I watched you today at the park. Your kids ran around and climbed the slide and shot back and forth across the monkey bars. They giggled and screamed. There was nothing but pure energy coming from their lungs.
When it was time to go, you couldn’t get your kids off the swings and so you called, “How about we go to McDonald’s?”
Oh, the siren song of a Happy Meal.
It worked. They bolted for the car.
Then you and I made eye contact. You watched me at the picnic table as I unpacked my salad. Water. Fruit. Sandwiches made on homemade bread.
You watched me.
I knew at that moment I should say something. I smiled at you, which I now realize could have been taken as insincere or condescending.
That’s totally not what I intended.
It was a weird, awkward moment and then you drove away, bound for the Golden Arches, and I never got to say anything.
So, given the chance again, here’s what I would have told you.
Take your kids to McDonald’s.
Take your kids to McDonald’s. You don’t owe me—or anyone else—an explanation.
See, here at the park in this three second passing, we could form all sorts of opinions about each other based on the fact that you bribed your kidlets with a Happy Meal and mine are eating sandwiches on homemade bread.
We could judge, but let’s not. Know why?
Because it doesn’t matter.
And because these three second judgments are almost always entirely wrong.
Take your kids to McDonald’s.
We know nothing about each other.
I mean, I know that you have two really cute kids. Obviously.
I also know that you look tired. And stressed. You look a lot like me. Like a mom who wonders if she’s doing it right. Who worries that she’s not enough or that she’s too much or she should try harder or just give up all together.
You maybe look a lot like a mom who feels she’s supposed to care about the germs in Playland but really, at this moment, doesn’t—because she just needs to have five seconds when her kids don’t hang on her.
I don’t know where you live. I don’t know if you have other kids or if you’re married or if you have a job outside the home.
I don’t know if this is your last day with your kids before your ex gets them for a couple weeks.
Maybe you’re pregnant.
Maybe you’re trying to get pregnant.
Maybe you have no family around.
Maybe your significant other is sick or dying or in jail or sitting at home working on your second vehicle that just. won’t. run.
I don’t know if maybe you were thinking today was the perfect day to get out of the house with your kids to run off some energy at this little park that no one knows about.
You were thinking your kids could run and scream and no one else would be around to judge the volume of their giggles or the way they climb up the slide or try to build castles outside of the sandbox or that you’d try to pull them away from everything by suggesting McDonald’s.
Honey, you’re fine with me. The only thing I saw here today was a mom trying hard to be a mom.
Listen. Take your kids to McDonald’s.
And you know what?
If you’re there long enough, we’ll meet up with you when we stop in for ice cream.