A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
At nearly sixteen months of age, my child is finally getting her teeth. ALL THE TEETH. At one time.
It’s unclear whether this overwhelming dental event is the cause of recent behavioral changes, or whether it just happens to coincide with a natural transition into toddlerhood. Whatever the case may be, we have landed squarely in the sh**, as they say. Welcome to Tantrum Town, population: a whole lot, plus three more tortured souls. For all current or former residents, I now stand with you. Never again will I shake my head when I see a woman dragging her son out of the supermarket as he screams about wanting to push the cart himself. Never again will I count my blessings when I witness a kid throwing a nuclear meltdown in a restaurant over the removal of a ketchup packet from her fist. And I will forever regret rolling my eyes as a teenage Baskin Robbins employee when a beleaguered mother tried to return her toddler’s mint chip milkshake because “it wasn’t green enough.”
Actually, I take that last one back, even with my newfound perspective. Get a grip, lady.
I have always strived not to be a judgmental mother, and now I hope the rest of the world will refrain from judging me as I attempt to navigate the public world with a daughter who will fall to pieces if I too strongly state my preference that she not eat raw corn through the cellophane packaging as we wait in line at the grocery store. And as someone who has always been a bit of a potty mouth, I also hope the other moms out there might suspend their horror if I occasionally drop a quiet f-, s-, or gd-bomb or two when wrangling a teething, ornery, headstrong, adorable little mental patient. It’s not like I’d ever curse at her, and I try very hard to censor myself now that she’s verging on verbal, but it’s not always easy. Things slip out when you’re sweating and wrestling a poopy diaper off an uncooperative baby in an airplane lavatory that is not outfitted with a changing table. Just, you know, hypothetically speaking. I’m a caring person and I want my children to have good values and manners. But I’m also human being who experiences anger and frustration and who spent the vast majority of her life up to this point with no reason not to color her language for, er, emphasis.
All of this is to say that I felt all kinds of feelings when I read about the South Carolina mom who was arrested in front of her children for cursing in front of her children because they were “squishing the f*cking bread.” No joke. A woman overheard her throwing around some f-bombs in the supermarket and asked her to stop for the sake of her kids. She didn’t, evidently, and the woman called the cops who somehow justified a disorderly conduct arrest.
Initially, my reaction was to feel disgusted by the officious woman who got the police involved. Does the phrase “mind your own beeswax” mean nothing these days? Sure, she was doing what she thought was right for the children, but how is watching your mother get publicly placed in handcuffs less traumatizing than listening to her foul mouth? To be fair, the tattletale has apologized and acknowledged and explained her overreaction, and the mom has forgiven her and also explained that she was, in fact, swearing at her husband, which I think we can all agree is hardly a crime. I mean, he was squishing the f*cking bread, and how g*dd*mn annoying is that? He probably always squishes the f*cking bread.
Anyway, I suppose if I’m being honest with myself, I felt a little sick at the thought that, if I don’t figure out how to properly express my kid-induced frustration, I could one day be the woman yelling obscenities at the Stop & Shop. And that if I had seen her that day, it would have been difficult for me not to shake my head in mild disgust and relief that I hadn’t yet devolved to that point. Being rendered powerless by an irrational, tiny individual who still needs you to help her operate a fork—and for whom you feel a love more powerful than you thought possible—is an experience that kicks up a lot of complicated emotions. We are moms, but we are still people, imperfect as anyone else. Sometimes words fail us. Sometimes we are putting up with just so much and we are calling on reserves of patience our own mothers would be shocked we possess, and our anger gets the better of us. Fine. Maybe some of us are just kind of trashy, but most of us are probably okay, mostly. There but for the grace of God, and all that. Let’s go easy on the judgment and cut one another some slack.
And just respect the f*cking bread, alright?
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!