A couple things happened this week that really shook me up.
The first occurred at Leni’s ballet class. We’d missed the first two–one while I was away and the other because I mixed up the days (face, palm). I felt a bit sheepish going to the class as I tend to be a come hell or high water kind of mommy/babe class attendee. I also had yet to purchase a leotard or tutu for the peanut. I just wasn’t sure what kind of vibe this city-run toddler dance class would have, you know? As cute as she might look in pink slippers, I wasn’t into spending the money if she’d be the only one playing dress up.
When we arrived, everyone was sitting in a circle, many little buttons in tulle and tights. All quiet and surprisingly well-behaved (for a class of two- and three-year-olds). So in we come and it is immediately clear Leni is not in the same serene state as her contemporaries. Sit in a circle? Psha! Listen? NOPE. She was in more of a make havoc and draw loads of attention to us newbies, kind of mood. I was trying to be easy breezy and go with it while still showing the other mommies I was working very hard to corral her and keep the class disturbances to a minimum. It was quite a workout I’ll tell you. I was sweating and blushing like mad. I recognized one mum from our last music class and said hello, but the general feels I was getting were not too impressed. In fact, it appeared that the first two 30 minute classes we’d missed were absolutely crucial to molding the little lovebugs into these perfectly behaved future ballerinas before me.
Did I also mention we went into the wrong room first? That kind of morning I guess. Well anyway, at the beginning of class the children are each allowed one instrument. Leni swiped two (of course, right?), but only returned one when the time came so I brought back the extra tambourine and during the fraction of a second my back was turned, she slipped out of the room.
Those seconds were a complete nightmare. I turned around expecting to see her little pigtails, but after frantically scanning the room, it was clear she was gone. I ran out the door and she wasn’t in the hallway either. My heart in my throat, I marched down the corridor calling her name, when a woman poked her head out of the playroom door where we’d first gone by accident to tell me Leni was in there. Already deeply immersed with the Fisher Price kitchen, of course. The woman quipped, “I guess she just likes it here better.” Me too. Hide me.
It all happened in under a minute, but it felt like a lifetime. You can bet I scolded Leni, but I also just felt so fucking drained. A dozen horrible thoughts shot through my head between the few strides from the classroom to seeing her already immersed with the toys next door. After gathering myself, I took her back to the class. I contemplated just leaving, but decided to sit through the last 15 minutes. By the end, she was actually participating so I guess it was worth sticking around.
That’s when something really struck me. There are 20 or so other mums in this class, but no one saw a toddler slip out alone? Not one set of eyes appeared to acknowledge when we came back in so maybe they really were entirely oblivious. I have to believe that none of the other caregivers did in fact see her leave because the alternative is just too fucking sad to me. She is absolutely my responsibility, but you want to feel that other parents have your back, you know?
Maybe this whole story makes me look like the worst parent. That parent. The one who is totally disorganized and seemingly doesn’t discipline or keep track of their kid. I’m not sure entirely why I care so much how I’m perceived as a parent, but I’m going to work on actively giving off supportive vibes to my fellow mums. I could really have used a sympathetic smile or two that morning. Maybe even a, “we’ve all been there” eye roll in solidarity. I mean we all have moments, mornings, even hellish days or weeks like that as parents so let’s stop judging each other and ourselves so harshly. No one is just that parent.
To be perfectly fair, most of the time we are all too focused on own kids to even notice anyone else. And if they did, it’s probably more likely that they were all just grateful that it wasn’t their little scamp causing shit. Perhaps they were all trying to be kind by averting their gazes even.
Can you tell I’m still working through this?
The second thing that happened was at the Evergreen Brick Works over the weekend. If you’re not familiar, it’s this massive and beautiful re-purposed factory in the middle of the city, surrounded by green space. It hosts farmer’s markets and other environmentally focused community events and activities. It was a bright sunny Saturday so it was pretty packed. When we finally got some food from a very popular and understaffed food truck, we found a bench with another family and took turns eating and entertaining Leni (who was on a food strike). While I was eating, a woman came by and asked if we could keep an eye out for her 3-year-old son who was missing. Remembering that horrible feeling, I traded with Jose when he returned and took Leni to walk around the property to look for a little boy in a Blue Jays cap named Eli.
Along the way I saw a woman looking around holding a boy’s hand with one of those blue and white hats. Thinking he may be the missing boy and she may be looking for his parents, I awkwardly asked like a dope if he belonged to her. I stumbled over my words explaining a 3-year-old boy was missing with the same (albeit, very popular) hat and she looked like maybe she was looking for someone. Her response, “I have four kids. I didn’t steal one.” First off, it never even occurred to me that anyone had stolen the boy and I would never accuse someone of that (without a shitload of evidence, obvs). Maybe that’s why I didn’t craft my comment well. It definitely came out wrong, but what’s new? I’m so fucking awkward sometimes. Maybe I would’ve reacted defensively too if some stranger approached me that way. Big picture though, a little boy was fucking missing and all I wanted to do was help his family find him.
We kept searching and searching, Leni repeating sadly, “poor boy,” while I choked back tears thinking of how terrified the whole family must feel (and maybe not entirely over the guilt and fear from the other day). After doing a loop we went to check in with Jose and by that time the little guy had been found and was wrapped in his mother’s arms. Thank fucking god. What had been seconds for me the day before, stretched on for this family for at least 20 minutes. Hats off to that boys mama. She remained calm and collected (despite what must’ve been churning around inside of her) and had all the staff on the look out and several parents canvassing the property. Like I said, it’s a massive old factory and also right next to a very busy road so a lot could’ve gone down that thankfully did not.
One good thing that came out of it? Seeing a group of strangers drop everything to help each other. I may have accidentally implied that another person was a child snatcher, but it was done with good intentions. That makes it ok, right? At another point in time I may have felt like it wasn’t my business to get involved (in the very small way I did). The point is not to pat myself on the back here, but just a reminder that helping others when you can is so damn essential. We need each other. I’d rather embarrass myself and maybe make very little impact trying to help someone than not try at all, you know? This is new for me. Fear of humiliation used to rule so many of my actions, but I’m realizing that little voice holds way less power than it once did.
World, meet my hot crimson cheeks and my awkward everything!