Perhaps a tiny crack in the wall?
Just the other day, I was picking up my son from daycare and one of the moms hailed me over and commented that I was looking a little tired. It was a welcome gesture and uplifted my spirits instantly. It felt like a small step from the outer circle to the inner one.
Rewind 24 hours and I was with two elder sons at the park. When we arrived, the middle one dashed off to the slides and jungle gyms with his friends from daycare. We often visit the park with his friends as we get out of daycare at the same time as them. My eldest son is now going to elementary school, which, for now, gets out before daycare does. That will change in the coming months. This all cumulates in us being at the park with the middle son’s friends and none of the eldest son’s friends.
Between the stress of starting school and no social circles of his own, it became too much for my eldest son and he broke down, proclaiming to the heavens the unfairness of it all. I did my best to keep my cool as he screamed and sobbed. It even drew the attention of a 4-year-old who wandered over to ask if he was doing ok. I gave him a reassuring “daijobu”, but my heart was saying otherwise. Numerous hugs and soft words later, my eldest son started to come around and was up for some swing time.
Arriving at the swings, my middle son is chatting and laughing with his friend. But then the time ticks towards the hour when his friend needs to head home to meet his older brother. All that runs as expected, but trouble is brewing. Both my older sons have yet to figure out how to swing on a swing. For whatever reason. So the middle one calls to me to give him a push, which I do. A few minutes later, I turn my attention to the older son to give him some much needed love. Within minutes the middle son explodes in tears that I’m not giving my fair share of pushes to him.
Palm to face. We just hit the coda.
Demands start pouring out from him, “push me”, “how many times do I need to ask?” I reply back in the calmest voice I can, “Just once, by asking nicely.” It doesn’t work and the situation escalates further.
I can’t take it anymore and need to walk away and get some distance. His sobs and screams fill the playground and I wonder if people think I’m the worst parent ever or have got guts to let my kids vent at me like this. My flushed face is a cocktail of anger and embarrassment.
My patience has worn thin and so I head over to the bikes and say we are heading home. I go and pick up my middle son who is slowly melting away in his tears under a swing and carry him over to the shelter where his bike is parked. I start walking down the hill towards the park exit and my oldest son follows. Kicking and screaming, the middle son gets on his bike and comes after us.
I arrive home exasperated and my wife tells me she could hear us coming from a block away thanks to my middle son’s sobs.
This small trip to the park became so much more. Fast forward now back to the next day where a fellow parent has hailed me over and commented on me looking tired. She heard from the other mom that went with me to the park about yesterday’s tribulations. We talk through it and after a number of sympathetic, kind words, I’m feeling much better.
Having the mothers around me see me go through the joys and hardships of parenting is helping us come together as parents. It’s still a long road to go to reach the inner circle of the mothers around me, but it definitely feels like a step in the right direction. I don’t wish the tears and screams upon anyone, but I’m comforted to know that people are watching out for me and I’ll be looking to do the same for them as well.