On Sunday afternoon I took Zoey to the playground. We walked there hand in picking up the bright yellow leaves for our collection. Zoey made some new friends while I sat on the bench in the sun drinking tea. There were lots of kids and families at the park enjoying the day. We all nodded and smiled at one another exclaiming about the great weather. I caught myself thinking, “Golly, sometimes being a mom is rather enjoyable.”
Zoey found a “wand” (read as: a broken branch with thorns on it).
“Zoey,” I said, “You may not climb on the the playground equipment while holding that stick.”
“Maaaahhhhm,” Zoey groaned, “It’s. A. Wand.”
“Sorry. Wand.” Zoey began to climb The Death Star. WHILE STILL HOLDING THE WAND. “Zoey: put it down or I will hold it for you.”
“Maaahhhhm, I’m fine . . . I’m not gonna-” And then Zoey fell. (Hubris, anyone?)
She was not far off the ground so that part was no big deal. But, as she was falling, the pointy WAND with thorns grazed across her cheek about this <> far from her eye.
“Ooops,” I said while Zoey sat stunned on her butt in the wood chips. “See? That’s why I am going to hold the wand for you.” I squatted to pick up the wand and also to rub Zoey on the back.
Zoey’s eyes narrowed. “No. NO. I DID NOT WANT YOU TO DO THAT. I DID NOT WANT YOU TO MAKE ME FALL.” She threw herself on the ground (which wasn’t all that dramatic as she was already on the ground) and began rolling, kicking, and screaming. As she rolled wood-chips stuck on her fleece, and in her hair.
The other kids started staring.
So did the parents.
“Zoey,” I threatened through gritted teeth. “I am counting to three. If you do not get it together we will go home.”
We all know what happened: On three the tantrum escalated. I went to sit on a nearby bench. Parents began to tell their children to look away. Another parent said to her two year old, “Now that is bad behavior. I’m so glad you don’t act like that.” Ha! I thought. Ha! Give it time lady! (I would also like to take this time to point out that if I had seen me at the playground I would have gone up and said something like, “Yup, totally been there. Stay strong!” But no one did that. LOSERS!)
After about seven minutes I went back over to Zoey who now looked like a giant wood-chip monster. “Well,” I said, “It’s time to go home.” Zoey sniffled and crawled out from under The Death Star. She took my hand and we got as far as the bench.
“No,” Zoey said. “I don’t want to do what you saying to me. I want to play!” And the crying started. But it was the pathetic oh-I’m-such-a-sad-and-mistreated-kid FAKE cry.
“Kids that throw tantrums do not get to stay at the playground. I am goinghome. Would you like to walk with me?” (Note to soon to be parents: here’s where you hope like hell that you have sufficiently instilled in your kid a fear of being alone.)
“You go home,” Zoey whimpered. PARENTING FAIL.
So I began to walk across one baseball field. I casually glanced back. Zoey was crying and looking pathetic but she wasn’t watching me. She’ll look eventually. I kept walking. I noticed that the further away I got the closer the other parents seemed to circle in.
I was two baseball fields away now. I turned and looked. Zoey was still not looking at me. But a few of the parents were. And . . . there was pointing.
After calling my best friend to confirm that these other parents were jerks for getting their jollies by judging me and probably all had exceedingly boring lives AND were so much UNcooler than we were, I knew what I had to do.
Yup, the walk of shame. WALK. OF. SHAME. Across two baseball fields. To my tear-streaked child who was picking wood-chips out of her hair and whispering, “My mommy left me . . . My mommy left me . . .” I deftly avoided all eye contact with other parents and took Zoey’s hand. We trudged back across the field, picking up yellow leaves as we went.