I see the moment so clearly; all of us walking into the restaurant, my friend bickering back and forth with her snarky, then 11 year-old son, her, ultimately, telling him to shut up.
I remember how totally and completely horrified I was. I had babies at the time; sweet little yum yums. I could never imagine speaking to them that way, and I’m sure my judgment showed.
My friend shot me a stern look of reproach. “Just wait.” She warned. “You’ll do it too.”
I nodded, embarrassed for all of us, but I didn’t believe her. We were different, I told myself. I would never. And I didn’t, until the day I did.
I was past the point of frustration and on to exasperation when I snapped at my squabbling 8 and 10 year-old. It just came out. I don’t know how, and my hand quickly flew to my mouth in shame.
They looked at me, momentarily confused, all speech halted.
“Mommy, you said, shut up.” They both giggled.
“I know, I know. I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.” Bad mommy. Bad, bad mommy.
“You always tell us never to say that.” More giggling.
It’s true. I think saying ‘shut up’ is worse than cursing. My kids regularly amuse themselves by dropping something and loudly exclaiming, “Damn it!” The expression of frustration doesn’t really bother me. Of course, I don’t encourage it, but it’s those words and phrases with intention to hurt that make me cringe. Words like, “I don’t like you.” Or “You’re stupid.”
Or, “Shut up.”
How did I just say that?
Well, they were obviously driving me insane and I wanted them to shut up. Sigh.
Back at the beginning of my mommy career, I sat quietly on my horse with my perfect child, looking down at the moms of children running wild through the playground, or climbing on top of carts in the supermarket, or manipulating a second or third oreo. Tsk Tsk.
Until all of a sudden, I did things I swore I’d never do like: let my child sleep in my bed, reduce me to tears in Target, make me want to throw them out a window, bribe them with sugar and TV so I could talk on the phone, make three different meals each night, or just give up and give a bowl of cereal, hide in the bathroom, buy expensive gadgets or iPhones…
Well, ha ha ha on me. Because it’s easy to judge, when it’s not your life in the midst of mental meltdown.
While I do my best to exhibit respectful behavior and make the right choices, sometimes I don’t do as I intend, and I learned long ago, never to say never.
Telling them to shut up is certainly not on my highlight reel, but I guess, it happens. Or, it happened. Hopefully, it won’t again. But it might.
I can just hear my friend saying, I told you so. And while I’d like to tell her to shut up, I try not to say those kind of things.