“You mean, you actually wash your kids’ fruit with special soap before they eat it?” I blurted.
I stared around my parenting class in anxiety. Twelve moms and a parent educator sat there, all our 2 year olds receiving top-notch neurological stimulation in the next room. Today’s topic was nutrition and one of the moms had just come up with this gem.
One other person said they did too. Everyone else waited for the moment to pass, unwilling to share their fruit preparation practices.
“I don’t even rinse it half the time,” I mumbled.
No one ponied up with a “Yeah, girl, me neither!” I shrank in my chair, reddened a little, wondered if I should go today and purchase me some of that “Good mom fruit wash.” But at the same time, I felt a little tendril of defiance sprouting up inside me. If we shared how we really parent with each other, how much easier would it be? Would there be less judgment, a little more kindness?
My proposal is that every parent should be required to wear their greatest moment of parenting shame on a T-shirt. You know, just to keep us all humble. Mine would say, I let my child get run over by a golf cart.
OK, let me explain.
We went camping with some friends at this sprawling campsite where my friends had a summer trailer, and they entertained Bill (then age 5) and Kate (then age 2) all weekend by driving us around in their golf cart. On the last day, Bill suddenly has to go the bathroom. My friend Sharon tells me to take the golf cart. “I say, gee, it’s not that far and I’ve never driven a golf cart before.”
“Take it,” she says. “They’ll have fun” — and off we go.
We make it to the potty without incident and I come back and park on a grassy hill. I tell the kids to get out. Bill exits. I exit. Kate, for some reason, squirms across the front seat to follow me out on the driver’s side. She steps on the gas pedal. The cart immediately starts to roll down the hill. Apparently golf carts will do that.
Oh no! my brain panics. My baby is rolling downhill in a runaway golf cart! I barely have time to scream, “Kate!” before I notice Bill is directly in front of the golf cart. “Bill!” I scream even louder. I see the cart run over him and lodge itself in the bushes below. Bill is screaming, “It ran over my head!” I don’t even know who to run to first.
Off we go to the rural emergency room. On the way, I try to phone my husband, home with the baby. It’s a bad connection. All he hears is, “Bill ... crackle ... golf cart ... crackle ... emergency.” He tells me later he was sure Bill was dead.
Thankfully, Bill was neither dead nor mortally injured. But the story is a reminder to me never to sit in judgment on other parents. I’d probably be a better parent and a better friend if I did have that story emblazoned on a T-shirt. It would remind me, and everyone else, that all of us parents are works in progress, and we should all be gentle with each other.
As I’ve shared the golf cart story, I have been rewarded by the stories of many other moms, including a now-grandma who vividly remembered her shame at zipping her infant’s skin into a baby bunting. I’m not expecting my Parenting Hall of Shame T-shirt idea will catch on, but maybe, just maybe, think about finding a close friend this week and exchanging your personal worst. Then enjoy a rueful laugh and a slice of humble pie. Together.