The “seafrost”-colored Jaguar approached the 4-way stop sign at the same time my mini-van did. I was dashing from dropping off my son and his friend at school for a before-hours business class, and on my way to the gym. The driver of the Jaguar, I assumed, was heading to some important business meeting or perhaps to the club for Friday bridge. I motioned to let her go. When she drove by, I noticed that her side rear window was covered in kid’s stickers.
I turned right and followed the Jaguar until it pulled into the drive-thru lane for the coffee shop. She wasn’t going to any meeting or bridge. She was getting some much needed caffeine to get through her day after a long night of fetching water and calming kids with nightmares. She had a sick kid sleeping in the back of the car, and so she was limited to anything and everything drive-thru. She thought about McDonald’s for dinner — again.
I do this all too often. I spot a mom, and I fill in her story. For example, I decided that:
- the frazzled mom in sweats, entertaining her two younger kids at the indoor soccer dome the other night had quit her job to care for her kids while her husband travels to China on business two weeks out of every month. She hadn’t showered in 48 hours, and wouldn’t again until he came home late that night, regaling her with stories of airplane food and hotel turn-down service. She couldn’t admit to him that she’s jealous of him reading magazines from airport gift shops cover to cover and sipping lattes from Starbucks.
- the absent-minded mom pushing her toddler in a supermarket shopping cart shaped like a big plastic car couldn’t bear to buy more chicken nuggets, and longed to cook like she did when she was single. Maybe some polenta or Chicken Cordon Bleu. Anything but frozen peas again.
- the mom with the Coach bag in line at Party City complaining about how her tween son wants an ATV for Christmas, had apparently dropped in from 2006 to say hello. Later, she checks her mutual fund portfolio and the latest unemployment figures and decides that everyone’s getting clothes and cheap candy for Christmas.
I do this not just because it entertains me, but because I can’t help it. After years of writing for and hearing from moms around the country and around the world, I feel like I know what’s on their minds. Whether they’re cleaning up after a band of four-year-olds gets a hold of the pies or enduring various bodily functions, courtesy of the kids, I feel sort of like Bill Clinton: I feel their pain.
I get a snapshot of moms’ lives, and I understand it, because many times, I’ve been there. I want reveal the secrets of motherhood with moms like Colleen of Tuscon, Arizona , who shared in my book, Stop Second-Guessing Yourself — The Toddler Years, “I wish someone had told me that it’s like having an unmedicated schizophrenic suicidal know-it-all without bladder control, on uppers 24/7.”
I want to tell moms with kids younger than mine that it gets easier, and in some ways, harder, and that great days are indeed ahead. And I want to go over to the Jaguar and knock on the window and tell the driver that the Dora the Explorer stickers won’t be on her car window forever, and she will indeed get a full night’s sleep — many of them — eventually. I also want to warn her that the “Santa’s watching” threat only works for a few fleeting years. Use it, and enjoy all the magic of the holidays while you can, because children grow and life changes until you wind up filling in other moms’ stories while you wait at the 4-way stop sign.