I was tired. It was the first time we'd gone on a walk in over a week. You see my little girl, the one who it would become clear moments later that you were focusing on, has been sick all week and just narrowly missed spending Sunday in the hospital. She'd been cooped up, staring out the window for about eight days, and she was finally feeling better so I'd tried to think of something fun that we could do.
Except that Maggie, the little girl your screams were about, really, really loves fish. When we go to the zoo she loves the oversized feeder fish that the red eared sliders in the reptile room didn't eat. She could stand there and watch them swim around their little tank all day long.
So we'd walked all the way to Petco to stand in their aquarium aisle and stare at the fish. It seemed like a good idea. I wanted Maggie to be able to get her wiggles out, after being cooped up for so long. I didn't want to just put her in a stroller and push her, even if it would be easier for me. I felt a little brave as I put her ten month old brother in the carrier. She kept handing me the strap to her monkey leash, impatient to put it on. I know it's probably hard for a free spirit like yourself to understand, but she actually likes wearing it. It gives her the freedom to not hold my hand all the time and she can actually walk a few feet further away from me, without me having to worry that she's going to dart into traffic at any given moment.
Then of course there were tears when we had to leave. She'd fallen in love with a little dwarf angel fish in the marine section and she didn't want to leave him there. There were plenty of brighter and more exciting fish that I tried to point out, but she only had eyes for her little angel fish friend and it took a while to recover from having to leave him there as we sobbed our way past the checkers and back onto the sidewalk.
I was surprised. The last time she wanted something in a store was... never... so we don't usually have these types of tantrums. But oh, she'd fallen in love with that fish.
But when we'd gotten to that intersection she'd calmed down. The three of us were just standing there as I explained to the girls to watch for the little man on the sign who would light up and tell us that it was finally our turn to walk.
You and your friends must have discussed what you were going to say, because you were all staring at us, grinning. Maybe it made you feel superior to lean all the way out of your window and scream at a "young" mom, letting her know that her child was obviously a dog since she was on a leash. After all, you're a lot older than me, you know a lot more than I do.
Your children, if you had any, probably ran around naked in fields of wild flowers, laughing in the warm sunshine. They never wore leashes. You had to let me know that she was a "cute puppy." I understand. You just couldn't help yourself.
And I know you couldn't hear all those thoughts racing through my head as I walked, about how a second specialist had told me only 24 hours earlier that they believe that she's autistic, but that the waiting list to get in to see a therapist will be months and months long, so to not expect anything too soon. November maybe... November is the best case scenario if we can get in at the new center...
You didn't know any of those things. You didn't know that your words would bring tears to my eyes behind my sunglasses, as I stumbled the rest of the way home.
Yes, my dear helpful screaming friend, I do feel like I learned something from your loud insults, but I'm not sure that it was anything that I didn't already know. I know that people can be cruel, as you demonstrated so well to my three children as we walked home. I know that years don't necessarily mean that you've left behind the narcissistic focus of your youth and gained perspective or empathy for others.
But the man who stopped from the back breaking work he was doing to offer my children a smile and a few kind words also reminded me of the kindness in this world and thankfully my children's minds were much more impressed by the "working man" who talked to us, than the crazy old hippie that just couldn't let a cruel thought go unspoken.
So I'll pray for you. I'll pray that this late in the game you learn compassion and empathy and that you somehow realize that the people you encounter when you go outside are actual human beings with feelings and lives and experiences, rather than mere dumping grounds for your angrily expressed opinions. And I'll pray that next time you see someone and have the urge to shout something from your SUV window you'll either stop yourself altogether or say something kind. The world could you use a little more kindness, don't you think?
(that Mom you screamed at)