Thursday was Veterans' Day and the kids didn't have school. The post is also closed on Friday so lots of people from our street are gone for the long weekend. This means that there is no one to play with for the kids so we found a great playground that I had heard about for a while. It's on post - and there's even a Starbucks!! The kids had a wonderful time - there were climbing frames for every age so even Aoife wasn't left out of the fun!
There were lots of kids and moms there - very noticeably a lack of dads. Don't think that this is because dad was home sleeping on his first day of the long weekend. He's away - Iraq, Afghanistan or some other god forsaken place. Most of the moms were young - much younger than I am - and most had 2 or 3 kids under the age of 7 or 8. In general they were overweight and poorly dressed, sitting on the edge of the playground looking exhausted, frazzled and dazed. They weren't talking to each other - with the exception of pairs that had evidently come to the park together. As I wandered around after Aoife to prevent her from killing herself, since she doesn't have the survival instinct to not fall from high places, I was feeling rather judgmental.
Then, as I was helping Aoife down a slide, a young mom behind me absolutely lost it on her 18 month old daughter for spilling a paper cup full of ice on the ground. She was screaming and the child burst into hysterical wailing. The mom picked up the baby a little too roughly and stomped off. I stood there stock still and before I could stop it, the tears started. This isn't the reaction that I usually have to poor parenting but I looked around and it all fell together. These women were out of their minds with worry. Not just the normal stuff like making sure the kids get enough vegetables and don't watch too much TV but having to deal with EVERYTHING alone. Getting to FRG meetings, teacher conferences, and doctor's appointments while trying to coordinate care for their children. Getting from payday to payday with enough food in the house to feed their children. Worrying that if the worst did happen, what would they do? Knowing that there's a drawer in their house full of potential funeral plans and lists of people to call and notify. Knowing that THEY would have to live through that and then keep on living. What a horrible weight to carry. Maybe the spilled ice pushed her a little too close to the edge - terrifying emotions are just a hair under the surface - anger pushes them back down a little.