I am not ashamed to admit it. I was seething. I was practically vibrating with incredulity. I furiously messaged my husband who was away at the time, my fingers flying over the keyboard.
“Who does she think she is???” I typed. There were lots of ALL CAPS and copious !!!!!!!!
“What kind of mother thinks it is ok to say to another mother that her child isn’t good enough? What kind of person is too stupid not to at least come up with a plausible lie?” Followed by more !!!!
I had fantasies of marching the offending mother through the school yard with a Game of Thrones bell, tolling Shame! Shame! Shame! behind her as she made her way into the cafeteria. I composed scathing emails filled with righteous anger. I authored imaginary text messages using words like What and The and others that end in uck. My thumb hovered over the send button.
More than anything though, I dreaded telling my son he wouldn’t be attending a party he had been talking about for weeks. A party the rest of his group of friends would be attending. A party he had been originally (apparently conditionally, provisionally) invited to. I prepared myself for his upset.
Then something funny happened. When I told him, he shrugged. My son merely shrugged. He said it was ok. No big deal.
“Did something happen between you two?” I asked him. He shook his head. My son is a good kid, but he’s not a cyborg. If he’d done or said something to offend his friend, enough that his friend didn’t want him to come to party they’d planned and talked about, well, then I needed to know. Yet he could think of nothing and nor could I.
And in that moment, my ten-year-old son, with nothing more than a shrug and a shake of his head proved himself to be more mature than both the other mother and me.
For that alone I owe the other mother a thank you. Her actions reminded me my children continue to surprise me, each and every day. Sometimes they surprise me with their tenacity. Sometimes with the solutions they imagine, solutions I could never dream of. And sometimes they surprise me with maturity that belies their years, with a forgiveness which outstrips my own.
This was one of those times.
So for opening my eyes once again to the goodness in my child, for his capacity to forgive, I thank her.
We spoke about the whole thing for a while.
“You know what?” I said to him. “Your friend is an ass. And so is his mother.”
And then we laughed. No, it’s wasn’t my finest let’s-not-call-other-people-names moment, not my best turn-the-other-cheek lesson, but it was a moment of raw honesty with my son. And yes, I admit in my moment of pettiness, it made me feel better.
For that moment of unfiltered honesty I shared with my son, I thank her.
“It’s no way to treat a friend, is it?”
“Nope,” he answered.
“I think you’re a better friend than that.” I said to him.
“You don’t need to worry about me,” he said. Then, in true ten-year-old form, he asked if he could go on his iPad.
Sometimes it takes someone acting like an ass to remind you of what you’ve got. My son is better than pettiness. He is a good friend, one who goes out of his way to make friends with the new kids. Every year I’ve had parents seek me out and pull me aside to whisper their sons were grateful for his friendship, that he made them feel at home. In fact, she herself was one of those parents not that long ago.
Sometimes as a mother you forget, you forget how kind and nice and decent your own kids are. You get caught up in the sibling fighting and the bedtime struggles, the day-to-day whining and constant demands.
So thank you for the reminding me what a great kid I’ve got.
At the end of the day, as my son reminded me, it’s really not a big deal. I can see now that my reactions were exaggerated, my indignity a bit over the top. A bit. Maybe she just doesn’t like my kid. That’s ok, I get it. There are kids I’ve met along the way who have rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe she was nervous about numbers. Maybe she doesn’t like me. Maybe she doesn’t like how often I swear or my tattoos or whatever. I’m sure, in her mind, she was trying to do the best by her own child. I can’t find fault with any of that.
Thing is, you can do all those things without putting another child down or stepping on their feelings. It’s never ok, never classy or tactful or advised or any other big word you can come up with to say to another mother, sorry, your kid didn’t make the cut. Your child isn’t good enough.
And for that I thank her too, because the message–both the actual one and the one it implied–made it clear to me that for all my tiger mom feral anger, for all my Game of Throne influenced fantasies, I am better than that.
I’m raising my sons to be better than that too.
And it’s working.