Sometimes a parent simply feels alone. And it’s easy enough when overwhelmed to scream at the children.
No, not me! According to my ‘good parent’ list there is definitely no screaming at the kids. Even the mother cat in Milo and Otis doesn’t want to scream at her offspring.
But it happened, right in front of the dry cleaners. I saw it. And it was awful.
The freckle-faced, bespectacled toddler was yelled at by his mother. She screamed his name, just once — violently. And he turned and ran to her in fear.
The spectators on the sidewalk shamed her. Some shook their heads; one shook a finger. Some wondered what to do, but they all disapproved. With downcast eyes they filtered away, muttering about the dreadful parenting they had seen.
But there were things they had not seen. They hadn’t seen the boy eyeing the plastic cup twirling in the street. They hadn’t heard the mother speak softly to him at home. And they hadn’t noticed the van.
All they knew was that someone screamed at a child. So they turned away unknowing and unseeing; in fact, they missed the whole story.
After the van passed, the mother hugged the still-wiggling boy, who was now pointing at something else. A close-up view saw moisture squeezing along her lashes.
She shook as she stood, crunching the little boy’s hand in her own.
But no one was looking now. Her observers had passed judgment and moved on to another life. She alone knew the little boy. And she alone had screamed. Because she alone loved him.
After a bedtime story, the mother reviewed her day. Her thoughts wandered through a wilderness of struggles, floods of danger, and mountains of doubt. She wasn’t angry. She hadn’t wanted to frighten her little boy — just save him!
What would a good parent have done?
She knew she wasn’t the ultimate parent, but whispered, “I am a good one.”
She felt empty and misunderstood. Surely there was someone, somewhere, who understood — someone who knew it was done for love? Her mind stumbled toward slumber when a surprise discovery forced her to focus.
She saw herself in a shadow, under a crosspiece from the long-ago.
It was there she saw another perfect, and perfectly misunderstood parent. A parent who loved his foolish toddlers as much as she loved hers. He even loved them enough, when needed, to raise his voice. Knowing she was in good company, she fell fast asleep.
Writing complete, I gazed out the window to see the same bespectacled boy, taller and older now, tumble off his bicycle. His bike cleared the ramp for the 27th time then crashed crookedly into the landing pit. He screamed and grabbed his knee.
And I know that I love him. And somehow I know that if he needs it, I would be caught raising my voice to him … one more time.
Rita Corbett is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Weekend Advisor.