I've been thinking about it for awhile, and considering the possibility of writing a post on this specific subject, but have been holding off, not wanting to offend anyone.
Then, just a few days ago, it happened to me again.
I decided to write a post about my feelings rather than stabbing the lady at the pool in the eyeballs. Isn't that healthy of me?
I have three young children. I also have a personality that sometimes verges on hermit-like (hermitish?). These two facts together mean that I try to stay at home as much as possible. Yes, we go to the library a lot, we sometimes go to friends' houses for playdates, and I'll venture to the grocery store when it becomes clear that my family does not like to survive on a steady diet of barbecue sauce and saltines, but if at all possible, we stay home. We're at a point where errands are stressful for me, so I do my best to have several days every week where we go nowhere that involves a motorized vehicle.
You see, when we do go out in public, our children behave like... well, children. They usually do their best to behave, but sometimes Caedmon just can't resist the lure of the conveyor belt at the grocery store and the sight of the produce section sends Atticus into a state involving donkey brays, running, and what I'm assuming is some kind of rare tribal dancing. They have lots of energy, which I appreciate, but sometimes I just want to get my yogurt and toilet paper and get the heck out of the store without feeling like I've run ten miles.
Enter The Lady.
If you have children, you know her. She can take on many forms, but she is always female, and she never has children with her. Her defining characteristic is the utterance of the phrase, "You should really cherish these years- they just fly by!"
I want to kill The Lady.
Now, to be fair, it's not really The Lady's fault I want to end her. Sometimes I really need to hear what she has to say. Actually, I probably usually need to hear it. I do need to be cherishing these years, because she's absolutely right: they are racing past.
The problem is, The Lady always picks the most inopportune times to say this. She sees the chaos surrounding me and rather than helping or encouraging me, she offers a useless platitude that drives me to homicidal thoughts.
So if you suspect you are The Lady, here's a helpful checklist for you. Should you see a mother with her children out in public, please do not offer the whole cherish-these-years bit if:
- One of her children is crying, another is bleeding, and another is deliberately disobeying.
- She herself is obviously on the verge of tears.
- She has human excrement anywhere on her person.
- She is busy fashioning a toddler's teething toy into a shiv.
These may seem a tad obvious, but just like McDonald's having to print a "This drink is HOT, which means IT COULD BURN YOU, MORON," on the lids of their coffee cups, I have to say these things because I have actually been approached by The Lady when all of those things were happening. Except for the toddler-toy-shiv thing. That was just a heinous trip to Wal-Mart-inspired fantasy.
Instead of being The Lady, try being like an incredibly nice lady (NICE lady, not THE Lady) at my church who can often be found holding the door open for families entering the children's area at our church. When she sees a mom struggling, she offers an encouraging word, or wonder of wonders, tries to help the family doing their best to make it through the door. I once heard her say, "You're doing a great job," to a young mom with four little kids in tow, and the mom burst into tears, thanking this nice lady.
So if you really feel you must, go ahead: tell that parent how much they should be cherishing this time. You're right, they should. But say it after you've offered a word of encouragement or a helping hand. Lest you wind up with a teething toy in your eyeball one of these days.
This has been a public service announcement.