“Oh, no,” I stammered. “He rarely does, but it’s a holiday and blah blah blah…” I don’t remember what else I said. All I know is that I gave the appropriate answer expected of any good mother who cares about her child’s welfare.I tried to shrug it off but by the time we left I was aggravated. The next morning, I was officially mad – at myself. Mad that I let myself feel like I owed an explanation. Mad that I felt the need to lie to give an answer that would prove to her satisfaction.
I can’t make people change their behavior, but I don’t have to engage with it either. I vowed that next time she or anyone asks me a question drenched in judgment that I would just look at them and not answer.That “next time” turned out to be a few weeks later at my mother’s and the “anyone” was my sister-in-law. At the end of the evening, her eyes were riveted on my son, James, as he was munching on the desserts. At one point I said, “James, I think you’ve had enough. Why don’t you go play in the den?” When he left the room, I suggested we move the desserts.
My sister-in law nodded to me emphatically, “Yes. I noticed; I was just going to say the same thing.”There I was again – stung by a sanctimommy bestowing judgment on a life she could never understand.
James has always had a sweet tooth as does my husband, Donald. Since James has no friends, Donald makes sure he is James’s best friend. On Friday nights, they eat pizza, ice cream, and brownies and watch Heroes night (3 hours of heroes programs on Cartoon Network).It’s their night and when I see them on the couch, laughing, watching TV, eating junk food and chatting about the characters, I’m so happy for my little guy who is smiling and at peace with the world. So, yes, we live by different rules and don’t have the time or the inclination to count each cookie. We prefer to count James’s smiles.
This week, we saw the cousin at a family function. She has a 4 year old and a 2 year old and they are not allowed to drink soda. I know because she said it about five times before we sat down to dinner. When I realized she was directing the soda decree to me, I told her that James doesn’t drink soda. “Oh good for you,” she said approvingly. (Gee thanks.)
After the food was served and people started eating, James said, “Mommy, aren’t we going to say prayers and give thanks for our food first?" I quietly reminded him that when we are at someone else’s home and they don’t say prayers that we say it to ourselves. “O.K,” he said as he started praying silently while everyone waited until he finished. He looked like an angel and you’d think I bribed him with 100 cookies to get that moment.
On the way home, Donald blurted out, “Not for nothing, but I’m glad James said that thing about praying. I don’t care if it embarrassed anyone. Laura always acts like she’s so perfect and the rest of the family treats her like she’s the authority on parenthood.”
Not for nothing, but I didn’t know Donald was paying attention so score one all around for Team Jackie and the man upstairs.
Yes, my family is not perfect and we show up at your home with warts and all. But at least my son was raised to thank the good Lord for all of that delicious, imperfect food he puts in his mouth. And I thank God for his smiles. Amen.Next stop: my sister-in-law’s dinner table.