About three weeks ago there was a music festival within walking distance of our house. I had hoped my brother, who had just moved to the apartment below ours, would go with us but he had his own plans. I was feeling droopy about having no friends meeting us there and disappointed that my brother wouldn’t go but we finally trudged out and made it to the festival. Once there, we waited on lines for the obligatory food truck treat and then my kids ran to see some friends we had noticed from a distance. I sat alone listening to the music and watching the people around me. I was visited now and then by some very sweet dogs, one of whom sat on my lap for a bit.
After about 45 minutes I realized I had better look for my kids. It felt safe there close to home and surrounded by acquaintances but still. Where were they? I walked over and found them huddled over a classmate’s iPad. “Are you kidding me?” I said. “I finally got you away from the television and here we are outside on this beautiful day and you find another screen?” The parents apologized and I told them not to be silly. It wasn’t their fault that my kids gravitated to the iPad and it’s really okay – just surprising. The mom went on to explain that bringing it was a necessary bribe or their son would never have agreed to go and the parents had wanted to be there badly.
I said hello to someone else I kind of know and she said she had told her son that he better damn well behave because he had had his free morning of play and fun and now it was the parents’ turn. He was going to have a good time and if he made it miserable for anyone he’d have some consequence or other to deal with.
I had another chat with yet another mom who told me she had told her young daughter she had better fucking do this or that. “Did you really say that? ‘You had better fucking…’” I asked. “Yes, I used the word ‘fucking’”, she answered.
I felt so normal. All the parents I encountered had had to bribe, cajole or threaten their kids to go to the festival, not just me. Another mom who seems to have it together (whatever that means) uses foul language with her kids when under duress, just like me. She isn’t someone I’d equate with being a monster or a shitty mother.
My kids stopped with the iPad and spent about two hours racing up and down a hill to slide slowly, with hordes of other children, on a cardboard track in potato sacks. We all ended up having a nice time. The other families seemed to as well.
We’re normal after all. All the things I’ve worried so much about my girl? Normal or normal enough. She’s just a kid who has a temper like mine, finding her way. And it’s normal to worry and it’s a relief to see a handful of other families dealing with the same stuff – single parenting vacuum and all… I need to get out more.