I have a huge amount of empathy now.
I didn't before.
I just got it within the last...5 years? It's like, one day I was self absorbed and spent more time on my makeup than contributing to society, and now I'm suddenly so concerned about everyone else that I often miss the chance to put on makeup. Or shower. Or like...eat.
Empathy is a super power. But sometimes I wish I could turn it off. I'm no bleeding heart, but I've found in my lifetime that there are people out there who need help, and I can provide them with that help.
Except for when I can't.
One of the things MS has stolen from me is my control over my body/emotions/mind. I find my reaction time to be slower on my bad days. I find my reactions to events to be just that- reactions. Anger, sadness, doubt. All there bigger than before. We have a three year old. Sometimes, there's just no time for such things. There's no time for down time to collect myself. Just keep parenting. There are times where I swear the thoughts in my brain are going to eat me alive.
There are sometimes I'm so glad he's three. Because being three, you don't need to know many things. You know what people tell you and what you perceive from the events you are allowed to experience. While you are incredibly fragile, you are also incredibly resilient and your biggest display of emotion is over like, eating your potatoes rather than like, world hunger. Your world is very very small, but your imagination is very very big. It's in these moments as a parent, you are never sure what's going to come out of their mouths. Liam apologized to me after a tantrum the other week, "Sorry mommy. I went to the Dark Side."
We were in the bathroom at Home Depot- CLEARLY every child's most fave place to hang out in the whole entire world. Especially when your parents are feuding over what exactly they should do with that closet space, and why all the things they sell are crap and there are tears and anger and nobody goes home with ANYTHING... (Update: closet is finished- marriage is mended- all it well, and it looks pretty darn good.)
But a woman, who was portraying herself more like a man, came into the restroom. No biggie. You do you, girl. I believe the PC term would be "presenting" like a male. Again. I'm holding the door shot for my son who is swinging his legs and singing and enjoying the echo of the bathroom stall. She goes into the big stall and Liam finishes his bathroom concert, and we go to wash hands. The gal emerges from her stall- short cropped, bleached hair. Gauges in her ears, workman boots with carpenter jeans and a well pressed plaid flannel shirt.
"Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?"
Here's were I panicked. I laugh when I'm nervous or panicking so I'm doing this odd mental-ward chuckle and "shhhhh"ing my son like never before. I kept hoping she couldn't hear. Like maybe she was also deaf. Hey, no such luck. In a moment of sheer desperation, I think I even clapped a soapy hand over his mouth, "shhhh"ing like a fire extinguisher. I'd like to say now; this was not my finest moment.
She was thankfully EXTREMELY GRACIOUS. God bless her, she handled the situation with grace and poise, and it took a large part of me holding me back so I didn't ugly hug her. But by this time, I had activated the obnoxiously loud hand dryer, which I knew would make Liam go into fits of panic- but would possibly shut him up.
-How old is he?
-He's cute. My nephew asks me the same question all the time.
I'm really, really sorry. Kids say whatever they want.
-Naw, it's fine.
He's scared of the hand dryer.
-Oh man, I am too, buddy! There are towels over on this side.
That's a dumb place for them. Thanks.
-Hope you guys have a great night.
You too! Thanks!
(End scene. Begin total brain meltdown.)
I handled that COMPLETELY wrong. In fact, I was possibly THE poster mom for how to not handle an awkward situation. What I should have done was say to my son, "It doesn't matter, Liam. Just wash your hands." And then I should have introduced myself and my kid, "Hey, I'm Libbie, this is Liam. He's a curious 3 year old who speaks his mind! I'm sorry if he offended you." Instead I cackled like a fool, and probably looked as dumb as I felt.
In the car I approached the situation with a sound mind. I told Liam it was impolite to ask questions about people in front of them. I told him we needed to love people just as they were. I told him a good place to ask questions was in private. Kids just have no filters, and in a way that's refreshing. Until they become 30 year olds with no filters...and then it's not so refreshing. So we instill these filters on our kids, and teach them when to speak and when to remain silent. But then we hope sometimes they forget those filters and stand up for what they feel is right, no matter who is listening...
Parenting is hard. Be gracious to others.