This week, in spiteful defiance of a winter that outlived its welcome months ago, we held our Cub Scout meeting outdoors at a nearby playground. The boys were learning the very important Life Lessons that:
- picking up litter is a very important expression of civic duty, and
- many people are careless slobs who drink booze and fornicate near children's playgrounds.
When we arrived, the boys spent about 20 minutes running and yelping and climbing all the things. And just as we were settling down for our meeting, a 30ish woman with a troubled expression and arms crossed firmly across her chest came over to our picnic table and asked to speak with me.
If you've ever spent time on the playground with your kid, you know it's never good when a stranger parent asks for a word. I learned this on some of the tonier NYC playgrounds that are infested with over-earnest helicopter parents devoted to sheltering their children from conflict. So when she pulled me aside, I braced for the worst.
"I just want you to know that I'm very emotional right now, because I'm three months pregnant," she began. "If I start crying, I'm sorry in advance."
Noted. And so we ratchet up to DEFCON 3.
"I just wanted to say that I saw these boys all playing together near the climbing structure, and when my son tried to join in, they all said, 'No, you can't play with us, because we're all Cub Scouts and you're not."
(Emphasis mine, to indicate that as she finished that sentence the tears began pouring forth.)
"But your son ... [sob] ... was the only one of them ... [sniffle] ... who said it was OK and ... welcomed him into the group."
I processed this as my buttcheeks slowly de-clenched.
"Your son was just ... [sob, sniffle] ... so kind. Thank you!"
I have a sense that you could be thinking, in your best Chandler Bing voice, "Could this post BE any more self-indulgent?" And I get that. But I'm writing about it anyway, in part because my sons spend a lot of time being unkind to each other, and it's a relief to see them revert to Jekyll Mode when civilians are involved.
I'm also not in a place to crow too loudly, since I'm not only just half of this parenting effort; I'm almost completely removed from the other half.
Mostly, though, this conversation is sticking with me because it was such a nice surprise. In this era of highfalutin parenting opinions, parents have become experts in bitching about What Your Kid Did. And at the end of a particularly trying day, there really is no better selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor than having a complete stranger approach you out of the blue to tell you you're doing something -- anything -- right.
So I guess what I'm saying is, if your mood has been befouled by the truly nasty detritus that some lazy jagwagon left 10 feet from a trash can, there's nothing like a sweet, emotionally unstable, incipient mother of four to help balance things out.