I am convinced there is no place on earth that can raise your blood pressure faster than the pick-up/drop-off line at school.
Other drivers cut you off for seemingly no reason. Parents stop to chat through car windows, totally ignoring the long line of cars behind them. Normally sane mothers and fathers who you’ve met and actually liked before turn into some sort of imbeciles who don’t know how to drive, signal or obey basic traffic or civilization rules.
So, clearly, I get my share of road rage when I’m dropping off my kids from school. But recently, I had an experience that made me see this brief but infuriating moment of my day differently.
It started with me waking up, feeling sort of funny. That feeling increased as I corralled the kids into the car, and as we started driving, my heart went berserk. I’m no stranger to heart flips and skips since having serious heart problems after pregnancy, but this was different — there was no regular beat at all. Dizzy and terrified, I somehow drove to school, knowing my principal husband would be out welcoming kids to school and could take me to the ER.
When I pulled into the drop-off line, I was relieved to see a good friend, and I stopped to ask her to pull over ahead so she could watch my son while I went to the hospital. And when I stopped — for all of three seconds — the person behind me laid on her horn.
I get it. I’ve been there. Why was I stopping in the middle of the drive-through lane like a self-important idiot? Get out of the way, lady!
But here’s the thing: The woman behind me had no idea what I was dealing with in that moment. She had no idea that I was scared or that my kids were crying. And all I needed was three seconds.
Of course, she couldn’t have known, but that’s kind of the point. That moment made me realize how often I do the exact same thing: I judge another mother based on three seconds, having no idea what is going on in their lives.
We all do it.
We judge that mom who is on her cellphone at the park while her kid bugs all the other moms to push him on the swing. We roll our eyes at the woman who is chronically late. We get annoyed when the person in front of us at the grocery checkout line takes forever because every single item has a coupon.
But what if that mom at the park came to the park because she’s at the end of her rope with her child’s behavioral issues and just needs a minute alone, spaced out on her phone while he plays? Or maybe the lady who is always late is trying to work from home while rising her kids because her husband got laid off. And, most likely, the woman with the coupons is mortified that everyone has to watch her nickel and dime her grocery list to death.
When that lady honked at me in line, I was in the wrong. I was holding up the line. I was doing what I get annoyed at other moms for doing every day. And I’m sure if she had known what I was dealing with, she would have never honked. She surely would have tried to help me.2 comments on this story
But we don’t know. And since we can’t know, we must be generous with our kindness.
Just like in the book (and now movie) “Wonder,” we must be kinder than necessary. That doesn’t just apply for children dealing with playground bullies.
We as women and mothers needs to be kinder than necessary, too. We need to go above and beyond and not be stingy with our compassion. Rather than being quick to judge or honk or blame, I can give other mothers what I needed that day, and what we all need sometimes — an extra allowance of grace and love.