Last week I yelled at a grown man.
Two in fact.
When it happened, I remember thinking a litany of things. Everything from, “Oh no he didn’t,” (insert neck roll) to “You can’t play with my Yo-Yo! Don’t try to play me out, don’t try to play me out!” went through my mind when I was on the sidelines at my son’s football practice giving the two people who deserved it a piece of my mind. And don’t ask me why 90s hip hop lyrics are a part of my inner monologue. They get me hype, like cupcakes and the smell of permanent markers.
When I got home and told DudeDad about my buckness, he laughed and said, “I bet your mom pulled out a cigarette and smoked it in bed when she heard this story.”
It was then that I realized two things: I am so turning into my mother, and probably I am totally okay with that.
My mother has a nickname in our house. We call her The Lifeguard.
It’s a name she earned the summer before #1 celebrated his first birthday.
We were living in an apartment complex in Laurel, Maryland. In jest we call it the hood. In reality, it’s just an area in the DC Metro suburbs populated largely by hard working families. Some of them were awesome. Some of them made me want to sweep their legs when I passed them on the sidewalk.
The kids in my complex had a lot of unsupervised time which they filled by doing regular punk kid stuff like littering and using the F-word really loudly when adults were within earshot. They weren’t criminals, just naughty enough to be annoying when you had to step over them crowding about in your stairwell. We called them Bebe’s kids in the privacy of our own home and glared at them openly in public. They ignored us entirely. Every thing was as it should be.
One blistering hot summer afternoon in 2002, we decided to venture to the neighborhood pool. My excitement at getting my 7 month old into his trunks for the first time led to this momentary lapse in judgment. Anyone who has ever lived in an apartment complex bursting with kids knows that the pool is the last place you want to be on a hot, no-school day in the middle of the summer.
But, me, I shoved #1’s chunky thighs into a swim diaper and slathered his brownness with sunscreen like any good first time mother would. We packed up our bag and, with Mimi in tow to capture #1’s first swimming adventure, we headed out into the shark infested waters to the pool.
When we arrived we noted two things: there were more people in the pool than there was water and the kids were rowdy. Like, is-heat-stroke-warping-your-brain? kind of rowdy. Not ones to spook easily, we pressed on.
As we rounded the edge of the water in search of an open chaise to plop our things on, a series of events began to transpire in front of us. Some relatively small, but lightening fast kid darted quickly past us while screaming something unintelligible. Hot on his tail was another, much larger child who proceeded to stiff arm the aforementioned smaller child causing him to careen into the pool, only just barely avoiding me with my wide eyed babe in arms and a brutal head wound from the wall of the pool.
So many things were wrong about this situation: a ton of children, all mostly unsupervised but for some lifeguards who barely spoke English and cared even less, they were running on the pool deck, they were pushing, and shoving, and generally behaving inappropriately for people hanging about a large body of water surrounded by concrete. And, no one was saying anything!
It was all too much for Mimi so she took matters into her own hands.
Every human at the pool that day left with the fear of God in their eyes and a brand new set of pool rules to abide by.
Not a single person spoke during her tirade. Some children probably cried. A few ran away. When she finished, smoke billowing from her nostrils, I considered starting a slow clap, movie style, to commemorate the moment.
However, at 23 years old I really just wanted to crawl into the deep end and drown myself in my shame.
Because my mom was THAT mom.
At the time, I had no idea that being THAT mom was actually part of what made her amazing. I only cared what my neighbors would think of me. And, if any of the kids would leave flaming bags of poo on my step.
Never mind that she was also the only mom who had the sense to react quickly enough to push me back so I wasn’t also knocked into the pool with my 6 month old. Never mind that she was the only adult responsible enough, engaged enough, or caring enough to be concerned about the small child who’d come thiiiiiis close to being severely wounded by bashing his skull on the concrete pool wall. Never mind that something needed to be done, and that she was brave enough to do it.
None of those things mattered to me then, but now they’re all that matter.
I finally get what that whole mama bear thing is all about. It just ignites, boils up, and flames out of you. You don’t plan it. You can’t stop it. It’s your gut reaction to someone doing harm to your kid. You don’t think about what you’re saying. You don’t worry about if people will think you are a lunatic. Because you kinda are, at least for the moment. Your survival instincts just flash out so you can get your save on, and sh!t it gets real.
Thanks for being real, Mom, and for giving me the crazy confidence to do so too. I know your inner lifeguard mama bear is doing the running man right now.