I ran into an old friend today while out walking with my son, and in an instant went from feeling on top of the world to shoulder-slumping despair. My friend is beautiful, ten years my junior--and not a parent. I am 40 and a stay at home mother to a teething one year old with a cold. I began this morning with a 5:30 AM shift at my twice-monthly volunteer job after waking every 90 minutes all night to breastfeed a cranky baby. I came home to a sleepy family who giggled with me over breakfast. I ran around the house doing chores with my 25 lb son on my back, bundled him into the stroller mid-morning and walked to the store with a big sense of accomplishment sitting on my shoulder whispering "Good girl, rock on girl."
As I type this, my crappy mood is fading. When I met my friend, I glimpsed myself in the window behind her perfectly-pinned hair, flawless makeup, painted toenails. The bags under my eyes were visible in the reflection, frizzy post-pregnancy hair flying away in a hundred directions, baggy sweater over jeans mottled with old oatmeal and rogue baby loogies. And after everything I'd done already today, that was how I judged myself. Not as the sleep-deprived mom who still got up before dawn to work at a women's shelter, not as the domestic goddess who made breakfast from scratch for three people in ten minutes flat. Not as the wife who spent five minutes oogling and kissing her husband before sending him off to work, humming and smiling to himself. With each of these actions, I was healing the people I love and preparing them to meet their day with healthy bodies and hearts full of peace. And that, right now, is how I fight. Not by going to every demonstration or teach-in, not by writing every senator and politician, not by posting my thoughts on social media. But by feeding those around me, sometimes instead of brushing my hair. I resist the dangers of our world, at this particularly scary time, by love.
I threatened a big white man in a pickup truck today. I road raged. A big Chevy truck pulled in front of me when I had the right of way, almost hit my car carrying me and sleeping infant, and when he rolled down his window at the next stoplight I told him that I was going to follow him home so that he'd know what it felt like to be intimidated. I didn't, but I did scream at him to go fuck himself as I pulled away. Classy. Now I feel like shit, a typical angry mommy in a Subaru who deserves every judgement you're thinking as you read this.
But I'm not angry. I'm scared. I get scared when I drive and when I bike and when I cross the street with my son strapped to my back. People in this city drive like shit. A woman in our neighborhood was killed crossing the street in front of her house last week. I'm terrified that me or my son or my husband are next. And so, I scream at people who don't pay attention. If I were a daddy, yelling out of fear to protect his children, I wouldn't be made fun of. But I'm a woman and women aren't supposed to get angry. Men are strong when they express strong emotions. Women are bitches, or crazy, or on their periods. What does that bumper sticker say, something about "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention?" I guess I'm paying attention. Close attention. And I'm angry that we don't watch out for each other in this increasingly dangerous, unloving world. So don't pull out in front of me. I just might follow you home.
I learned to trust my gut today. Early this morning, I could tell that my son was feeling off and I almost texted my friend to suggest we take our babies to a park instead of a busy cafe. Our sons' favorite pastimes at the moment are spitting food while saying "yeah!" and chewing on our shoulder blades--we're just not urban lunch crowd material right now.
I left the restaurant before my friend arrived. Ushered out by icy glares after my tired toddler grabbed my straw and flicked frigid iced tea onto the business meeting behind us, we stumbled back onto the street with my son in tears and my nursing bra unclasped and dangling out the bottom of my blouse. It sucked. I said "fuck" a lot under my breath and cursed the people around us for not appreciating their iced tea shower. But fifteen minutes and three blocks later we were sitting in a huge pile of fallen leaves with our friends, munching on soggy gas station sandwiches and laughing. My friend's son is learning to walk, his eyes huge with pride as he took tiny steps toward his mom before collapsing into giggles in her arms. My son continued to eat large amounts of dirt and leaves, evened out by small bits of hard boiled egg that he spit out and rubbed into the concrete before putting back into his mouth. I've never been prouder to be by his side.
The walker, not the leaf eater.