by Krysta Manning
Going out alone with 18-month-old triplets is like herding squirrels in a nut factory. My kids are at that inconvenient age when they twist and fight to get out of a stroller, but they can’t be trusted to walk anywhere. Consequently, we don’t venture out of the house very often.
One morning, after listening to my son’s favorite toy play Skip to My Lou for the fourteenth consecutive time, I decided that I couldn’t stand being cooped up for another second. Without a moment’s thought, I grabbed a baby and started the assembly line of diaper changes. If I think about these things too long, I chicken out. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. I removed three sets of pajamas, put on three shirts, and wrestled six tiny legs into three pairs of pants. I chased them down one by one to put their squirmy feet into six tiny socks and six small shoes.
I guided them slowly through the baby gate and down the stairs where I began packing for the day. I shoved sippy-cups, snacks, diapers, wipes, extra clothing, and toys for three into my tired, over-stuffed diaper bag. I grabbed their coats and began loading them into the car one by one. After forty-five minutes of prep, we were ready to pull out of the driveway.
To my surprise, the morning was a dream. We went to Target and out to lunch without incident. I smiled as I watched them play contentedly in the restaurant play area while I sat down for the first time all morning. I mindlessly pulled out my cell phone to snap a photo when I was jolted by the time—and the realization that naptime was a mere five minutes away!
Image source: The Thoughtful Mom
I pulled each child off of the play structure and fought to get their coats on as they leaned desperately back toward the slide as if being pulled by a magnet. After each one was stuffed in a coat, I let them run back and play before I grabbed the next one.
I had one kid strapped to my chest and was holding the hands of my other two as we literally took baby steps toward the parking lot. That’s when I heard it.
“I would never go out in public. Her life must suck.”
I almost stopped in my tracks. I considered turning around and saying something. Then I realized my children were resting in a delicate place between contentment and absolute exhaustion. One wrong move could set them off on a triple tantrum that would only serve to confirm her suspicion.
I settled for shooting her my best shut-your-mouth glare and headed out the door. The whole way home, I was seething. There was a knot in my chest and a lump in my throat. As I put the kids down for their nap, I found it difficult to remain tender and loving while all of the ferocious things I should have said were racing through my head.
Who was this horrible stranger passing judgment on my life? She didn’t know me. What basis did she have for her awful comment? And, furthermore, why did it bother me so much?
I thought about the last question for a little while. I realized that any insult with bite has to be rooted in truth. Does this mean that my life sucks? Not necessarily. Not all of it, anyway. But parts of my life do kind of suck. Like trying to maneuver out of that restaurant, or waking up fifteen times in one night because the kids are teething, vomiting, feverish, or screaming for no discernable reason. Or being a prisoner in my own home a vast majority of the time. These things, quite frankly, suck. And they’re a big part of my life right now.
Who knows what that woman’s issue was. Maybe she was never able to have children and is trying to convince herself that she is better off without them. Maybe she has low self-esteem and has to tear down complete strangers to artificially bolster her own feelings of self-worth. Or maybe, she is just thoughtless and careless with her words. Whatever the case may be, she had an impact on my emotions that day.
When the kids began to wake from their nap, I could hear the girls giggle on the monitor. I headed into their room and was greeted by toothy grins and big hand-flapping waves. I smiled. If that woman had seen this moment instead, or any of the hundreds of others like this, I doubt she would have been able to say anything but, “Her life must be wonderful.”
A comment from a stranger is simply an opinion based on a snapshot of your life taken completely out of context. While it may represent part of the truth, it cannot possibly tell the entire story. In the moment, it may sting. But when placed among all of the other evidence that makes up your life, it means nothing. As Eleanor Roosevelt so poignantly said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And you, sour stranger in Chik-fil-a, may not have it.
Krysta is a mom of one-year-old triplets living in Louisville, KY. She recently quit being a military dentist to focus on her family. She can be found at her online home, The Thoughtful Mom where she strives to make other moms feel comfortable, normal, and happy. Her writing has been featured on other sites such as BlogHer, Scary Mommy, and Mamalode.