Bum Rush Soccer Mom - Monday May 21st, 2012
I got bum-rushed by a mom at soccer on Saturday afternoon. Tap, tap, tap on my left shoulder—and when I say tap, I mean pound, pound, pound with an index finger. I was bent in half attending to my purse (giant tote-of-a-thing that could easily handle half a square bale) so I assumed it was my kids. As I stood, a bit stooped I hear ‘Ma’am. Ma’am!!' This form whizzes past me closely on the left side and presents itself and its giant bosom right at my eye level as I stood up. Dude, it was WEIRD.
I had been in the middle of a conversation, a funny, jovial conversation about our crazy children, with a woman whom I’d recently met (um, insert sounds of sheepish weight shifting, eyes downcast, stomach in knots) after Elliot scratched (yes scratched) her son in the eye the previous Saturday. But more on that later.
‘Excuse me! Excuse me! Your son PUNCHED my daughter in the STOMACH!!!’ she forcefully states in front of the entire soccer arena. I was so taken aback, literally, that I couldn’t understand what just happened. Henry scored a great goal right at the buzzer and then came off the field. They disappear for a minute in a chute of sorts before emerging where the parents pick them all up. So I reply, ‘What?’ ‘YOUR SOOOON PUNCHED MY DAUGHTER IN THE STOMACH AND HE NEEDS TO APOLOGIZE RIGHT NOW!’ She said LORDING over Henry who was a bit shell shocked at this point. She was actually hovering over top of Henry, her boobs in his face and index finger (previously alluded to—obviously her other weapon of choice in the world) outstretched demanding a 6-yr-old to apologize to her daughter who was I’m gonna say at least 8.
Of course my knee-jerk reaction was, ‘Henry say sorry to this girl,’ which he did like 3 times but it was barely audible. So this woman repeated her demands until she had sufficiently shamed my son and made a spectacle of herself, her boobs, her horrified daughter and anybody within 50 feet of this exchange. Finally she walked through the space between me and my purse and proceeded to spread sunshine wherever she went that day, I’m sure.
‘Yeah but Mama, she SLAMMED me into the railing on the stairs and she hurt my wrist so much that I screeched-ed out!’ At this time, Elliot came to his brother’s defense. He said, ‘yeah Mama, I saw the whole thing and I heard Henry when he screeched-ed out in PAIN.’
So we’re walking out (a procession that I have dubbed the Walk of Shame now) and I said ‘I’m sorry. The whole thing sounds awful and this is totally not fair, Dude, but you can NEVER hit a girl (but I was thinking to myself, at least not in public).’ At this point, the shame had set in and Henry was feeling like absolute shit and bawling his eyes out.
As I was walking with the boys back to the truck, I was replaying in my head what just happened at the same time I was comparing it to the previous week when Elliot scratched the boy whose Mom I was talking to when the whole thing went down. Here’s what happened there: Elliot wrote a letter of apology. We had an email exchange with the parents, who assured us that they were certain the shit was going both ways, that everything was cool and would we like to come over for some ribs! Seriously. Which we did and had a blast.
The difference was the reaction of the Mom. The Index Finger Mom was uptight and felt she had to come to her daughter’s defense by SHAMING my son. The non-uptight Mom said the following while her sons recounted to her in horror their eye scratching incident with Elliot ‘Ow! That sounds like it hurt. Ouch! Are you okay?’ During the entire exchange she was looking at me in a knowing way (and let me tell you I was horrified, horrified because the kids came running up to tell her that Elliot had scratched their eyes). THEIR EYES, people. Does that sound like a budding serial killer or what?! In fact, no it doesn’t, it sounds a lot like a frustrated little 5 yr old. And the relaxed Mom knew it. She conveyed enough empathy to her kids without trying to destroy my kid. It was very subtle. Very gentle. Very loving all the way around.
So out in the parking lot, I pull over to kind of do a debrief with Henry. I told him that I could have handled that situation better and that, while I didn’t agree with the hitting, I certainly didn’t like that lady yelling in his face.
Anyway, the whole thing is funny. And sad. Parenting is an inexact science. I’m sure we’ll all survive it. But the shame thing really bugs me. According to psychologist Brene Brown, PhD the difference between shame and guilt can be summarized as follows: Shame is ‘I am bad’ and guilt is ‘I did something bad.’ Shame always leads to more bad behavior because it tears at the self while guilt leads to BETTER behavior because it puts the self in conflict with its values. The self cannot stand being in conflict with its values. She explains this in all of her books. And there’s not a bad one so I recommend them all.
So cool mom Liz, pulls up next to me in her car on the way out. She says in her nice Texas accent, ‘Oh my, that was just a little over the top, wasn’t it?’ I smiled and told her thanks for saying that. ‘Now I, too, can go spread sunshine and happiness wherever me and my boobs go today.’
We both laughed.