It has been said that “It takes a village to raise a child,” and this could not be more true when it comes to the rearing of my children. Our village consists of my spouse, my children’s grandparents, my friends, teachers, coaches, and other mothers, to name a few.
One area that I am blessed to have so much support is in my morning routine. Most mornings, my father helps me get my boys ready so I can get out the door by 7 a.m. Given that mornings can be particularly challenging for all of us, and that nobody wants to start their day either yelling or being yelled at, I am grateful for the extra support. For me, mornings are the worst.
Truthfully, it seems, I am always running late in the morning. And this morning, was no exception. The only difference was that today was one of the rare days that my village could not be there to help.
I will admit that part of the problem is that most nights I try to soak up as much alone time with my husband as possible, and so, per the usual, last night I went to bed too late. This was accompanied by my hitting the snooze button repeatedly in the morning, and then having to make a choice between washing my hair and getting to work on time.
After I finally pulled myself together in the most presentable way that twenty minutes would allow, it was time, to wake the children and pack the lunches. I do not know how things go in other houses, but in my house, my kids hide under the covers, then whine and cry about having to get up (despite nearly 12 hours of sleep), followed by rolling around and stretching their limbs out stiffly while I attempt to dress their lifeless bodies because I just do not have the time (or the patience) to wait for them to get around to doing it. Then, they eat their cereal at a pace that would make a snail look like a race car. As soon as I finish packing their lunch boxes and their backpacks, they inevitably ask for a sip of water that can only come from the water bottle that I have already packed.
Miraculously, when it was time to brush their teeth this morning, my youngest acquired amnesia and could no longer remember which toothbrush was his, how to put toothpaste on the toothbrush, or even how brush his teeth altogether. This amnesia resulted in him crying for me to do it. I refused, followed by a lecture about how he is too old to keep asking me to do everything for him in the morning. And, then, it was the weirdest thing: My four year-olds’ arms went limp. The brush dropped to the floor. I started yelling about how disgusting his toothbrush now was. But, eventually, all the teeth got brushed.
Then, once my boys were dressed, the teeth were brushed, the faces were washed, and the thirst was quenched, my youngest son and I headed to the door. But, just as we got our shoes on and began to leave, he remembered that he had to pee. So, off to the bathroom he ran, where he proceeded to somehow pee EVERYWHERE, except the toilet bowl. I lectured him about being more careful, muttered some profanities to myself, cleaned up the bathroom, and again we headed to the door.
Usually, as my youngest and I are about to leave, my boys suddenly remember that they love each other so much, and begin hugging like they will never see each other again. Today was no exception.
I pried them apart, and we were off. But now, I needed a coffee. Obviously. I mean, I had already put in a whole days work before the day even really started. So, I went and bought a coffee.
As I pulled into the school parking lot to drop off my son, I glanced over at the van that was parked next to my car. I noticed a toddler strapped in his car seat in the back, car running, windows rolled down, but no parent. The initial thoughts that ran through my mind were those of judgment. Why would this mother leave her baby in the car? I know that she is probably running late too, and it is more work to take him out while she drops off her other son, but what if, in those few moments, something happened? How could she be so careless? (As an aside, I also noticed the police officer who is stationed at the school in the morning standing nearby and keeping an eye on the van, but that alone did not stop my judgment in it’s tracks).
But, when I got out of my car and helped my son out, I spotted the mother standing at the curb about 20 feet away. As we approached, I saw that her oldest son, who usually walks himself into the building with no problem in the morning (I have always been secretly jealous because my son, who is the same age, has never gone in alone), did not want to go into the building today. I saw the frazzled look on her face as she looked back at the van. I heard the frustration in her voice as she said, “Honey, I need you to go inside. I have your brother in the car, and I have to get to work.” And, I watched as he refused, pushing his mother to her limit.
And, I knew what she needed. She did not need my judgment. She did not need me to walk past. She needed grace. She needed kindness. She needed understanding from one mother to another. She needed a village.
So, when we got close, I said, “Good morning, buddy. Dominic and I are so glad to see you. We were hoping you would walk in with us today,” and I put my arm on his back and gently guided him along with us. And he came.
When I looked back, his mother and I made eye contact, and relief appeared to wash over her as she mouthed the words, “thank you,” and I nodded affirmatively.
We mothers, are part of a sisterhood, bonded together by our common desire to raise good humans and our vulnerability in trying to do so. If we can allow ourselves to succumb to the vulnerability that is not having all the answers … that is not knowing what we are doing sometimes … that is motherhood, then we will find the ability to suspend judgment, empathize with one another’s experiences, and lend ourselves in times of need. I would argue that this is not only a moral responsibility, but also our duty.
It truly does take a village.
Be someone’s village.