“I don’t believe in abortion either.”
This is what she said to me as she ambled to my side. I was watching my children play in the children’s zero depth pool. It was the end of summer preschool outing for my two eldest children. My eldest son was almost 5, my daughter had just turned 3 and I held my youngest in my arms, who was around 10 months old at the time.
I had been enjoying myself. I was exhausted caring for 3 under 5, but I was enjoying the sunshine and laughter of small children splashing in water. I was especially enjoying my children. I sat on one of the many lounge chairs along with several other parents. My youngest on my lap, I enjoyed soaking in the sun as he gnawed on his fist. When he got restless I walked around keeping him entertained in my arms. To put him down meant a constant effort to keep him out of the water.
My husband couldn’t make it out of work that day. There was another mother or two who donned their suits to join in with their younger children. I hadn’t wanted to try on swimsuits. I just wasn’t ready. This was my choice.
Still, I had been enjoying my children and myself.
I was happy, dammit.
Her words took my breath away. I waited for what would come next. I was horrified but curious. What was this preschool teacher talking about? Why was she saying this to me?
“Um, whaaat? Actually, I believe in a woman’s right to choose.” What the fuck.
Her words that followed made no sense to me, as if she were speaking in a different tongue, foreign to my ears and my heart. I struggled to make sense of what she was saying. She had three children. The last a boy. She grieved over not wanting that last child. Boy, had she not wanted that last child.
“Well, it took us almost 4 years to have our first child so I’m very happy with our decisions.”
Still she kept talking.
She hadn’t wanted three children but she made the best of it and now they were all grown and doing well. I stood listening, holding my sweet baby, wondering where she was going with this one-sided conversation. I wondered how this all had anything to do with me. I knew I didn’t like what she had assumed and I knew this would not end well.
The other assistant teacher present was much younger, maybe in her mid-twenties, sat with her back to us and her feet dangling in the water. She had been listening and turned her head to interject only to state she would have only two, if she had any at all.
I could feel the rage in my calm but incredulous demeanor bubbling to the surface. I had kept a conversational tone, that, up to this point had included “Oh”, and “I have enjoyed and wanted all of my children”. This hadn’t made her stop talking.
The 60-plus year old assistant teacher of my children’s preschool class kept talking like she hadn’t made her point perfectly clear. I felt a cold heat rising in my neck, reaching my ears, and then like a geyser springing forth from my mouth, I said it. I said the nicest thing I could think at that moment.
“I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your children.”
“Oh. I enjoyed my children.”
We studied one another’s face.
I broke the silence.
I can’t remember any words that followed. I knew she was trying to justify her words. All of those putrid misguided words. She couldn’t. Not to me. I excused myself to watch my children and to wash clean the vileness that had clouded my experience.
They had been watching me that morning, making awful assumptions, and then acting on them. Dear God. What the hell is wrong with people?
What is wrong with me? I should have shut that shit down immediately. I didn’t. Again, horrified but curious me actually wondered what I had done wrong that morning. Did I deserve this treatment?
I scoured all my actions and feelings leading up to that moment. I am a pretty self-reflective person so this affected me more than it should have. I honestly, couldn’t think of anything leading up to this day that would justify this treatment. I had felt good despite my husband not being able to attend. Though, I had felt in my gut I really needed him there and now I knew why. My gut is never wrong.
I vowed never to allow any more of my children to be in any of her classes. This was hard, because she assisted in teaching the main preschool classes at the art center we had decided to make our children’s preschool community. I was pissed and hurt. I felt utter betrayal. I felt something very special had been taken from me and my children. The world was a colder place.
I thought about talking to the director. I thought about how my demeanor had been misread in such a horrible way. Maybe it was my face. Maybe it was how tired I was. Maybe.
Maybe I looked unhappy even though I knew I wasn’t. I was just tired.
Maybe if my husband had remembered to take off work, this wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe that horrid woman shouldn’t have made assumptions about my life or my children and then without thinking, accosted me with it.
“I don’t believe in abortion either.”
Abortion. What the fuck.
Clearly people, the only reason a woman would have a third child isn’t because she wanted that third child. She just doesn’t believe in abortion. Gross.
Aren’t we allowed to be tired? Can’t we, as mothers, allow one another to be joyful and tired?
An older mother with grown children made some pretty base assumptions based only off my demeanor as a tired mother of 3 under 5.
Shouldn’t she know better?
Well, maybe she does now.
If I am honest with myself she had been a judgy bitch towards me the whole summer session I had my kids in her class. I got the impression she thought I was younger than I was, and gee, my kids sure are spaced close together, and of course all the other judgments that come with having more than 2.
Over the following years I enrolled my children in other classes at the center she didn’t teach. We also didn’t go there as much. When we would see each other there was no eye contact. She ignored my husband and I and our children and that was just fine with me.
Yet it speaks volumes.
She hasn’t learned a damn thing.
Age does not belie wisdom.
Never stop growing as a person because so many do.
Do not ever let anyone put their baggage on you.
Do not ever let anyone dim your light.
Trust your gut.