, you’d have seen I am a woman literally hanging on by a thread every day that I wake up.
You might understand why I took my kids for a mini vacation to Florida this week, in order to get away from the countless memories and reminders at home of their daddy, who died last month. I took them out to this seafood restaurant here if only to get a much-needed glass of wine and eat a decent meal —something other than the mac and cheese and Cincinnati chili that we’ve been surviving on for weeks now.
You didn’t see that by 6:30 p.m. tonight, I was all out of shits to give at that dinner table. I don’t think I had even showered or brushed my hair and, to be honest, I don’t know if I was technically wearing a bra. It was one of those jog/sleep tank things, so there was some coverage, but since we ran out the door in a hurry to catch the sunset before dinner, I just didn’t have the energy for much else, lady. By the way, they were smiling and behaving with each other in that sunset beach picture, but you didn’t see that either.
You see, I’m just trying not to break down looking at that guy across the room helping cut up his kid’s meal. I’m trying to hide my grief beneath the bags under my eyes due to not sleeping for a solid month — I don’t want people to see the redness under my sunglasses from the crying that came after I saw that man playing football with his son on the beach earlier.
I’m trying to keep it together in front of my kids, instead of moaning about how I won’t ever be one of these couples walking hand in hand with their loved one at sunset. You didn’t know that just days ago, I reluctantly took off my beautiful diamond engagement ring he gave me 16 years ago and that beautiful wedding band he inscribed with “Home to You,” and I locked them away in a safe so I wouldn’t tear up anymore looking at my left hand.
I’m just trying to get through every f-ing day, lady.
I don’t have the slightest idea how to do the widow thing, the single mother thing yet, ok. I don’t know how much to talk about him or if I should cry in front of my kids or not. I don’t know if I should shield them from seeing other children play with their fathers or what I will tell the twins about their school’s father-daughter dance coming up in January—on what would have been his birthday. And I certainly don’t know what to say when my kindergartener tells me she wishes someone would punch and kick her until she dies so she can go see her daddy. These worries consume me every day and no doubt my kids see that worry, too.
So cut me some slack, lady. Cut my kids some slack, too. It’s not their fault their daddy got dealt a shitty hand and he can’t be here to help me. I’m sorry if you witnessed them at their worst behavior. I’m sorry if I did some crappy mothering in front of you tonight. I’m sorry if I looked like a bra-less sea creature that crawled out of the Sarasota Bay.
But what I’m most sorry about now is not telling you all this to your face.
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